The Madden video game is part of the annual NFLPA Rookie Premiere week, which is held each May in Los Angeles. The top NFL Draft players spend time getting their entire head captured so that their avatar looks authentic. Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck went through that process last year and is glad to be part of the documentation of a professional athlete in a video game.
“As somebody who plays video games, it was cool to see how the process works,” Luck says. “I learned that they model a blank face with these photos, and they add in the hair and facial hair afterwards. The whole process has been condensed from about two hours years ago to under 15 minutes today.”
From rookies to former pros like Clint Oldenburg, who helps with the always-popular in-game player ratings, EA Sports works with experts in the sport. This year, for Madden NFL 25, the game developer even worked with NFL bigwigs like New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. A new Connected Franchise Owner Mode allows players to assume the role of an owner and control everything from press conferences to the price of concessions to moving a franchise to another city or country — like Mexico, Canada or the United Kingdom.
By introducing much more than just roster updates, EA Sports has been able to keep fans coming back year after year. In fact, Madden NFL 13 was the No. 2-selling game in the U.S. last year, behind only Activision’s record-breaking Call of Duty: Black Ops II in the NPD Group sales chart. That’s quite a feat for a sports game in an ultracompetitive $65 billion global video game industry.
While John Madden hasn’t spent time in the audio booth recording commentary for the game in years, he remains active in its authenticity. The former coach holds court with developers in the Madden Cave inside his Pleasanton, Calif., home every year during the football season to ensure real-life issues like concussions are incorporated into the game (players who suffer a concussion in the video game must now sit out the remainder of the game, or for longer if it’s a more serious concussion). This being Madden, his version of a man cave features a 16-foot-by-9-foot theater-style screen surrounded by nine 63-inch HD monitors so he can watch every game on Sundays simultaneously and swap the best action to the big screen on the fly.
“The guys will come out here and eat and watch games, and then we have a meeting the next week and we’re like the defensive coaches in the NFL because we have to study what the offenses are doing and put that in the game,” says Madden, who notes that one of the new features in this year’s game is the pistol formation (two running backs behind the quarterback) and the read option (which allows the quarterback to hand off or throw the ball).