Madden 15 predicts exact Super Bowl score. Here’s how

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Updated: August 25, 2015

The folks at EA Sports run a simulation of the Super Bowl each season and they’ve been pretty good at predicting the winners, hitting eight of the last 11 correct.

But Super Bowl XLIX takes the cake.

This year’s Madden 15 simulation not only predicted the New England Patriots would win the Super Bowl, but it predicted the exact 28-24 scoreline.

And it doesn’t end there. According to Kotaku.com, the simulation predicted that the Pats would battle back from a 24-14 deficit as well!

Year after year, sports video games continue to make prodigious jumps in technology. The companies that produce these games go to incredible lengths to make them as realistic as possible.

And in doing so, game designers run simulations. Lots and lots of simulations. EA Sports, the standard bearer for sports video games, and competitors such as 2K go to such efforts that it got Covers thinking: Would these simulations provide any insight into how you should bet games in reality?

The companies themselves wouldn’t encourage such a move, and understandably so. They certainly don’t want to be liable for someone blowing his mortgage payment on whether the Baltimore Ravens can covers the 3-point spread at the Pittsburgh Steelers Saturday, based solely on a Madden NFL 15 result.

But if the amount of effort put into these simulations is any indication, there might be something to such a strategy.



EA’s Madden production team did not comment for this article, but Andy Agostini, the associate producer for EA’s NHL games, provided insight that likely transfers to the company’s Madden NFL product.

“Our simulation engine takes into account many factors when pitting two teams against each other. Each player has over 20 ratings that make up their skill base,” Agostini said. “Then it looks at the lines that they are playing on, as well as who is on the ice for their opponent. This will factor into things such as who gets shots on goal and who is getting penalties for the teams, based on their ratings.

“So you will see players like Alex Ovechkin, who usually have the most shots on goal in the NHL, have that in a season in our game.”

And after shots are determined, the outcomes of those shots come next.

“It will evaluate the quality of the shot and from where on the ice it is taken, and throw it at the net, where the goalie ratings will come into play to see if he is able to stop the shot, based on his ratings and where on the net the shot was aimed,” Agostini said. “We do this for a full 60 minutes of ‘simulation hockey.’ We find just as in real life that there are upsets, whether in the regular season or the playoffs, but for the most part, we get results that you would expect to see.”



EA Sports’ NHL 15 simulation predicted the L.A. Kings (+1,000) to repeat as Stanley Cup champs.

That’s in large part due to the thorough effort made in properly rating players. Agostini said his production team brings in professional coaches to explain hockey systems and how all five players interact with the puck and opposing teams, depending on each team’s strategy. Electronic Arts (EA Sports) also has a professional scout involved to make the player ratings as accurate as possible.

“The ratings for each player helps each (of them) play to their strengths and show their weaknesses,” Agostini said. “So a player like Martin St. Louis is a great skill player, but if caught by an opposing player, he can be knocked off the puck due to his size. Or a player like Ryan Getzlaf will be tough to knock off the puck and plays with power forward tendencies because of his size and strength.”

While EA Sports does bring in NHL players to help out on occasion – Agostini specifically noted Dion Phaneuf, Josh Harding, Max Pacioretty, Jarrett Stoll and Morgan Reilly – scheduling often makes that difficult to do. But with EA Sports based in Vancouver, in hockey-mad Canada, it’s easy to find high-level junior players for EA’s motion capture sessions.

And with the NHL constantly evolving, Agostini said his team goes to great effort to keep the game updated.

“We are always reviewing the NHL and other league trends to have our simulation engine be as close to real-world hockey as possible,” he said. “So if a trend of penalty minutes going down in the NHL happens, we can simulate that through the tuning of the (simulation) engine. This can take some time, but our team loves to be as authentic as possible and spend that necessary time to have the game produce results as close to reality as possible.”

The folks at 2K take just as much pride in their NBA 2K15 basketball game. Rob Jones, the game’s senior producer, says 2K uses analysis to help churn out years of statistics in orderly to properly rate players.

“We have an internal simulation engine that actually can run real 2K15 games between CPU teams in a much faster fashion than just setting two teams up and watching them,” Jones said. “We use the tool to analyze seasons’ worth of stats, to ensure that players play accurately and that teams perform as expected.”

And the results are indeed generally on par.



“While no simulation can always recreate what the human mind will do, our analytics tool does seem to spit out fairly accurate representations of games, outcomes and individual player performances,” he said. “This is an area where we particularly pride ourselves in being realistic. We go out of our way to keep track of anomalies, so that we can improve the computer’s decision making.

“I would characterize our efforts as obsessive.”

And “obsessive” might be an understatement. Jones said that the NBA 2K series has utilized its Signature Styles ever since 2007.

“From that game on, every game we’ve shipped has accurately portrayed moves, shots, tendencies of every single player and team,” Jones said. “The team scouts every single player in the NBA (current and potential), and all of the coaches and styles to accurately portray them within the NBA 2K series.  It’s a labor of love for fans of the NBA, by fans of the NBA.

“We spend months in our motion capture studio to capture moves, mannerisms, celebrations and facial animations to match, just so that our users can truly be immersed in the world of the NBA.”

And they get star players to help out in the process. In recent years, they’ve had Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Anthony Davis and Paul George assist, among others.

“Every year, we have a few of our superstar players come into the office, head to the studio and suit up to provide us with their signature moves,” Jones said.

It’s all very intriguing stuff. But can the results of these highly calculated simulations be put to use at the betting window?

Well, EA Sports has at least partially answered that question over the past 11 years, by running NFL Madden simulations in advance of each year’s Super Bowl. The team that won the Madden simulation has gone 8-3 SU in the Super Bowl. However, the ATS record is a less impressive 5-6.

Madden 14’s Super Bowl simulation didn’t see the Seahawks’ domination over the Broncos coming.

That’s about what Aaron Kessler would expect. Kessler, 32, was big on video games in his past and is now an oddsmaker for the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, where’s he worked since 2006. Count him a skeptic on using video game simulations to garner good betting info.

“I used to play a fair amount of NCAA Football, back in 2002-2003. It doesn’t really translate to betting, because of the time-management features,” Kessler said. “I don’t know if it’s changed much since then. The problem is these (simulation) engines are designed to produce an entertaining game. There are so many other prediction models designed to get an accurate result, so using video games is not the most accurate choice.

“The fine-tuning of the games isn’t great. There are a lot more outlier results out there, in my experience.”

Kessler admitted that problem exists even with models professional bettors use, but it’s more prevalent with video games.

“Video games produce more outliers and have exploits you wouldn’t find in reality,” he said.

On the flip side, at least to a degree, is Christopher LaPorte, a video game fanatic – so much so that he opened an arcade/bar in downtown Las Vegas called Insert Coins. LaPorte hasn’t put his video game expertise to much use at the sportsbooks, but he said he can certainly see the relevance of doing so.

“Living in Vegas, I’m aware of statistical edges that the sharps look for when it comes to wagering,” LaPorte said. “Using sabremetrics in baseball has been found effective simply through the use of historical data. ”

But what about betting on results of video game simulations? Is it entirely crazy?

“With the complexity of video games today, it’s not as far-fetched as you may think,” La Porte said. “In today’s sporting video game world, the demand for a true representation of the games has never been greater. Websites like operationsports.com have assisted in the development of these games to find the best way to mimic that of real-life play, allowing development teams to really push technology through the assistance of online communities.”


Following in-season adjustments may give insight into hidden value in the betting market place.

Specifically, LaPorte said that games with annual updates – EA Sports’ Madden and NHL, 2K’s NBA 2K and Sony’s MLB The Show – and even more so in-season updates could provide useful betting information.

“They all reflect the game as closely as possible by way of roster updates, whether weekly or sometimes even daily,” LaPorte said. “Based on trends in a player’s performance, a player’s ratings in specific attributes are adjusted. And injury reports will pull the cyber athlete off a roster, just as in real life.

“So yes, video games could be used as a betting tool, in my belief.”

Kessler said it’s certainly possible, but he’s not sold on it by any stretch.

“Overall, the guys who design these games do a great job. The games are entertaining, accurate and realistic,” Kessler said. “But they have goals other than working on the most accurate projection. I looked at it back in the day. It’s fun to look at, but the results I was getting didn’t line up.”

Colin Kelly is a Las Vegas-based contributor for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @ColinPKelly29.


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