How the Best Sports Video Game Ever Almost Never Happened

ESPN has an entertaining, comprehensive history of Madden NFL, the most complex, realistic and addictive sports video game I've ever played. My favorite piece of history is how the original designers wanted to slash 44% of the players on the field to make the game fit on a computer screen. Thankfully, famous coach/announcer/walking-sound-affects-machine John Madden refused:

The duo promised they would create as sophisticated a simulation as home computers would allow. Real football, with seven players to a side ...

Right there, Madden balked -- even though he was technically under contract with EA to endorse a football game. "If it's not 11-on-11," he said, "it's not real football."

"That was a deal breaker," Madden recalled. "If it was going to be me and going to be pro football, it had to have 22 guys on the screen. If we couldn't have that, we couldn't have a game."

Seven-on-seven? That's like a baseball video game without a middle infield. Thank you for your courage, John.

Read the full story at ESPN.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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