Madden NFL 09 has generated $133.5 million in retail sales since its August 12 launch, according to Electronic Arts' own estimates ahead of NPD figures.
The figure represents a 6 percent increase over last year's Madden performance, and EA also says this year's incarnation has earned the franchise's highest critical rating in three years.
"In the month of August we may be bigger than a certain Eastern European gangster," EA Sports head Peter Moore tells Gamasutra, pleased to see Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 and Madden NFL 09 take the first and second spots for the Wii format, respectively, on Metacritic.
Moreover, Moore says Madden acts as an industry bellwether, so good news for it is good news for all. "The industry always feels proud when we can hold a title up against other things like movie releases," he says.
And hold up it does -- according to EA's numbers, Madden NFL 09 sales outperformed the month's top blockbuster films, including Tropic Thunder ($83.9 million), Mamma Mia! ($56.4 million), and Pineapple Express ($79.9 million).
"We're still the red-headed stepchild; we're still not mainstream entertainment," says Moore -- so this contrast between Madden and film sales is "vindication for our industry."
Madden's strong performance also vindicates EA Sports somewhat against concerns from analysts that pre-orders for the title were down year-over year. "We're seeing a distinctly-changing landscape," says Moore. "In previous years, we'd focused on what pre-sales were, and retailers based their opening orders on pre-sales."
But part of the title's strong performance, Moore continues, is credited to a new consumer drawn into the franchise by more casual-friendly features, and that new player is not accustomed to shopping via pre-orders. "We were down double-digits on pre-sales year on year, but it's becoming less of an indicator as far as the overall health of the title," Moore explains.
Opening portals to new consumers, Moore stresses, is "absolutely not about dumbing down the game." Although he claims to be a "relatively decent" Madden player himself, Moore explains it's been difficult for him to compete with his son, who "patronizes, and then just crushes" him, but in particular the AllPlay feature on Wii levels the playing field.
And quality's up, too. "We face a tough time moving needle hard in iterative titles," Moore adds, and this is true especially in sports games. Add in Metacritic scores of 90 and above for NHL 09, and, "We're obviously very optimistic about finishing the year very strongly on Metacritic scores -- which is the only real, objective indicator of quality."
Estimating based on current online data, EA also expects that over 100 million Madden games will be played online in the coming year.
"When consumers look at entertainment value per dollar spent, movies cannot hold a candle to an online game," says Moore. "I've been in the industry long enough to be here before online games even existed. Today is the ninth anniversary of the Dreamcast, and it takes me back to the days we were playing football and baseball through a 56k modem -- and here we are now, and 100 million games will be played online for the lifecycle of Madden 09.
"Madden continues to be one of those one or two titles that can deliver $100 million-plus months, and we've done that again," says Moore. "I'm very happy for the team, and very happy to be able to drive such growth for the marketplace."