RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - Professional football fans knew that even if the National Football League and its players' union had not resolved their labor dispute, they could rely on John Madden's football videogame to deliver a new season of gridiron action.
The former coach and TV commentator is known by generations of players as just "Madden" because of Electronic Arts' bestselling game franchise, Madden NFL. Since its debut in 1989, over 90 million copies of the game have been sold, including 5.5 million last year. This year, Michael Pachter, video game analyst for Wedbush Morgan Securities, believes sales will be as high as 5.8 to 6 million.
Madden remains an integral part of football and the new Madden NFL 12 videogame that just shipped to retail stores this week. He's also a big part of the NFL, even though his broadcasting days are over.
As much as anyone, Madden is ready for some football, and he took some time to talk about the new videogame, how he spends his Sundays and what the future of football broadcasting might look like in this interview with Reuters.
Q: What's your role with the Madden game franchise today?
A: "I watch all of the games to make sure we get everything in the videogame, including the more exotic defenses that we see these days. We want to make sure that when you play the videogame, if you choose, you can play it the same way any of the NFL teams play it. That's one of things that, if it's in the game, it's going to be in the videogame.
Q: Why did you decide to add head concussions this year?
A: "Concussion awareness is something that is very, very important. If a player is concussed in the video game, they test him on the sideline using the same protocol the NFL uses. If he's ruled 'no go,' he goes into the locker room. You don't see him anymore and he can't come back in and play."
Q: How have you seen the videogame audience evolve?
A: "Sometimes we think videogames are just games for kids, and then once they get out of grammar school or high school, they never play again, but that's when they really start playing. They start when they're young, and then they play all the way through high school, college, and then into the pros. They don't stop playing today."
Q: When did you know Madden NFL had become something more than just a videogame? Really, it's a football phenomenon.
A: "I think when I started hearing all the players talking about the videogame and bragging about how good they were at it, that's when I knew this game was something special. That goes back years ago, but it got there relatively quickly."
Q: What's a typical Sunday like for you, now, during the regular season?
A: "In all the years that I've been in football -- I went directly from coaching to broadcasting -- I never really had a lot of experience watching it. I have this set-up at my house where I have one big movie theater screen that's 9 ft. by 16 ft. Then, I have nine 63-inch monitors around it; four on either side and one underneath. So I get all nine, one o'clock games and I can switch them onto the big screen. That's what I do on the Sundays during the season."
Q: Do you feel like you watch football differently after being in the broadcast booth for so many years?
A: "You have to realize that there's a decision that has to be made on what you show in a football broadcast. Anyone that ever tells you they watch football on TV differently -- they watch the safeties, they watch the defense. You don't watch whatever you want; you watch what they give you. That, to me, I think is a bigger thing, what they give you. There are 22 guys out there doing something on every play, and you don't see all 22 of them. The choice is, which part of all 22 are they going to show live, and which are they going to show in replay."
Q: How would you like to see football broadcasts evolve?
A: "I'd like to see another camera that would start with the defense and go back with the defense, and then put that up in a quarter of the screen with a picture-in-picture. You could then watch both offense and defense. That's where we're going to be someday. If you don't like that, then you just push a button and it turns it off.
Q: What do you enjoy beyond football?
A: "I tried golf for a while, but I wasn't very good at it, so I didn't play a lot of golf. I enjoy all sports, not just football. I like basketball, baseball, and I got into the World Cup. So really, sports in general are my life, and football specifically."
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte