Electronic Arts has signed a multiyear renewal with the NFL and the NFL Players Association that will see the game publisher not only continue the Madden NFL franchise but work more closely with the league and players to grow football fandom.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but sources said that EA Sports would hold the exclusive rights to make a football simulation game through at least the 2026 season. It could be worth more than $1 billion to the NFL over the length of the deal, with a substantial amount dedicated to marketing and to player royalties, sources said. Action Network reported the deal would be worth more than $2 billion in total.
Madden NFL, which was first released in 1998 as John Madden Football, has become one of the best-selling and most popular sports video game franchises. The latest edition, Madden NFL 20, is the most successful game yet, according to the publisher, with unique players growing 30% year-over-year and more than 330 million hours of the game being played since it launched in August 2019.
So far this year, Madden NFL is the 9th best selling video game across the industry, according to NPD Group.
Cam Weber, EA Sports executive vice president and group general manager, said the company has been discussing the extension with the NFL and NFLPA for several months about “where we want to go and what we want to do.”
“Our goal is to grow the love of football in the U.S. and around the world, and we have a vision of how we evolve Madden into the future,” he said.
That will come with the continued development of Madden NFL games, but also working with the league and players association to develop games in new genres and across new platforms.
Weber said there are several pieces to how the publisher will look to build on its football efforts, from in-game innovations to providing fans with new access points to deeper investment across the game and its marketing.
Some of that will come with the further development of the esports landscape around Madden NFL. In recent months, competitive Madden games has been shown across ESPN, ESPN, and FS1, as well as on Twitch. Weber said that next year’s game would look to build on that even further.
That also includes other forms of competition, whether it be between players for a recent televised tournament or the integration of other celebrities and influencers into modes more designed for fun like the Superstar KO mode new to Madden NFL 20.
“The world of sport is becoming so integrated with social media and lifestyle, and we’re going to deepen that integration in the coming years,” he said.
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Electronic Arts will also face some competition in this next deal, as the NFL signed a multiyear deal with published 2K that will include “multiple future video games,” according to a press release. 2K had previously published the NFL 2K franchise, which competed directly with EA’s Madden NFL, but the new deal between the NFL and 2K only includes “non-simulation football game experiences.”
Weber said that EA will also have non-exclusive rights in the non-simulation category, saying that a “broader collection of football experiences will be a big part of our future.”
“As more games are introduced in these other categories, it will help grow the category and bring in new gamers,” Weber said. “We want these new experiences to introduce players to football – especially internationally – and that’s when players will truly start to dive in.”
While Weber said he had nothing to announce about future NFL-related games from EA Sports, he said that the company has “some games in incubation that are less hardcore simulation in nature.”
EA Sports is set to announce details around the 2021 edition of Madden NFL on June 1.