Madden Scores EA Touchdown

The game maker's NFL title posts record sales in its first week of release.
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Electronic Arts'

(ERTS)

flagship title posted record sales in its first week of release, the company announced Thursday, showing that in video games as in sports, it helps when your opponent doesn't take the field.

The video-game software giant sold 1.7 million copies of

Madden NFL 06

, the latest iteration of its pro football title. That's the most copies the company has sold in the first week after the release of the game, which is now in its 16th year.

Company executives chalked the success up to new features introduced in this year's version.

"Gamers were demanding the best Madden NFL Football ever this year, and the response at retail indicates that we delivered the game that everyone wanted," said Todd Sitrin, the company's vice president of marketing.

But EA also likely benefited from the lack of competition. Last year, the company faced a brutal price war in the sports game market with

Take-Two Interactive

(TTWO) - Get Report

, which took a significant chunk out of EA's share of the market and forced the company to discount its sports titles before it generally planned to.

To combat that threat, EA signed exclusive deals with the

National Football League last fall and with

ESPN in January, blocking Take-Two from re-issuing its rival NFL game. EA also

re-signed John Madden as the face of its franchise.

Some analysts have worried about the cost of those deals, and EA

executives have acknowledged that they will weigh on its bottom line this year. Still, the company should benefit from being able to sell the titles at full price without the threat of being undersold by Take-Two.

EA shares closed the regular session off 82 cents to $59.71; they rose 6 cents to $59.77 in recent after-hours trade.