What we know about the late John Madden’s ties to eponymous game franchise

Image via Electronic Arts

NFL fans are still reeling over the news that John Madden, the legendary Oakland Raiders’ coach who went on to announce for every major network that covered the game, has passed away. But among his many obvious legacies, to the sport itself, to his broadcasting history, to his iconic personality itself, one thing that many fans are wondering about the most is, just what if anything did Madden have to do with the billion-dollar video game franchise that bore his name. The answer isn’t completely cut and dried.

The original entry to the franchise, John Madden Football, was developed in 1988 for the Apple II computer by then-fledgling developer Electronic Arts. According to a 2016 Over The Line article, ESPN company founder Trip Hawkins approached Madden soon after the game’s release about the prospect of buying stock in the company. At this point, Madden Football was only a modest success. When EA told Madden he could “have” as much stock as he wanted, Madden asked what, exactly, “have meant.” When Hawkins told him he would have to buy the stock with his own money, Madden replied, “Hell, I’m just a football coach. I pointed with my finger, all-knowing, and said, ‘I gave you my time. I’m not giving you my money.’ I showed him!”. Madden went on to call the decision the “dumbest thing I ever did in my life.” Over the next ten years, EA stock value would rise from $7.50 a share to $70 a share.

The Madden Football series, still owned by EA, became one of the most successful sports video games of all time. Sales of the franchise’s titles have generated over $4 billion in sales and have appeared on 30 different game platforms. Madden did go on to have some stake in the titles, however. The coach made a $150 million deal with EA in 2005 to continue using his likeness and name. He also received royalties thereafter.

In 2012, Madden told Grantland that he wasn’t concerned about his own legacy when it comes to the video game. “It’s a way for people to learn the game and participate in the game at a pretty sophisticated level.” 

In a company Twitter post, EA has stated, “John Madden was synonymous with the sport of football for more than 50 years. His knowledge of the game was second only to his love for it, and his appreciation for everyone that ever stepped on the gridiron. A humble champion, a willing teacher, and forever a coach.”