Why is Madden named after John Madden? The story of how a video game sensation was created

Whether as a coach, broadcaster or the face of one of the world’s most popular video game franchises, John Madden was football.

Any portrait to be painted of Madden’s life and career contains those three distinct football lives, but the current generation of NFL fans know Madden best from his name emblazoned on the front of video game cases. 

With nearly 40 entries into the series, “Madden NFL” is the undisputed king of the sports video game landscape. Throughout the years, other franchises have tried and failed to unseat the long-running EA Sports franchise, but “Madden” and his image have endured.

Here’s how it all came to be:

MORE: John Madden’s 10 best quotes

Why is Madden named after John Madden?

In the mid-1980s, Madden was approached by Electronic Arts (EA) founder Trip Hawkins and producer Joe Ybarra, hoping to earn an endorsement from the former Raiders head coach and NFL broadcaster.

Hawkins and Ybarra originally swung and missed on two other notable football names prior to approaching Madden: 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, who already had endorsements with Atari, and California head coach Joe Kapp, who wanted initial royalties to endorse the video game.

First designed as a seven-on-seven game, Madden didn’t want to put his name on something that was less-than authentic, forcing EA to change its plans. While Madden eventually endorsed the game, it also took a few years for the EA folks to redevelop the game into an 11-on-11 format.

Who created Madden?

As is the case with current releases of Madden, the game was developed and published by Electronic Arts, with some help from Madden himself.

Hawkins’ plan was to move Strat-o-Matic dice games to a computerized medium, leading to the idea of a football simulation game for computers.

After refining the game and switching to a legitimate 11-on-11 simulation, the first Madden video game hit shelves in 1988 for Apple computers. It wasn’t for several years until the game would be released on home consoles.

Madden, to his admission, didn’t know much about computers and viewed the game as something of a teaching device before an actual competitive gaming medium.

The game featured the 1980 Raiders offensive playbook, and some critics viewed it as too hyper-realistic, something that Madden wanted over the arcade-style genre that others prefered.

BENDER: How Madden made NFL fun for eveery generation

John Madden net worth

At the time of his death, Madden was worth an estimated $200 million, per CelebrityNetWorth

In addition to the “Madden” video games, Madden was a pitch man for several notable brands, including Miller Lite, Toyota and Tinactin. 

How much does Madden make off of Madden?

In 2005, Madden signed a deal with EA Sports worth $150 million for the game to use his name and likeness forever. Madden, though, didn’t collect as much money as he could have off of the “Madden” franchise: He’s said in years past, on more than one occassion, that deciding against buying stock in Electronic Arts’ initial public offering is “the dumbest thing (I) ever did in my life.”

Madden was given the opportunity to purchase unlimited stock in EA Sports during the IPO, but opted not to. Those stock prices soared from $7.50 a share to $70 between 1989 and 1999.

The Madden series has made nearly $4 billion with over 130 million copies of the game sold worldwide as of 2018.

MORE: How real is the ‘Madden Curse’?

Madden cover athletes

Madden himself was on the cover of the franchise for 13 iterations. Starting in 2001, NFL players graced the cover instead.

Here’s the full list:

Game Player Team Position
Madden NFL 2001 Eddie George Tennessee Titans RB
Madden NFL 2002 Daunte Culpepper Minnesota Vikings QB
Madden NFL 2003 Marshall Faulk St. Louis Rams RB
Madden NFL 2004 Michael Vick Atlanta Falcons QB
Madden NFL 2005 Ray Lewis Baltimore Ravens LB
Madden NFL ’06 Donovan McNabb Philadelphia Eagles QB
Madden NFL ’07 Shaun Alexander Seattle Seahawks RB
Madden NFL ’08 Vince Young Tennessee Titans QB
Madden NFL ’09 Brett Favre Green Bay Packers/New York Jets QB
Madden NFL ’10 Larry Fitzgerald/Troy Polamalu Arizona Cardinals/Pittsburgh Steelers WR/S
Madden NFL ’11 Drew Brees New Orleans Saints QB
Madden NFL ’12 Peyton Hillis Cleveland Browns RB
Madden NFL ’13 Calvin Johnson Detroit Lions WR
Madden NFL 25 Barry Sanders Detroit Lions RB
Madden NFL 25 Adrian Peterson Minnesota Vikings RB
Madden NFL ’15 Richard Sherman Seattle Seahawks CB
Madden NFL ’16 Odell Beckham Jr. New York Giants WR
Madden NFL ’17 Rob Gronkowski New England Patriots QB
Madden NFL ’18 Tom Brady New England Patriots QB
Madden NFL ’19 Antonio Brown Pittsburgh Steelers WR
Madden NFL ’20 Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs QB
Madden NFL ’21 Lamar Jackson Baltimore Ravens QB
Madden NFL ’22 Patrick Mahomes/Tom Brady Kansas City Chiefs/Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB/QB