John Madden turned down a chance to bet his own money on the success of his billion dollar video game franchise.
The original game, “John Madden Football” was developed by Electronic Arts in 1988 for the Apple II computer to modest commercial success. It was after that when company founder Trip Hawkins approached Madden, who died Tuesday at the age of 85, about purchasing stock in EA, according to an ESPN “Outside the Lines” report.
He offered Madden, then a broadcaster for CBS, the chance to ‘have as much stock as you want.” When the former Raiders coach questioned what “have” meant, Hawkins informed him that he would have to buy the stock. Madden wanted no part of that.
“Hell, I’m just a football coach,” said Madden in the ESPN piece. “I pointed with my finger, all knowing, and said, ‘I gave you my time. I’m not giving you my money.’ I showed him!”
EA’s share price rose from $7.50 to $70 from 1989-99, according to ESPN, as the company went on to become one of the leading game development companies in the world behind a Madden franchise that has sold more than 130 million games. The Madden games have equated to more than $4 billion in sales and have appeared on more than 30 different platforms. EA Sports’ FIFA is the only other sports video game to pass $100 million in sales.
Madden went on to call not buying into EA the “dumbest thing I ever did in my life.” Madden did agree in 2005 to a $150 million deal with the company to use his name and likeness in perpetuity along with getting annual royalties.
Madden was actually EA’s third choice to be the face of its game. It first wanted to use Hall of Famer Joe Montana, but the then Kanas City Chiefs quarterback already had a deal in place with Atari. Hawkins’ second pick was then Cal coach Joe Kapp, but he wanted royalties.
When they approached Madden, he saw the video game as a chance to teach people football or a tool for coaches. It almost didn’t happen as he quickly shot down the idea of it being a seven-on-seven game. Doing so would be a “deal breaker.”
“If it’s not 11-on-11, it’s not real football,” Madden said. “If it was going to be me, and going to be pro football, it has to be 22 guys on the screen. If we couldn’t do that, we couldn’t have a game.”
EA agreed and the rest is video game and pop culture history.