Already popular among both casual gamers and the esports crowd, the deal announced today could push professional Madden play to the next level.
As esports continue to grow in popularity, one of the ongoing questions is how traditional media outlets and can be leveraged to help them reach an even wider audience. We’re about to get a fascinating look at the biggest effort ever in that vein after the announcement this week of plans for the Madden NFL Ultimate League.
The names involved are impressive: EA, maker of the Madden games, the NFL and Disney — with both ESPN and Disney XD taking part — are joining forces for what they are calling the “first-ever long-term, multi-event competitive gaming agreement” to grace ESPN. The Madden NFL Ultimate League will feature 16 of the top pro Madden players and will begin on Friday, Feb. 2.
Disney XD and the ESPN app will feature Madden NFL Ultimate League play each week, supported by an Ultimate League Episodic Series on ESPN 2 that kicks off in April. The whole thing will reach a climax when the Madden NFL Ultimate League champion is crowned at the Madden Bowl, which will take place this year at the NFL Draft and broadcast live on ESPN2.
“The Madden NFL Ultimate League is purposely designed to make superstars of our best players, allowing viewers to develop player loyalties and follow competitor rivalries,” Todd Sitrin, SVP and GM of the Competitive Gaming Division at EA, said in a press release. “Through this collaboration with ESPN and Disney XD, we’ll provide ongoing coverage for fans worldwide across a variety of ESPN and Disney platforms, but also digitally through our own Madden streaming and social channels.”
In addition, the companies are joining forces to showcase the Madden NFL 18 Club Championship tournament, which is already underway and will air on ESPNNEWS and ESPN 2 over Pro Bowl weekend and into Super Bowl week.
From a general esports perspective, it makes total sense for all the parties involved. The biggest question about esports and traditional media is finding the sweet spot between new and existing audiences, and it’s harder to imagine a more natural place to go looking for that than with the NFL and Madden fans. At the same time, it helps ESPN find some new ground to cover — though the network has already made inroads into esports in several areas over the past few years — without having to stretch too far.
More details on both the Madden NFL Ultimate League and Madden NFL 18 Club Championship, hit up the official Madden site.