Is Madden an Esport and What to Expect From the Game in the Future

To those of you over the age of 50 and the people who have never owned a console or spent their lunch breaks watching their favourite streamers on YouTube, the world of esports may often sound a little mystifying.

In the most basic of terms, esports is the term used to describe the highest levels of competitive gaming, events which are often televised and attract audiences of millions of gaming enthusiasts. 

Amongst the most high profile esports title are Dota 2, Fortnite and League of Legends, slightly down the list but still popular is Madden, the video game adaptation of the NFL. 

In this article we take a look at Madden’s move into esports and give you an idea of what to expect from the title in the coming years.

If all this talk of football esports has got you in the mood for the coming NFL season be sure to have a look at the NFL odds and get your bets in early ahead of what promises to be a season to remember.

Madden Background

Named after Pro Football Hall of Fame coach and commentator John Madden, the game was first produced and released by EA Sports in 1988. Since then the game has come to be an institution of American Football.

Released yearly the game has seen a number of advancements and updates that have managed to keep it fresh and relevant. The addition of the Ultimate Team feature which allowed players to build squads from all available players and battle it out with one another online greatly increased the popularity of the game. 

(The evolution of Madden from 1988 to the modern day.)

Madden’s Esports Expansion

Not content with dominating the sports video game market, EA Sports decided to transition Madden into the esports landscape. The Madden Championship Series is a string of online esports game events that pit players from all across the globe against one another in a nine month long tournament.

The goal of the nine month slog is to qualify for the Madden Bowl, the electronic equivalent of the Super Bowl. To get there, online players can compete in the following qualifying tournaments:

  • Madden Club Championship: Online players pick a team from the 32 NFL teams to represent and play one another to rise through the online leader boards. The best player from each NFL team’s group makes it through to the next round and plays in a straight up knockout.
  • Madden Classic: The top 512 players from each platform (Xbox, PlayStation, PC and so on) compete against each other in a head-to-head tournament, battling it out to be crowned #1.
  • Madden Challenge: The top 512 players compete with one another in a straight knockout using the Madden Ultimate Team Draft Game Mode.
  • Last Chance Qualifier: This last chance saloon game mode sees the double elimination of the top 128 players per platform with the games played out on Ultimate Team. The top four winners automatically qualify for the Madden Bowl.

The Madden Bowl

Eight teams compete in the crème de la crème of Madden esports. The team captains are allowed to pick two players each from the pool of remaining qualifiers to make up a three-person team.

To crown a winner, teams face off in a best of three format across multiple game modes to determine the out and out best teams.

The 2021 winner was Team Henry which was led by 18-year-old Henry Leverette who scooped himself a whopping $250,000 in prize money in the process, which brings us on to the next topic…

(Watch Henry Leverette’s stunning last-gasp victory in the Madden Bowl.)

Madden Esports Prize Money

The money on offer to winners of other esports titles like Dota 2 and Fortnite are genuinely eye watering, but that’s not to say that the prize money available to Madden winners is chump change.

As previously mentioned, Henry Leverette took the top prize of $250,000 in last season’s Madden Bowl. The runner up Wesley Gittens left with a cheque for $150,000 and the third and fourth placed teams took $100,000.

The money on offer in the qualifying modes is as follows:

Madden Club Championship – 1st: $150,000. 2nd: $80,000. 3rd-4th: $50,000

Madden Classic – 1st: $15,000. 2nd: $8,000. 3rd: $6,500

Madden Challenge: 1st: $15,000. 2nd: $8,000. 3rd:$6,500

The Future of Madden

The coming months and years look bright for Madden and EA Sports as it was confirmed recently that the title had signed a multi-year partnership with Fox Sports to broadcast Madden Club Championship games on Tuesday nights.

That was in addition to a flurry of new sponsorship deals, including the main sponsor of non-endemic brand Pizza Hut.

Whilst sharing the same sort of market status as first-person shooter titles might seem some way off, that is the ultimate goal for Madden. The pandemic demonstrated that there was a passion for Madden as an esport and now it is on the title and the broadcasters to take advantage of that.

Is there anything you would like to see Madden to do capitalise on the popularity of esports? Let us know in the comments section below.

Jimmy Baratta on Giving Back in Esports Through the NACL

Up until recently, no one would have thought that esports would become as big as it is today. There are esports events and tournaments worldwide, and there are even professional players and teams. As a result, the gaming community grew, and there are now several platforms where players and enthusiasts can interact and bond over their shared interests. Jimmy Baratta has helped create a new way to support collegiate esports athletes in this new frontier through his nonprofit league, the NACL.

Jimmy Baratta was trained as a civil litigation attorney. After six successful years working in a prestigious law firm in California, Jimmy decided it was time for him to pursue his love for gaming. “I am incredibly passionate about esports,” he shares, “I have been a gamer my whole life.” After making that decision, Jimmy has successfully shifted careers from law to esports business development.

Apart from founding ICEBRKRSCLAN, a network of content creators and competitive players founded by Baratta in 2017, and consulting for Granderson des Rochers, a high profile entertainment law firm in Beverly Hills, in 2019 Jimmy Baratta established the North American Collegiate League (NACL) with FaZe Clan seed investor David Chen. Jimmy Baratta and David Chen noticed that scholarships are usually only given to traditional sports athletes or academic achievers, and decided to fill a void, so that competitive esports players also can attain higher education. The NACL, they state, is a non-profit organization that aims to support collegiate competitive esports players through scholarships.

Baratta’s NACL now has over 220 colleges and universities affiliated, that compete and participate in NACL events. The NACL maintains broadcast licenses in some of the biggest games in gaming: from Fortnite to CS:GO, Madden, and more. The NACL has hosted tournaments every month since its launch and distributed over $100,000 in funding. The NACL also streams events and tournaments through their partnership with Chinese service Huomao and iSunTV across 8 Asian territories, Latin America, and the U.S. This large fan base gains the NACL nearly 1.5M in viewership, establishing itself as the predominant name in collegiate gaming.

A brief history – the NACL hosted their first event in November of 2019 at the ISM Raceway during NASCAR’s 2020 Championship weekend. NACL ambassador and NASCAR driver Anthony Alfredo led the campaign, where students competed against each other and against NASCAR drivers to claim the esports prize. The event was such a success, it was repeated on March 15, 2020 at Phoenix Raceway, where the NACL showcased NASCAR Heat 4 to the public in a tournament that was crowned with the winner of the LS Tractor 200. Since then, the NACL has shifted its model to support online tournaments, both increasing viewership, participation and charitable reach. 

Apart from his philanthropic endeavors and founding of the NACL, Jimmy Baratta has continued to build a successful career in the esports business. He is currently a consultant for XSET, and fondly calls Clinton Sparks a mentor and friend. Jimmy also sits on the board for The Esportz Network. Jimmy also works with software developer Wizard Labs as head of user acquisition, and is the new VP of Special Events for XR Sports. Besides his corporate roles, he also accepted a position at the University of California Irvine as a professor of esports.

Following his passion has made such a positive impact on Jimmy Baratta’s life. Despite his success, he never forgets his commitment to the community – most evident in the NACL. He wants to encourage young people to see gaming and esports as a positive influence in their lives, now more than ever. To help with that, he has a mentoring program through the ICE clan, and also gives back by providing college scholarships through NACL to individuals who want to use their skills in esports to get a college education. 

In pursuing a career in esports, Jimmy Baratta followed an unconventional route. But his decisions have paid off, and he hopes to inspire anyone else wanting to switch jobs or pursue their passion.

For more information on Jimmy Baratta, you may check his LinkedIn profile.