The last few editions of the Madden football series on the PS2/Xbox were by most accounts growing stale and losing ground to the ESPN NFL 2K franchise. So starting with Madden 06 on the 360, EA Tiburon decided to work from the ground up. Most people have seen them as just being lazy and taking their time to implement new features without any kind of tangible competition, but I have a new theory: Madden has, albeit slowly, been following the model set up by MVP Baseball more than half a decade ago.
The plan of MVP baseball was to first just create a game that is very simple, maybe all around mediocre, and then add all the new features you want the next year onto the groundwork the development team laid the first year. The third year will mainly just fine tune all the features set up by the second one, adding few features of its own to the core. It's unknown what would happen in a 4th year as MVP never made it that far due to 2K buying 3rd party MLB rights and throwing out the miserable MLB 2K series year after year.
Madden 06 was basically just a showcase for what the Xbox 360 could do as the graphics were extremely shiny, though not particularly lifelike, and there were very, very few features outside of the main game mode. Madden 07, however, is what I see as the first in the MVP baseball plan. They essentially threw out everything from Madden 06, making it look like a completely new game and laying the groundwork. The graphics, though not as good, seem relatively close to those of Madden 10 and the game is still fairly close though not as good. However, there were few features added to this game.
Then with Madden 08 and Madden 09, because football is so much more complicated and the game is under so much pressure, they couldn't revamp completely and add so many new things in one year, especially after their vision cone experiment of 2006 failed so horribly. They took their time, adding little things here and there but never fully remade the game or features. It was mainly maintaining the status quo and building up to Madden 10. This year they finally fine tuned the gameplay, taking it away from the arcade feel of the NCAA football franchise and adding more authenticity to it. Franchise mode is finally completely back to the pre-360 days and the game this year has received much praise. I'd still be playing it if not for NHL 10, one of my favorite games of all time, having an outstanding amount of replayability.
But my theory can only be validated if Madden 11 completely fine tunes all of these things and makes one of the tightest football video games we've ever seen. That's what MVP did. That's what NHL did. That's what NBA Live is trying to do. The first signs of this are good since Locomotion seems to be one of the main features, one that is inherently a fine tuning of an already liked feature.
If this isn't the path, and they add a whole bunch of new things, I'll be all for it. Either path is a solid plan, though MVP is more EA Canada's forte. Let's just hope they can shut the 2K5 fans up forever.