The NFL will be hosting a virtual version of the 2021 Pro Bowl, taking the event online in EA’s controversial football simulator Madden NFL 21.
The 2021 NFL Pro Bowl is going to be held online in Madden NFL 21. The Pro Bowl is just one more in a long list of major sporting events delayed or cancelled altogether due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s also not the only time the sports world has turned to video games to keep itself going during the lockdown; back in April, a special tournament was hosted in Mario Tennis Aces featuring actual tennis champions like the Williams sisters.
It’s understandable that the NFL would turn to Madden, seeing as it is the official licensed video game adaption of the National Football League. Unfortunately, Madden NFL 21 might not be the best choice. Fans and critics alike have lambasted the game, decrying it for lazy game design that changes little from previous entries in the series. It quickly earned a title as the lowest-rated game on Metacritic, and this lack of innovation, along with a litany of glitches and bugs, led players to demand that the NFL drop EA as the developer of its annual video game series. Unfortunately for those upset fans, this did not occur.
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And now, thanks to the lockdown, the NFL is hosting its Pro Bowl in Madden NFL 21 in 2021. In true Pro Bowl tradition, the NFL has already opened up the Fan Vote, giving football fans the chance to help determine the lineups in the Pro Bowl. Once the rosters are selected, fans will be treated to a week of matchups featuring celebrities, athletes, and video game streamers portraying the official rosters. This will culminate in a final match with both lineups going head to head in EA’s virtual arena. EA has also promised new in-game content to give the average Madden player a chance to get in the spirit of the landmark competition.
Hosting the NFL Pro Bowl is a good chance for Madden NFL 21 to turn its image around, assuming it goes well. EA has already shown a keen eye toward PR by featuring Colin Kaepernick, who was infamously shunned by the NFL following his very vocal participation in the Black Lives Matter protests. With strong gestures like this, Madden NFL 21 is in a good position to save face.
EA as a company is on very thin ice. The developer is remembered much more prominently for its mistakes than for its successes, and it has had many of the former. It’s been caught in a lot of controversy as well; recently it was even accused of inflating difficulty in its sports games in order to sell more loot boxes, an accusation which the company has publicly denied. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of the sports industry, and video games like Madden NFL 21 are more important than ever in allowing fans to reconnect with their favorite sports. Hopefully EA won’t mess this up.
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