Madden NFL Superstars, a Facebook card-and-management game anticipated for several months, went live to the public earlier today. The free-to-play game resembles June's FIFA Superstars in structure while borrowing elements from the popular Madden Ultimate Team of the console game.
In the game (accessible here), players assemble a team through acquiring packs of cards, which will be familiar to Ultimate Team players. Virtual currency for these cards is earned by playing and winning games or, of course, buy buying it through microtransactions in the game's store. Playfish Cash (the game's developer) is used; six different payment methods are used, with lot sizes varying among them. The basic cost is 20 cents a unit, and $US5 is the smallest buy.
The games themselves are entirely simulated, though players do have the opportunity to play "Game Changers" - like a kickoff return touchdown, onsides recovery or 60-yard field goal - which are playable anytime but most useful if you're trailing late. Games proceed with a scoring narrative taking about a minute, tops.
Players will advance in experience level, acquiring fans for their teams and fixtures for their stadium, ultimately playing against NFL teams in a pro season. All of the 1500 players in the game are real-life NFL players. Better ones are found in more expensive card packs, requiring plenty of playtime to acquire or, of course, a burst of cash. The game starts you with a free "Bronze" pack of cards. I got a limited edition Rex Grossman! (Yes, really.)
A shrewd quality of the design that keeps you coming back is a training feature, which improves your team's attributes, but takes a certain amount of real time to acquire; these point increases are then only usable over a certain span, and you only collect them when you start up another training drill. So the incentive is clear: Come back, play games or lose the training points, and remember to return and collect them.
The name "Madden NFL Superstars" slipped out, somewhat, a couple weeks back but the game had been expected since February, when EA Sports President Peter Moore said the Madden franchise would be coming to Facebook, in a game built by Playfish, which EA acquired last year. On his blog, Moore called Madden NFL Superstars "an important step in the ongoing transformation of EA Sports".