How John Madden Became Video Game’s Biggest Name

The football coach and broadcaster has been the face of Madden NFL for more than three decades. The professional football video game continues to be a bestseller and is one of the most successful franchises in history.

Video games got their start in 1988 when Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins wanted a football video game. He wanted Joe Montana to be the face of it, but the former 49ers quarterback turned him down due to a previous endorsement deal with Atari, according to ESPN.

Originally released on Apple II, the game encountered problems due to its weak operating system which limited the number of players on screen. After Madden joined, the famous broadcaster immediately got to work, demanding that programmers change the 7v7 format to “real” 11v11 football.

“John Madden Football” was his original title for the first five years before the NFL added his name in 1993, allowing EA to use team names and logos. It was the first version to feature the tagline “EA Sports – It’s in the game”.

The video game finally ditched Madden’s face on the cover in 2000 and instead focused on popular NFL players. Madden’s voice was always present in the game.

Madden told Grantland in 2012 that he didn’t think about the legacy he left on the video game. “It’s a way for people to learn the game and participate in the game on a pretty sophisticated level,” Madden said.

The popularity of the game grew, as did the number of consoles for which it was available, including a Sony PlayStation compatible version released in 1996. By 2001, the game was on all major consoles such as the XBox and the GameCube. In 2005, it became the exclusive video game to feature NFL ownership, beating a similar ESPN game.

“Madden NFL” is a multi-billion dollar franchise for EA. The publisher has sold more than 130 million copies of Life Madden games to date, generating at least more than $ 4 billion in total revenue, according to NPD. Barron’s estimates that the annual Madden franchise revenue for EA is north of $ 600 million.
In 2020, the NFL and its players union agreed to a five-year extension to continue appearing on games, according to Bleacher Report. The deal would provide $ 1 billion to the NFL and $ 500 million to players during that time, with an additional $ 500 million in marketing commitments.

In a statement released by EA, the company said it had lost a “hero”.

John Madden has been synonymous with football for over 50 years. His knowledge of the game was surpassed only by his love for it and his appreciation for all who have ever stepped on the pitch. A humble champion, a willing teacher, and forever a trainer, ”EA said in a statement on Twitter.

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