Madden franchise tackles an unlikely platform: Facebook

Madden NFL Superstars hits Facebook this week. But don't expect Xbox-level graphical fireworks.

Madden, the popular video game franchise, arrives this week on Facebook. At left, a screenshot from a platform edition of the Madden game, which is distributed by Electronic Arts.

If you're a Madden fan with an account on Facebook but no current-gen console to call your own – well, we've got some good news for you. Beginning today, EA Sports is launching a Facebook game called Madden NFL Superstars, which lets users build a team from the current NFL roster, and play games against friends around the globe. As with Farmville, the game is nominally free, but does include some pay-for-play services.

You can sign up here.

"The truth is there are 60-some million NFL fans out there and we don't sell Madden NFL (on console video game systems) to all of them," Mike Taramykin, vice president of EA Sports, told USA Today. "The goal is really to expand the franchise to new platforms in hopes of reaching football fans and NFL fans wherever they may want to be entertained as opposed to where we happen to be entertaining people at the moment."

Earlier this summer, Electronic Arts released Madden 11 for a range of platforms – and critics lapped it up. Special praise was reserved for the gameplay, which one reviewer said "comes as close as ever to bringing you every spin move and sternum-rupturing tackle that you see on Sundays." Another review announced, "If you want a football simulation game, this is it."

But the launch of Madden 11 was marred in part by a lawsuit filed on behalf of 6,000 NFL players, alleging that EA "knowingly and intentionally" used retired players' likenesses in Madden 09. That game – which sold extremely well for EA – allows gamers to control 140 "historic" teams, comprised of thousands of retired players. The players say that EA "exploited" their rights by failing to obtain proper authorization and licenses.

No word yet on the progress of the suit.

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