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EA: NFL lockout or not, Madden must go on

Electronic Arts tells CNET that the upcoming Madden NFL 12 will be launching this August, regardless of whether the labor dispute between NFL owners and players is settled.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read
Don't worry, Madden will be launching this year.
Don't worry. Madden will be launching this year. Electronic Arts

Madden NFL 12 is scheduled to launch this August. And not even the National Football League labor dispute will stop it.

"Fans of Madden NFL will not have their seasons interrupted, regardless of when the labor issues are resolved," Rob Semsey, EA Sports' director of public relations, told CNET in an interview today. "We plan to release Madden NFL 12 in August as always."

Madden NFL 12 will be the 23rd release in the famed franchise. Since its launch in 1989, more than 90 million Madden units have shipped worldwide.

Unlike in previous seasons, Madden fans need reassurance this year.

Earlier this month, the collective-bargaining agreement between the NFL Players Association and the league expired as the sides failed to reach a suitable resolution that would extend their relationship. If the sides don't come to an agreement in the next several months, the 2011-2012 season won't be played. It's a real enough possibility that last month, Sports Business Daily reported that the NFL modified its deal with EA in the event no season is played.

According to that report, the NFL "significantly" reduced EA's "contractual obligation" to help the game developer. Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver said at the time that the move was designed to "give our partner some relief in the short term, but gain something on the back end." That deal also reportedly extended EA's relationship with the NFL past its original 2012 end date.

EA hasn't said how its bottom line would be affected if there isn't an NFL season this year. However, last week, Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter told The Hollywood Reporter that Madden sales rely heavily on an NFL season. And if the players decide to not show for work this year, it could "cost Madden around 50 percent of sales."

It's a possibility even EA has hedged its bets on. The company said during an earnings call with investors last month that it's planning for the worst--"no season."

Even if there is no season, this year's Madden gamers won't find generic team names or players. Semsey told CNET that "Madden NFL 12 will include all 32 NFL teams and more than 1,700 NFL players."

As with previous seasons, one of those players will be on the box this year. Starting today and extending through April 27, Madden fans can go to ESPN to vote on who they think should be this year's cover athlete.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was the Madden NFL 11 cover athlete.