Madden NFL 17 Ushers in a New Era in the Franchise’s Color Commentary
"We're happy being no names as long as we get to continue working on this series."
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For a couple guys who are about to fill in some big shoes, Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis certainly sound awfully confident and relaxed. Perhaps it's what happens after logging seven months worth of voice over studio time. As the new commentators of the Madden franchise, this new duo is well aware of the series' play-by-play legacy but they also know they're armed with resources that Jim Nantz or Al Michaels never had.
The last three years has been a methodical journey for Madden as it slowly matured into this current console generation. With each release, long standing issues were addressed and community-influenced fixes were made. To say that an overhaul to the color commentary was overdue is an understatement. EA Sports is addressing this in Madden NFL 17 with a brand new script, one that's notably larger than any collection of dialogue that Pat Summerall ever read. This freshness is underscored by the decision to use different talent, experienced voices but not household names, at least not on a national broadcast level.
When listening to Gaudin and Davis recite their resumes, one is reminded of the careers one can make without necessarily graduating to a prime time market. With Brandon, you have the play-by-play voice of Georgia Tech football and basketball and more recently, a commentator for the Big 10 Network and Westwood One. Davis has been in the business since 1997, working for everyone from the NFL Network to Fox Sports. Depending on the demographic, being an a Madden game is as a prime time-level career upgrade as going to Monday Night Football.
"Brandon and I are well aware our names don't resonate but people who play Madden care more about the game itself," Davis said. "Our goal is definitely to enhance, but hopefully not detract from their joy of the game with our broadcast commentary. It'll take time and we hope that over time they'll like what they hear or at the very least, we don't turn them off. We're happy being no names as long as we get to continue working on this series."
It's a very calculated move by EA Sports. The developer/publisher has immense flexibility to mold these guys into their idea of a Madden-branded broadcast duo. It’s not unusual to word-associate “Al Michaels” with “Monday Night Football”. “Gaudin and Davis” can very well become synonymous with “Madden NFL” one day. When pressed for contract details, Madden producer Christian McLeod disclosed that the pair are contracted well beyond this year’s game, though he did not specify for how long.
"We're happy being no names as long as we get to continue working on this series."-- Davis
The pair unsurprisingly treat this opportunity like career-level muscle reflex. To be called up by EA Sports to appear on Madden NFL 17 is akin to being asked by John Madden himself; you just do it without question. Davis explains, "When you get a chance to audition for a game like Madden, someone with my background is just honored to be asked. But once you get involved in it, you really want to keep doing it, especially after working with Brandon."
Their shared balance of humility and confidence quickly led to chemistry, which is remarkable since Gaudin and Davis never met prior to the game's auditions. This instant compatibility is partly due to their unblemished reputations in the sportscasting field. As Gaudin explained, "I was familiar with Davis' work from college to the NFL. He's done it on the highest level. There's not one negative thing you're going to hear about the guy on or off the air."
Davis added, "It was chemistry from day one partly because of the great fortune we both felt for this opportunity. Now we're more than colleagues. We're close friends who check in on each other."
Madden NFL 17 also has the potential to be one of the most newcomer-friendly installments in recently memory. Along with chemistry, experience, and the availability to visit EA's Orlando studios on a weekly basis, what McLeod saw in the pair comes down to knowledge and history of the sport. "We wanted to make sure that our analyst would hammer into the deep down details of Football 101, 202, 303, et cetera. That includes teaching and educating users who aren’t familiar with Madden, but might be familiar with a certain team or player. They might know Odell Beckham Jr. as the guy who made a famous one-handed catch against the Cowboys last season, but they don't know that he's a phenomenal short route runner.
"Charles explains the concepts of football, how individual players play, and how they’re utilized. And Brandon's expected to fill in nuggets here and there, when he's not leading the play-by-play. He brings in his own trivia, like how Von Miller not only owns a chicken farm but also majored in poultry management. It’s key to have both of them in the studio at the same time to capture the natural back and forth banter.”
When asked about the day-to-day challenges working in the studio, Gaudin explained how the opportunity offsets potential issues with fatigue, "We feel very lucky doing this and when you’re going into a studio to just talk about football, it's hard to complain. What also keeps it fresh is that every day you're recording something new, whether it's safeties, failed two-point conversions, or successful two-point conversions.
"EA's given us the opportunity to talk about way more than what commentators have gone over in previous years. That includes more shared time in the studio. That leads to a lot of depth and variety. That keeps things fresh for the player day in, day out. At the end of a five-hour recording session we will get tired, but the bottom line is that when Charles and I go into the studio, we're given a fresh new script everyday. We're grateful and fortunate."
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