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Did EA drop the ball with Madden NFL 25 for iOS?

Fans have thrown a flag on Madden's freemium app, which all but requires you to spend money -- quite possibly a lot of money.

Are you ready for some fleeceball? Madden NFL 25 for iOS has an in-app purchase option that costs $99.99.
Are you ready for some fleeceball? Madden NFL 25 for iOS has an in-app purchase option that costs $99.99. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Madden NFL 25 made its iOS debut yesterday, with a price tag that probably caused some initial elation among fans of the series: it's free. The last Madden title cost $6.99 for the iPhone version and $9.99 for iPad, and previous games in the series were similarly priced.

Turns out Madden NFL 25 isn't free, but freemium: unless you're willing to pony up for in-game cash (by way of in-app purchases, or IAP), you'll have a limited playbook for solo games and almost no chance of winning multiplayer matches against better-equipped players.

Indeed, the game is less about making plays on the gridiron than it is about building your roster, playbook, and energy level -- all of which require cash. Prices for EA's bundles start at $1.99 for 8 game dollars and soar to $99.99 for 700 game dollars.

Purchasing players and plays is optional; in theory you can compete without any extras, but you need energy in order to play -- not an entire game, but each drive. You're given 10 energy points from the start; once you've burned through them (completed 10 drives), you have to wait 30 minutes before you can continue -- unless you've earned enough coins or spent enough cash to buy more energy.

Needless to say, this freemium model has generated considerable controversy. App-review site TouchArcade gave Madden NFL 25 one star, dinging its "excessive freemium elements" and calling it "an experience that all but the most hard-core fans should avoid."

Meanwhile, the roughly 200 reviews on iTunes, which currently average three stars out of five, reveal some seriously perturbed players. "This game is a travesty," wrote user "MrKupka." "A freemium Madden title that nickel-and-dimes you with unavoidable IAP even for the ability to run certain basic plays in your playbook."

Added user "SeanZu": "Whatever happened to pay $9.99, download game and enjoy Madden football? Gotta pay $ to have the plays or players one needs."

For me, the fun of a football game (preferably one played in the backyard on grass) is making great plays, not constantly dealing with money. But what are your thoughts on this? Do you think the freemium model is a good one for a game like this? Is Madden NFL 25 for iOS fun enough that it's worth the cost? Let's hear from you in the comments.

In the meantime, be sure to check out Scott Stein's review of Madden 25 for consoles.