From now on, NFL fans will have to wait a bit longer than usual to get their virtual football fix. EA's Madden series traditionally launches in the second week of August, about a month before the NFL season begins. But EA Sports president Peter Moore announced yesterday that Madden NFL 12 will be released on August 30, 2011, which is three weeks after the usual launch window.
Initial speculation on the reasons behind the decision centered on the uncertainty behind the ongoing NFL lockout, as well as the news (first reported by Pastapadre, and as yet unconfirmed by EA) that key members of the Madden team -- including creative director Ian Cummings -- are leaving EA Tiburon, perhaps to join a newly formed social-game studio called Row Sham Bow.
But this doesn't seem like a move that EA made lightly, or like a reaction to current circumstances alone. According to Operation Sports, the release-date change is permanent; all Madden games from this point forward will launch at the end of August. We contacted EA Tiburon for comment, and as PR rep Rob Semsey explained it, "This aligns the release of Madden NFL 12 closer to the start of the NFL regular season each year." (Of course, whether there will even be a 2011 NFL season remains to be seen; September 8th is the tentative kickoff date right now).
Still, this makes sense in the context of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters, which greatly benefited sales-wise by launching just days before The Masters. And it probably doesn't hurt that a later launch gives EA three extra weeks to rake in NCAA Football sales. We'll have to see if EA pushes back the release dates for its other sports titles to release them closer to their respective seasons.