The sports world in America is mourning the death of legendary coach and commentator John Madden. His last name, intrinsically linked to the history of the now Las Vegas Raiders and the NFL, also resonates in the video game industry due to the Electronic Arts Madden NFL series, the most iconic in terms of American football titles. However, why are EA’s NFL games named after Madden?
The story dates back to 1988, when Electronic Arts published the video game John madden football. The title was based on the NFL, however, Electronic Arts – which was far from being the video game giant it is today – was looking for a way to avoid any legal conflict with the NFL over the use of the league. The easiest way to solve it was to find a name that referred to the NFL without mentioning it. The chosen one was John Madden, who in 1976 reached the top by winning the Super Bowl with the Oakland Raiders.
EA reached an agreement with Madden to use his look and feel in the game, which was released in 1988 on the Commodore 64 / Commodore 128, Apple II, MS-DOS platforms. The title was a success and kicked off Electronic Arts’ second-best-selling video game franchise, behind only FIFA.
By 1994, already as a more robust company and with the seal of EA Sports, Electronic Arts reached an agreement with the NFL to use the name of the league. However, Madden was so entrenched that EA chose to keep it alongside the NFL title. The result was Madden NFL.