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Madden Video Game

The MMQB presents NFL 95, a special project—unveiled every Wednesday from May through July—detailing 95 artifacts that tell the story of the NFL, as the league prepares to enter its 95th season. See the entire series here.

The Madden football franchise, now approaching its 30th anniversary, almost wasn’t Madden at all.

When the game that would be called Madden was taking shape under EA Sports in the late 1980s for use on the Apple II home computer, EA founder Trip Hawkins saw the former Oakland Raiders head coach, broadcaster and robust pitchman as a third choice. The top pick was 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, at the height of his powers at the time and Hawkins’ boyhood idol growing up in Southern California. But Montana already had a deal with another famous video game maker, Atari. The second choice, Cal football coach Joe Kapp, wanted royalties on the title. So Hawkins went with Madden, and both were in for a crash course; Madden in the power and promise of technology and Hawkins in the game of football.

Madden insisted that if he was putting his name on it the game had to be 11-on-11, a major challenge considering the lack of computing power in late ’80s. As gaming consoles evolved Madden grew more realistic through the ’90s, with NFL teams and logos, and later player names (with the NFLPA's blessing) becoming part of the game. With realistic playbooks and real-time roster updates, gamers playing current versions often feel like they're a hoodie away from being the next Bill Belichick.

Through a partnership with the NFL, the franchise eventually brought to intersect jock culture and gaming, no small feat in the pop-culture climate of the early ’90s. Today, each new version of Madden invariably sells a million copies in its first week on the shelves.

— Robert Klemko

NFL 95: Read the Series