An interesting little graphic EA Sports sent us today illustrates what most would expect: An actual NFL game crashes Madden NFL's participation numbers. But it still holds on to about 34,000 hardcore users from kickoff to final gun.
These two charts (click to zoom in) show the online traffic for Madden NFL 11 on PS3 and Xbox 360 on Thursday, when the NFL kicked off the new season at 8.30pm Eastern time with the nationally broadcast Minnesota-New Orleans game. (The timestamps on the charts reflect GMT. So subtract four hours.) The top blue line represents active online users - those who have booted up the game and signed into an EA Sports server, whether or not they are playing a multiplayer game. The middle red line shows those engaged in a multiplayer match. And hugging the bottom, that dark line are users in Online Team Play matches, the cooperative mode supporting up to three players per team.
The blue line climbs throughout the afternoon in North America, planing out right around 7.30pm and then plunging into a four-hour dead zone. Apparently Madden players are big Taylor Swift fans, because that's who was taking the stage during the opener's pregame show.
Actual kickoff, just a hair after 8.30 (about 0045 on the timestamps) see all but the most committed gamers leaving their consoles. Interestingly, some 34,000 PS3 and 360 gamers stick with virtual football over the real thing, about 8000 of them in multiplayer.
There's the slightest of bumps around 10pm EDT - that's half time, with about 4000 users coming back to get one quick game in, apparently. Then, in half an hour beginning at 11.30pm EDT, Madden nearly gets it all back, spiking almost to its pre-kickoff highs of roughly 58,000 as the east coast gets in one more game before bed.
All told, a primetime NFL broadcast knocks about 25,000 users off Madden's peak average, or about 40 per cent. Figures for the first Sunday afternoon weren't yet available, but I'd expect the overall effect to last at least twice as long.
EA Sports closely watches its Madden user numbers, especially Online Team Play and has been keen to grow them, especially in multiplayer. But the publisher knows a dropoff's coming when it competes with live NFL games.
"We equate the drop in players during the real NFL game as an indicator of just how big of NFL fans our Madden players really are," an EA Sports spokeswoman told Kotaku. "It's a nod to the authenticity of the Madden game and culture."