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Five things you didn’t know about Madden

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Madden NFL 25 (Credit: EA)

EA's Madden Football franchise has been a fixture in the video game world for 25 years. It’s earned billions of dollars for its publisher (and a few million for its original creator). Its annual August arrival marks the unofficial start of the fall gaming rush. And it has legions of fans who have been known to skip work just to get their hands on each new version when it hits store shelves.

The latest, Madden NFL 25, arrives August 27 and brings with it new moves, new modes, and one old-school cover star in Barry Sanders, the only man to grace a Madden cover twice.

But while the game may be well known, its history is a bit murkier. Did you know:

The first Madden was almost the last.

During preliminary talks with EA founder Trip Hawkins about creating a football video game, John Madden famously insisted that it feature 11 -- not 7 -- players on each side. But that focus on realism was expensive at the time, given the technical limitations of the Apple II computer.

Madden, of course, won that battle of wills, but the first game bearing his name took three years to complete. So difficult was the task of getting it made that it became known internally as "Trip's Folly." Not only did it run slow for players, it obliterated its budget. Worse still: When it hit retail, it was only a modest commercial success, leading EA to question the validity of the series. Thankfully, they stuck with it.

Madden wasn't EA's first choice. Or its second

Madden without Madden? That was very nearly the case.

When Hawkins decided to make a football simulation, he had hoped to recruit Joe Montana, his favorite player, to be the face of the game. Montana, though, was already tied to Atari. With that avenue closed, he approached former Vikings quarterback (and head coach of the University of California at Berkeley) Joe Kapp.

Kapp wanted royalties on the game, however, bringing Hawkins and company to their third choice, John Madden. It's a good thing, too: "Kapp Football" just doesn't have a very nice ring to it.

For a while, EA also developed a competing product.

While Hawkins never got to work directly with Montana, he managed to connect EA with the Hall of Fame QB, anyway.

In 1991, Sega decided to make a football title for its Genesis system, but it lacked the in-house resources to do so. The original developer, Mediagenic, was in turmoil and did little work on the game, while assuring Sega that things were on track. By the time Sega found out, it needed a quick solution.

Since EA was familiar with the genre, Sega asked for some help.

The game, Joe Montana Football, turned out to be a stripped-down version of Madden. No playbook. Lower quality graphics. Only 16 teams instead of the full roster of 28. Still, it went on to become a solid hit and helped establish the Genesis' reputation as a legit machine for sports games.

It wasn't always made by EA.

The Tiburon Studio that makes today's Madden games is one of the most respected sports developers in the industry (they receive unparalleled access to NFL tapes, for instance). But EA initially outsourced the game to other companies.

Early versions of Madden were created by external development studios that are well known today. Role-playing game experts Bethesda Softworks, for example, was hired to help finish the first game. Visual Concepts, which went on to make the NFL 2K series that briefly threatened to topple Madden, was the team behind Madden NFL ‘94 and Madden NFL ‘95. And Stormfront Studios, makers of the Tony La Russa Baseball series and various role-playing games, created the PC versions of the '97 and '98 installments of the franchise.

It's incredibly accurate in predicting the real thing.

If making friendly -- or serious -- wagers on the Super Bowl is part of your NFL tradition, you might want to start paying attention to Madden.

Since 2004, EA has run simulations of the Super Bowl using each year’s new version of Madden. The game has accurately picked the winner an impressive eight out of ten times, and has frequently gotten eerily close to the actual score of the game.

Take Super Bowl XLIII, which Madden predicted would result in a 27-23 win for the Steelers. Reality was a mere point off, with the Steelers winning 28-24. More recently, the game nailed the point spread in last year’s showdown between the Ravens and 49ers, correctly guessed the MVP and even forecast the 49ers would fight back from a huge deficit to make the game interesting toward the end -- which they did.

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