How John Madden Became the Face of One of the Biggest Franchises in Video Game History
As the world mourns the loss of sports legend and pop icon John Madden, we take a look at how he became the face of one of the most successful franchises in video game history.
John Madden was a legendary Hall of Fame coach in the 70s where he led the Raiders to a Super Bowl and, during that decade of playcalling, had one of the best winning percentages in coaching history. But when it comes to his legacy, Madden is most known for his career as an NFL color commentator and as the face of EA Sports John Madden Football for the last 34 years.
Actually, I'm willing to bet that most Gen X folks and millennials immediately think of turduckens and Madden Football on (insert video game console here) when they hear his name. But John Madden did so much more than just endorse the game or lend it his name. He was actually a lot more hands-on than people realize.
As a matter of fact, when Madden was approached by EA Sports in 1982 (49ers legend Joe Montana had already turned them down due to a prior agreement with Atari) he was skeptical.
Madden wanted the gameplay to be as realistic as possible—so when EA only had seven players (as opposed to the NFL standard of 11) on each side of the ball, he told them to go back to the drawing board.
After many years and a lot of back and forth, "John Madden Football" was finally released to the public in 1988.
Since then, the game has evolved alongside the NFL and Madden has been right there with EA Sports the entire time.
He also made one of the best deals of all time when he "agreed to license his name and likeness in perpetuity" back in 2005.
Since its release in 1988, we've seen many faces (and covers) of Madden. We even got the Madden "curse"—something that EA Sports still denies to this day. According to Digital Trends, the "curse" started with Garrison Hearst after he was featured on the cover of Madden NFL 99.
There’s almost no escaping the Madden Curse. Since Garrison Hearst broke his ankle in 1998 shortly after appearing on the cover of Madden NFL 99, most of the players who starred on the game’s cover have suffered an injury the following season. Of the 22 players who have been selected to grace the cover of Madden games, 16 have had troubling or abruptly shortened seasons following their cover debut — including several who suffered season-ending injuries shortly after their game hit shelves.
Although it continues to be vehemently denied by the makers of Madden, the curse only bolstered Madden's legend and added to the excitement surrounding its annual release.
While Madden is gone, his name will undoubtably live on through the Madden NFL video along with the mark he left on football in general.