Back in 2005, 2K Sports unleashed a new feature called the VIP System in NFL 2K5, and those into the world of online player versus player game play quickly found themselves in love. You see, the feature allowed you to scout the tenancies of your real life online opponent.

If he or she favored running up the gut, you could see that trend, and tailor your defense accordingly. If a player was notorious for brining the house on a blitz every down, you could use that knowledge and employ a dink and dunk passing game to counter it. Many football loving gamers (like myself) have dearly missed that feature over the years, though it seems that EA Sports may be bringing it back (with a twist) via a similar component added to the Madden NFL 2011 release this year.

The new feature is called “Online Scouting”, and Madden 11 Producer Donny Moore, describes it as such:

“Online scouting tracks all of your play-calling and what you like to do in different situations. We’re tracking every online game that you play: online ranked, unranked, and ‘Madden Ultimate Team’ head-to-head.”

Though the end result may be similar to 2K’s VIP system, the process of getting there is much more complex — and costly. According to the team at EA, the system will track and store data on ten different game situations including goal line, redzone, and pretty much every first through fourth down yardage scenario imaginable.

When all is said and done, you’ll have access to 45 various flavors of scouting data, however, all of that data will need to be unlocked. That’s right. I said unlocked.

Each piece of the scouting data available will need to be purchased and unlocked, via the use of an in-game coin system, piece by piece or as a whole for 25 coins. The currency is added to your account at the completion of online contests — assuming you don’t rage quit or disconnect before the match concludes. Madden 11 Producer, Phil Frazier, explains an “alternative” means of coin collecting:

“Gamers will also be able to use real money to buy coin packs or scouting packs, but the prices are not final.”

Sweet! Now we have the option to pay money or spend gobs of time to gain access to something that 2K made available instantly, and for free. Of course, Frazier went on to justify the implementation choice, adding:

“This isn’t a money-grab for us. This is about building up your online skills. We’re trying to provide a competitive advantage and we’re presenting it to you in a way that’s authentic to the sport of football.'”

Did he just imply that real NFL teams have the option to purchase the opposing team’s play-book? And I thought the Jets/Patriots sideline filming scandal was bad. I mean, who needs film when you can apparently buy your opponents play-book on Ebay?

In another move obviously done to make the implementation more “authentic to the sport of football”, the new system will notify the player who has just been victimized by a scouting purchase, all but ensuring they change up their game plan. Doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose? Shouldn’t the fact that you are getting your ass handed to you on the field serve as a clue that your game plan isn’t working? I’m pretty sure that’s how it works on Sundays, because I’ve never seen a stadium scoreboard light up with the words “Hey coach, this team’s done their homework. Time to change it up dummy.”

Ponder this for a moment. The new Madden 11 “GameFlow” feature speeds up the play calling process like never before by having the AI call plays for you, and just as that is about to kick in, EA magically presents you with a means to help said AI signal caller make smarter decisions — for a price. Coincidence?

Last but not least, those who buy the game new will receive 50 free scouting reports. My guess is that “buy new” bonus is meant to help build up our “new game purchasing skills.” So thoughtful.

Look, I’m sure that I speak for most gamers when I say that we’re all for innovation. Just stop making it feel like you’re bending us over in the name of “authenticity.” It’s a dollars and cents bottom line world. We get that.

[via ESPN]