For Madden 23 players, the recent dysfunction surrounding its Franchise mode is just the latest in a long line of follies since the game launched in August. Seemingly due to faulty cloud services, Madden 23 has been plagued for months with saved data losses and other cloud-based chaos. Though several patches and hotfixes have successfully fixed some of the game’s issues, this latest episode is sadly emblematic of the game’s deeper issues
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when or why the game’s cloud server problems started. It could be that a planned update to the game’s servers occurred and broke something, or it could be that cloud services buckled under pressure as buyers and player counts ramped up in the weeks that followed launch. But in any event, it’s been a mess. These issues have seemed to affect all modes, but Franchise has been impacted the most. Given that Tiburon once told me Franchise is the game’s most popular mode, it’s no small matter.
Until mid-October, Franchise players were frequently hit with erased saves. This manifested in a number of ways. Simple team management duties, like setting a depth chart or signing free agents, would be undone. In worse examples, entire games would be lost. It’s hard to express how demoralizing it is to play in a competitive Madden league, finish a game, and watch it all disappear as soon as you get back to the menu. Even in defeat, you’re losing stats that may have benefited your team with things like individual player upgrades.
This led players to seek out a workaround in order to save their scores and avoid having to replay or simulate games. But with little understanding of what was going wrong, it became impossible to troubleshoot. Theories cropped up in many forms: You have to view the score summary before you back out to the menu. You have to play at quieter times so the servers don’t fail you. You have to not make any roster moves before you play; just open Franchise and begin playing. These and others became popular theories, but in the end none proved reliable. We all seemed to be at the mercy of the game’s fickle cloud servers that operated without rhyme and erased saved data without reason.
The worst-case scenario, and sadly not at all uncommon, has been a league moving backward in time sometime after its in-game NFL Draft. Many players reported having been weeks beyond their drafts, deep into the following regular season, only for their leagues to revert back to the draft like someone hit a rewind button that doesn’t actually exist in-game.
These issues seem to have largely been curbed following a number of hotfixes that culminated in updates just a few weeks ago. Tiburon has said that the cloud issues can’t be resolved with player-side game patches, but rather require server-side fixes, though they’ve sometimes been deployed in unison. Regardless, these issues were thought by some to finally be behind us–until this week. Following a small game update on December 13, Franchise mode became inaccessible for an unknown but seemingly large portion of the game’s player base.
Many of the prominent Madden leagues in the world, including that which I’m a part of, have revealed on Twitter and elsewhere that they’ve been hit with this bug. On Twitch, very few players have been streaming their league play since the mode became inaccessible around 9 AM PT on December 13. That further suggests that the unintentional Franchise blockade, which the Madden support account said is affecting “some Cloud Franchise leagues,” may in fact be affecting many more than that phrasing would suggest.
The team has since been remarkably quiet regarding when this will be fixed. First announced as a known issue around 9 AM PT on Tuesday, no further messaging was offered for eight hours, at which point the team finally came back to say it was “currently working on the timing of the server maintenance.” That was again the last piece of information provided for nearly 20 hours, with the team recently announcing the server maintenance will take place Thursday morning Pacific time.
This lack of communication from the team has been frustrating, though in its defense, it seems as though the server issues are tied to decisions made over Tiburon’s figurative head. Some have pointed to EA’s move to Amazon Web Services (AWS), announced in the summer of last year, as a potential cause for these now-frequent issues. I can only speculate, but when I asked about this possible link earlier this year, a representative for EA did not comment. Whether it’s an AWS issue or not, it doesn’t seem to be a Tiburon issue. Thus, I genuinely feel bad for the team, which likely knows it’s stuck in a quagmire that it can’t resolve on its own but also one for which it will receive the majority of the blame and vitriol.
In any event, I now worry these issues will never be resolved in the one-year life cycle of Madden 23, because just when they were looking improved after months of waiting, this latest issue has set the game back at least for a few days and has come alongside frustratingly little clarity from the team. With all of the final scores, trades, and signings lost in leagues like mine since the summer, Madden has become a game of constantly bracing for impact, of waiting for the other cleat to drop.
Whereas before I would hold my breath and hope for good luck as I exited a game back to the Franchise menu to see if it saved or not, I was finally starting to relax in these transitions. But with more cloud saves falling apart this week and still so little explanation from the team, Franchise anxieties are justifiably renewed. Will Thursday’s fix give me back my league, set it back several weeks, or maybe even erase it forever? Amid confusion, panic ensues, and one look at the comments on Madden’s support account on Twitter suggests I’m not alone.
I hope tomorrow’s update can truly repair Madden Franchise mode and get it in playing shape after a rehab stint that has exceeded all projections, but like a player returning from a torn ACL, I worry this year’s iteration of Madden may never get back to where it once was.
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