While Electronic Arts has never let a good PR opportunity slip past, it might be a mistake to dismiss the company's annual Super Bowl predictions.
While the Madden prognostications are certainly a final attempt to move software before interest in the football category falls off a cliff until August, the game is eerily accurate when it comes to determining the winner of the big game.
You probably wouldn't want to bet a fortune on the outcome of a video game simulation, but Madden has accurately predicted the winner of the Super Bowl six of the past eight years – missing just twice since 2004.
Forget about the over/under, though. Madden's not bad, but when it comes to predicting the final score, the game is generally off target.
But that's not to say it doesn't have its moments. In 2005, it predicted the Patriots would chalk up a 26-21 victory over the Eagles. (The actual score turned out to be 24-21.) In 2009, it was just as close, envisioning the Steelers beating the Cardinals by a score of 28-24. (The final score in that game came in at 27-23.)
Here's how things have broken down over the years…
In 2004, someone in EA's marketing team was smart enough to suggest running a simulation on the game to capitalize on the press frenzy that always occurs in the two-week gap between the end of the playoffs and the Super Bowl.
The Patriots, the game forecast, would beat the Panthers by a score of 23-20. By the end of the fourth quarter, the score was 32-29, but the Patriots did, indeed, emerge victorious – and a tradition (along with a bragging right of accuracy) was born.
2005, as mentioned above, was even closer to reality. In 2006, the game foresaw the Steelers beating the Seahawks. And in 2007, it correctly guessed that the Colts would beat the Bears.
The four-year accuracy streak came to an end in 2008 – and here's where you might want to really take note if you're deciding whether to listen to the game's forecasts this year. Madden, at the time, confidently told fans of the New England Patriots that their team would defeat the New York Giants by a score of 38-20.
It seemed a fairly safe bet. The Pats, after all, had won against the Giants in the final game of the regular season – giving them the first perfect season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Even bookies were favoring New England by 12 points in the championship match.
What Madden couldn't see was the Giants amazing comeback, scoring with just 35 seconds left in the game to seal their victory.
Madden got back on track the following year, predicting the Steeler's victory over the Cardinals and in 2010's game, it knew the Saints would top the Colts.
Last year, it stumbled again, though, giving the edge to the Steelers over the Packers by a score of 24-20. Instead, Green Bay dominated Pittsburgh by a score of 31-25.
So how much weight should you give this year's Madden prediction that the Giants will slip past the Patriots in a 27-24 game? Well, while the game has a pretty good track record overall, the fact that it blew the call between these teams four years ago might want to make you pause.
You might further want to consider that at the beginning of this season, Madden boldly proclaimed that the Giants and Patriots would be duking it out once again in Super Bowl XLVI. (It saw New England as a threat, but the Giants weren't even a wildcard pick in September.)
It's easy (and admittedly a bit of fun) to give Madden a hard time for its missteps, but let's be fair. Despite advances in artificial intelligence, it's still hard to account for the unpredictable nature of sports. Even rival publishing label, Take-Two's 2K Sports knows this. In 2010, that publisher's NBA2K franchise predicted the Lakers would lose to the Celtics in five games. In reality, Los Angeles won the series in seven.