Madden 11: Not Just a Game, a Phenomenon

Andrew TolanCorrespondent IAugust 10, 2010

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - MARCH 23: In this handout image provided by Disney, Pittsburgh Steelers players Ike Taylor (left) and Santonio Holmes (right) play a game of 'Madden NFL 10' at the PlayStation Pavilion at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort on March 23, 2010 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  The new PlayStation Pavilion, which opened last month at Walt Disney World Resort, features PlayStation 3 systems, including a SingStar stage and a collection of the latest video game releases.  (Photo by Todd Anderson/Disney via Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images

When Gamestop opens up its doors today, August 10, enthusiasts of the Madden series will be impersonating their favorite NFL linebacker in an attempt to nab the first copy of the new iteration of the Madden franchise.

Madden NFL 2011 is poised to make gamers on every console known to man (and even the iPad) lock in to their console of choice (or Pad of choice) and delve in to the world of virtual football in anticipation for the start of the next NFL season.

After more than 20 years and sales of more than $70 million, it's safe to say the Madden franchise has engrossed so many millions in to the world of virtual football that the Madden franchise is not just a game, but a phenomenon.

The Madden fan base has always been extensive, but when EA Sports acquired the sole rights to the NFL license making Madden the sole proprietor of the virtual NFL experience, Madden transcended from the tag line of being the most popular professional football video game in to becoming the only professional football video game.

I have attempted myself to enter in to the vast world of Madden online gaming and been destroyed so mercilessly by its enthusiasts that I not only swore off online video game play completely, but vowed to never again purchase a Madden game. 

Whether that speaks to the quality of the players, or of my cowardice is up to you (enthralled reader) to decide.

There is an annual Madden Challenge that pits the best online players against one another to determine the best virtual baller.  The winner of the aforementioned challenge receives $50,000—surely just compensation for the scrupulous work put in to becoming the greatest virtual football player in the nation.

The appeal of Madden directly correlates to appeal in the NFL itself. 

Nielsen ratings conducted a study in 2008 that showed NFL games have a 44 percent higher rating in video game households compared to non-video game households.

The connection between the real NFL and the virtual NFL even extends to professional football players; NFL players are constantly perturbed regarding their virtual player ratings. 

Seahawks' wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh stated in an interview with ESPN's Colin Cowherd last year that he would boycott the Madden football games due to his paltry 91 virtual rating; a scale that rates players from 1-100—91 being a phenomenal score.

Houshmandzadeh responded the following season with less than 1,000 yards and three touchdowns.

Regardless of the performance of Madden fans in the professional sphere, the franchise is certainly a phenomenon.  From fans attempting to re-create the feats of their favorite NFL players to NFL players themselves, every year's release of Madden is met with considerable hype.

The Madden games continue to prove that hype justified on an annual basis.

I am ready to take heed to EA Sports' advice and get in the game.