EA estimates that the series has five to seven million dedicated fans, and an underground circuit of Madden cash tournaments exists. Marshall Faulk in 2010 estimated that “50 percent on up” of NFL players are Madden players, who play in the league with or against childhood heroes they once chose to play as in the game. Players typically play as themselves regardless of their electronic counterparts’ abilities and immediately check new releases of the game for changes in the more than 60 ratings of their talent. They often complain to Madden and EA about allegedly inaccurate ratings (only Emmitt Smith has told him that the game rated him too high), or ask for changes in their in-game appearance. Such complaints began as early as 1990, confusing the broadcaster, who did not contribute the player statistics for that year’s version due to lack of time.
Coaches and players at all levels of the sport say that Madden has influenced them, and recommend the game to learn football strategy and tactics, practice plays and assignments, and simulate opponents. Young players who grew up with it reportedly understand plays better than those who did not. Wired in 2010 attributed the growing use of rookie quarterbacks and the spread offense to the game, stating that “the sport is being taken over by something you might call Maddenball — a sophisticated, high-scoring, pass-happy, youth-driven phenomenon”. When the Denver Broncos’ Brandon Stokley in 2009 burned six seconds of the clock with an unusual run before scoring the winning touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals, Madden designers—who were watching the game with Madden—immediately recognized his action as “what happens in the game!”