Next-gen Madden premiering Saturday

EA unveiling new Madden, which features "photo-realistic" graphics, during first hour of NFL Draft on ESPN.

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On Saturday morning, many gridiron faithful will gather 'round the tube for the NFL Draft to see which fresh-faced man-about-campus will suit up for their squads next year. The Bay Area looks to make major headlines that day, and not just because the San Francisco 49ers are expected to take Cal Berkeley's quarterback with their number one overall pick. Meanwhile, Redwood City-based publisher Electronic Arts is showing off the latest version of its top gun, Madden NFL 06.

EA today announced that it will debut the next-generation edition of Madden NFL in a 60-second spot this Saturday. The ad will be shown during the first hour of the NFL Draft, which begins 9:00am PDT. The ad will only run once during the broadcast.

EA did not mention which next-generation console the footage would be from, but circumstantial evidence points toward the next Xbox, most commonly referred to as the Xbox 360. Microsoft's newest console will be unveiled on MTV on May 12, and analysts believe it will be in homes in time for this year's Christmas. Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Revolution, on the other hand, aren't expected to be available until the second half of 2006.

"We have had a dedicated team working on next-generation Madden NFL football, and we cannot wait for Madden fans to get a sneak peek at the experience that awaits them," said Frank Gibeau, senior vice president of North American marketing for Electronic Arts.

As a teaser for its fans, EA is posting screenshots of its next-gen Madden on the game's Web page once per day until the TV ad debuts. The first screenshot (in the box above) shows a close-up of the head of one player, possibly a member of the Minnesota Vikings or Baltimore Ravens, as he is falling to the ground during a snowy game. The stadium in the background is in soft focus, but the detail on the face is quite impressive, because the individual strands of hair on the player's thin moustache can be discerned, as can his frosty breath.

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