John Madden has lent his name to the longest-running NFL franchise in the video game industry for nearly three and a half decades and EA Sports is honoring the memory of the late coach and broadcaster with three separate covers for Madden NFL 23. Following John Madden’s passing in December 2021, EA Sports made the call to dedicate this year’s game to the man who made the franchise possible in the first place. To do so, rather than featuring an athlete on the cover of Madden NFL 23, EA Sports created three distinct covers to celebrate the three major areas of John Madden’s contributions to the game of football.
The first cover honors John Madden’s contributions to the NFL as a coach, featuring him being carried off the field on the shoulders of his players following his head coaching victory in Super Bowl XI in 1976. Next up, is an homage to his time as an NFL color commentator, which he did for CBS Sports, Fox Sports, ABC Sports, and NBC Sports from 1979 to 2009. The final Madden NFL 23 cover pays tribute to his contributions to his NFL video game franchise, with a digital-only All-Madden Edition. The art, created by Philadelphia artist Chuck Styles, recreates the original 1988 John Madden Football box art.
Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins originally approached John Madden in 1984 to ask for his assistance in bringing football to video games in an authentic way. Because he didn’t think the 8-bit systems of the time could handle 22 players on the field at once, Hawkins pitched Madden on a 7-on-7 variation. Madden scoffed at the idea of lowering the player count, insisting that it cannot be authentic football if it’s not 11-on-11. Because of this, the first entry in the series, John Madden Football, took four years to create, with the game finally launching in 1988. Madden provided insight into how the game should work, strategies the teams should implement, and the series’ first playbooks.
John Madden remained the face of the series, appearing on every game cover through 2000. That changed in 2001 when the franchise began using NFL stars and introducing the concept of the cover athlete for the franchise. However, Madden did return to the cover for a special commemorative edition of Madden NFL 07 to celebrate his induction into the NFL Hall of Fame. This is the first time in more than 20 years since John Madden has been featured on the standard cover of the game franchise. Madden remained involved with the development team through his role with the NFL, providing insight to the developers about the league’s rules, until his death in 2021.
In addition to the special covers for this year’s entry in the Madden NFL series, EA Sports is also implementing a special First Interactive Experience featuring two versions of Coach Madden leading opposing teams of All-Madden athletes in the 1970s Oakland Coliseum. This special experience will feature the voice of John Madden on commentary through remastered audio clips that call back to his time as a broadcaster. EA is also deeming June 1 Madden Day to commemorate the original 1988 release date of John Madden Football. To celebrate, EA HQ in Redwood Shores is dedicating its newly renovated field as John Madden Field in a special ceremony with the EA CEO, members of the Madden family, EA employees, and more.
Madden NFL 23 comes out later this year.