Madden NFL 13 for PS Vita is a shrunken-down version of Madden NFL 12 for consoles

With its new real-time physics Infinity Engine, Madden NFL 13 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 is poised to be the biggest change for the series since Franchise Mode was introduced back in 1998. Unfortunately for Vita owners looking to bring the realistic tackling and blocking physics on the go, Polygon is reporting that Madden NFL 13 for the PS Vita will essentially be a reskinned version of the 2011 console iteration of Madden.

Although it is unlikely the Vita can handle the full implementation of the Infinity Engine, one might have hoped for updated animations or dumbed-down yet expanded running and blocking gameplay. At the very least, one could have expected the other advancements of the console version of Madden NFL 13  to be carried over to the Vita, such as presentation changes reflecting NFL television broadcasts and a Connected Careers mode bridging the Franchise and Superstar modes. The only update that the handheld and console iterations share is the updated commentary by CBS’s Jim Nantz and Phil Simms.

Polygon offers an in-depth look at the background and development of the new title, but the fact that Madden NFL 13 for Vita is just a stripped-down version of Madden NFL 12 for consoles boils down to two reasons: Sony needs a portable version of Madden now, and EA Sports doesn’t wish to invest too many resources into its mobile sports titles.

Indeed, Sony needs a portable version of Madden, as sports gamers often will purchase a handheld system simply to play the yearly iteration of their favorite sport simulation, and even if Vita sales were stellar, Sony would need a version of the biggest sports game in America to begin and continue to tap that market. In fact, Sony is already advertising a new Madden NFL 13 Vita bundle. In order to release a title this year, Nova Scotia-based developer HB Studios, which is handling the port to the Vita under the supervision of EA Tiburon in Orlando, had to retool the code to run on the Vita, seeing as this is the first iteration of Madden on the relatively new console. This process, which began immediately after Madden 12 shipped, ran all the way to February of this year, according to supervising producer Dan Baker. Even after the code was able to run on the Vita, a good amount time was spent optimizing it. In mid-April, the game was running at only 15 fps, hardly acceptable for shipped product. Even by June’s E3, the Vita version of Madden was not ready to be shown off. EA only revealed the title at a special press event last week.

There are some neat touch features making their debut in the Vita version. You can use the touch screen to select a receiver and draw a hot route for him. The rear touch panel can be used to strip the ball during defensive plays. But don’t expect the portable versions of Madden to ever be on par or come close to the console versions, and not just because of the less powerful hardware. According to Baker, EA Sports will never focus the same amount of resources on development for the portable versions of their flagship titles:

…From my conversation with Baker this week, I got the sense that Electronic Arts may be unwilling at this point to extend that investment to the Vita. Tiburon is heavily focused on delivering innovation in Madden’s console versions, and “there’s just no way,” Baker told me, for the handheld game to “keep total lockstep” with them.

“Unless you’re gonna throw, like, a tremendous amount of resources at (the handheld version) and try to keep them in sync,” he said, “it’s just not a realistic possibility at this point.”

Even though the 2012 version of Madden for the PS Vita was hampered by being the first iteration for the handheld console, it does not appear as though we can expect significant changes to the handheld version of the title in the future. This seems to be par for the course with EA, as the PSP versions of Madden varied only slightly from year to year. Indeed, the Madden franchise has never been known for shaking things up or for innovation, largely due to being the only console football title and a great seller year to year regardless of a lack of advancements. But it’s a shame that when the console versions of Madden take a giant leap (whether it is forwards or backwards for this year’s version still remains to be seen), the handheld iterations will forever remain stagnant.


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