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EA looks to Madden NFL Superstars to move the ball forward in crowded field of Facebook games

August 31, 2010 |  3:18 pm

Madden NFL Superstars Electronic Arts on Tuesday kicked off Madden NFL Superstars, its latest Facebook game aimed at expanding the company's highly profitable social gaming business.

EA jumped into the space in November when it purchased game developer Playfish for $275 million in cash. The deal instantly made EA the second-largest developer of social games on Facebook after Zynga, the creator of FarmVille.

With Madden NFL Superstars, EA is looking to find new fans by tapping into the hundreds of millions of Facebook users who play games on the social networking site every day. The title comes on the heels of its FIFA Superstars, which debuted on Facebook in May.

While the Madden and FIFA franchises have generated billions of dollars in revenue for EA over the years, the games appeal to a core group of fans who revel over the games' graphic realism and faithful recreation of the sports' real-world nuances.

Madden NFL Superstars is the opposite. The game sessions are quick hits, requiring just a handful of clicks to complete rather than the hours of complex button mashing required for a typical Madden console game. The object is to collect players from a roster of more than 1,500 current NFL players to build team that will go up against those of your Facebook friends. Think Mafia Wars, but with pigskin instead of bullets.

Like most of Playfish's other games, players can advance by spending "practice" time in the game to improve their teams or spending money, between $1.20 and $12, to acquire high-scoring athletes.

"Our goal is to reach past the audience that we already have and expand the franchise into new platforms," said Mike Taramykin, vice president of EA Sports in Orlando, Fla.

It's also part of a plan by EA's Playfish to stand out in a densely packed field of 75,000 Facebook applications, many of which are games.

"The first phase of social games was about exponential growth," said Sebastien de Halleux, a Playfish co-founder and now vice president at EA Interactive. "Consumers love novelty, but the novelty wears off. Now we're in the second phase, the growing up phase. It signals that social games is not only about farming, but about connecting real-life passions like football with an online interaction."

-- Alex Pham

Photo: A screenshot of Madden NFL Superstars on Facebook. Credit: EA Sports