The NFL Madden 19 Championship Series is an event boasting over $700,000 in prize pool to various different competitors from all over the globe. The Championship Series has recently announced three new headline sponsors being Bose, New ERA, and SNICKERS as the title continues to grow and the convergence between traditional sports and esports continues around the world.
Here at ESI, we had the chance to catch-up with Matt Marcou, Commissioner and CGD at Electronic Arts (EA) to discuss the title’s growth and plans for the future.
Esports Insider: Have you seen more interest in Madden with actual players from the NFL getting involved? Do you think this helps destroy the stigma behind playing video games?
Matt Marcou: I think the short answer is yes and yes, the primary example to highlight is John Sherman “JuJu” Smith-Schuster who is an avid video gamer. There have been multiple athletes from NBA, MMA, NFL and WWE who have taken an interest in streaming their gameplay on Twitch. I think generally modern athletes spend a lot of time on the road and they have grown up in a gaming culture so I think, especially in America’s case there are lots of stories of them being gamers when they want to pass time.
JuJu is a prime example who plays Madden and various other video games and really embodies the new cool. I think Madden, in general, puts a different light on what it means to be a gamer. I can say without a doubt that the Madden community is the most social and most approachable community that I’ve ever had the chance to work with. I’m so honoured and inspired to be able to put some of these young men and showcase their stories. I think it in all puts a positive face on what it means to be a gamer these days.
ESI: Have you seen much of a crossover in those that are NFL fans show an interest in the esports side? Or are you focused more on gaming fans?
MM: We’re focused on both. We want to engage existing Madden fans, that is one of our core values here and we want to make stars of all our players. We are focused on the entire experience. The online ladders are a part of the qualification process. There’s millions of gamers, and the large majority of them will not attend a live event so we want to inspire them to feel connected to their community.
The cool thing about Madden is that now formally the NFL season is coming to an end, the Madden Championship Series continues on so it gives American Football fans a chance to continue their love of the sport regardless of the physical sport is available.
ESI: Do think sports simulation games like Madden help esports become more understood by those outside the industry?
MM: Absolutely, I worked at Riot Games from 2009-2013 so I have a deep familiarity with MOBAs, so I can tell you working and writing those rule-sets and explaining to them rules to friends and family proved to be a significant challenge.
However in America near enough everyone at a young age is exposed to American Football and the rules of that sport. That is the advantage with Madden, we don’t have to teach the rules to those interested in watching. It’s much easier to talk to someone on the street without using analogies as it’s much more familiar. It’s also more palatable to parents who have children and are asking them to attend a gaming event. It’s much easier to explain.
ESI: What can we expect next from the Madden series in the future? How would you like to further the game’s progression in terms of its esports scene?
MM: The thing we do year after year is gather feedback from our competitors themselves. Whether you came Top 1000 or Top 30, your opinion matters. Outside of that, we want to bring outside partners to host Madden tournaments. We’d like to bring in more partners so the ecosystem is beneficial for them to get involved in running online and live tournaments. There are various publishers that want a very closed ecosystem whereas others prefer an open ecosystem, I’d say we’re more around the middle. We will always be working with the NFL to host the pinnacle tournaments.
However, we’d also like for those aspiring competitors in high school/college to have their own leagues and tournaments to compete in. You can expect this to happen next year. However, how it manifests itself is still to be worked on by our team.
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