EA Sports released its “Madden NFL 21” reveal Tuesday morning, and people noticed something was different about the direction the company went with the covers.
“Madden 21” features three distinct covers, all featuring Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. The standard edition looks like a collage of photos featuring Jackson, the deluxe edition has a similar look with different pictures and the MVP edition is a clean look with a single photo of Jackson.
Previous Madden covers have featured unique photos of the chosen athlete along with a background image. There was a distinct look to each cover, and every year it had a familiar feel. But this year’s covers took a very unique approach. EA Sports even brags about it being “a bold new cover.”
“With style and swag uniquely his own, reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson dazzles on the new Madden NFL 21 cover as he does against the opposition on gameday,” the EA Sports website reads.
So why did EA Sports go with such a dramatic new look for Madden 21? Well, it was kind of forced to.
Ravens photographer Shawn Hubbard said EA Sports reached out to the team for photos. He said the company couldn’t do its usual cover shoot due to the coronavirus, so they had to get a little creative and go in a different direction.
Generally a global pandemic is a bad thing. However, when @EAMaddenNFL wasn’t able to do their annual cover shoot, they came to the @Ravens and I to use my image library to create these covers. Incredibly grateful for this opportunity. 🙏🏻 https://t.co/0ylSFBM98X
— Shawn Hubbard (@shawn_hubbard) June 16, 2020
Sporting News spoke with Hubbard about how he and his team helped out EA Sports. He believes the company went with his photos with the Ravens as opposed to Associated Press images because they provide a unique feel. Although a few photos on the covers were from the AP, the featured images were from Hubbard.
“The images of mine that they did use are more behind-the-scenes and give a deeper look into Lamar’s personality and I think that’s why they resonate more,” Hubbard told SN. “I am given great access to players by the Ravens, and I’m fortunate to be able to make more up close and personal images that can’t be made from the sideline. Those are the images that I live for.”
Hubbard says EA Sports reached out to the Ravens back in March, and the team contacted him about using his photos from the past two seasons. While Hubbard didn’t have final say on what the covers looked like, EA Sports valued his opinion and asked him to “make a gallery” of his favorite images.
Although Hubbard has never played Madden, he’s excited to be a part of history.
“I’ve actually never played the game. My gaming days peaked in middle school and officially ended after a good run with the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater. Guess maybe I should give this one a try though!” Hubbard told SN. “Either way, it’s still cool. I know a lot of people play this game and there is a lot of hype around the cover each year, so I’m extremely grateful to be a part of it.”
While the EA team was forced into this decision, it turned out pretty well. It provides a fresh new look to the cover after years of it looking similar.
As for Jackson, he’s thrilled to be on the cover, and he explained why to Yahoo Sports.
“I shed tears looking at the cover,” Jackson said. “It’s different. Knowing like, what you’ve been through, what you’ve faced, and for people to look at you and want you to represent them. Putting me on the cover of the game is a dream come true. And you gotta just honor that.”