Retirement for Madden, but not the video game

John Madden
John Madden
John Madden's retirement from television won't mean an end to the video-game franchise that bears his name.

Madden NFL has sold 70 million copies and rung up more than $US2 billion in sales since it came out in 1989, making the series one of the best-selling in the video game industry's history.

Publisher Electronic Arts says it plans to keep churning out new versions.

"We're excited to see his legacy live on in the 21st year of Madden NFL football, and well beyond," EA Sports president Peter Moore said recently.

The former football coach turned broadcaster has made millions of dollars over the years by lending his name and voice to the video game.

The relationship began in 1986, when EA founder Trip Hawkins recruited Madden, who is afraid of flying, during a series of train rides between games.

"My game producer, Joe Ybarra, and I took an assistant producer, and the three of us flew to Denver and went to the train station to meet his train," Hawkins said.

"We found him in the dining car chewing on the world's largest cigar, which he never lit, but which disintegrated over the course of the day."

They reached a deal.

In the early days, Madden's presence was key to the video game's success.

EA released a new version each year with better graphics and different players, but the game always included some of Madden's signature phrases, such as "Boom!".

"The game would not have been as good were it not for Madden," Bing Gordon, the former chief creative officer for EA, said.

"He inspired the developers.

"They tried harder to live up to Coach Madden's expectations."

The franchise has developed a large fan base, including many NFL players who fired up the game during road trips.

In a 2002 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Madden recalled one Philadelphia Eagles player rushing into a San Francisco hotel room asking, "Where's Madden?" Someone pointed to the commentator.

"No, not that Madden.

"I want the game!" Madden recounted.

"Madden himself has reduced his role in designing and marketing the game. Although he continues to lend his voice, he is no longer the game's chief broadcaster.

"His picture has not been on the game's cover since 2001.

"Instead, EA has rotated images of top NFL athletes, some of whom suffered injuries or burned out after appearing on the game, leading people to speculate whether there is a "Madden curse".

Part of the game's draw is its meticulous reproduction of the sport and its players.

Crafted by about 150 developers, the game re-creates each player's and team's strengths and weaknesses.

Its playbook is so realistic that ESPN commentators sometimes use the game to provide analysis during live sporting events.

"It is the Super Bowl of sports titles," said Scott Steinberg, publisher of a technology and game review website, - Los Angeles Times Madden NFL 10 will be available in New Zealand stores on Friday, August 14, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Wii and PSP. - Alex Pham.




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