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Posts Tagged ‘NFL’

Wagging Madden’s dog

Since Mrs. Liquid Architecture got me a Kindle for Christmas, I’ve been on a bit of a magazine article bender renaissance.  In case you missed them, be sure to check out this chilling article on Marvin Harrison’s gun rap from GQ of all places, along with their entertaining take on EA’s Tiger Woods PGA Tour series, post… whatever you want to call Tiger’s whole thing.

Wired’s always a treat to read and Chris Suellentrop dropped a gem in this month’s issue, exploring how gaming’s most successful franchise is also the best selling off-the-shelf  field simulator for a very specific group of employees – NFL players.  Suellentrop calls on a crystal clear illustration from a Bengals/Broncos game earlier this season to show how The Game (Madden) has come to influence the game.

He does a good job showing how EA’s crown jewel series has shaped this generation of NFL players, but I’m surprised Suellentrop didn’t explore how Madden‘s impacted the game itself, and the fan experience of how NFL football is covered.

Digital 1st down lines make the game more accessible to casual fans

For example, every NFL game (and most college football games) I’ve seen since the lat 90’s make use of a digital line to highlight the distance for a first down.  It’s become so commonplace, hardly anyone even talks about it anymore.  When the “virtual line” tech first debuted way back in 1998, I can even recall people saying how it was “just like in a video game.”  Would those handy little markers even exist without Madden?

Skycam apes Madden to show viewers the QB's options

SkyCam (and it’s other branded cousin, CableCam) more recently revolutionized coverage of the game.  It first debuted in the XFL (just like HeHateMe!), giving viewers a floating vantage point above the quarterback.  For the first time in a real live game, we got to clearly see the passing lanes and defensive set at the line of scrimmage, just like in (say it with me now) Madden!  Of course, the makers of SkyCam deserve a lot of credit for their ingenious system of reels, pulleys and cables that make SkyCam work.  But I have to believe the genesis for their entire operation was Madden’s primary camera, and aping that as close as possible in a living, breathing 3D space.

Of course, long time readers (all 3 of you) will remember yours truly covered how ESPN more overtly incorporated Madden into their NFL highlights show.  So Madden imitates life imitates Madden.

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Just in case you missed it, ESPN add a cool little feature to this season’s NFL Countdown pregame shows: their in-studio talent interacts with player models from Madden ’09. Brooks Barnes captured all the gritty details in a NY Times piece earlier this week – it’s certainly worth a read.

ESPN has played a big part in Madden’s presentation the last few years (and likely paid handsomely for the privilege), so this isn’t an enormous deal for either party.  And I think I first saw live actors interacting with in-game models in Time Traveler way back in 1991.

What makes the NFL Countdown activation particularly exciting is that ESPN benefits from the experiment much, much more than EA.  This may be the only franchise in all of gaming that I can say, without a doubt, stands totally on its own, and gives an established force in media like ESPN a leg-up by simply sharing airspace.

The fact is, the NFL Countdown is already full of annual Madden buyers.  I think its a safe bet that anyone who tunes in and HASN’T bought the game in the last few years is kind of a last cause for EA.  But ESPN may be able to grab some eyeballs, and most importantly stop gamers from switching on their console for a bit, by throwing some of the familiar Madden ballers on the screen to interact with Berman, Keyshawn and Ditka.

Personally, I hope it works out for all involved.  After all, how cool would it be to see a virtual Zeterburg deke out Barry Melrose  during the hockey season?

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