In one of the most trying years in modern history, the NFL, like so many of us, is thinking outside the box to go on with the show. In this case, that means playing the Pro Bowl in Madden NFL 21.
The Pro Bowl is the NFL's annual all-star game but historically it's suffered from a lack of interest among football fans given its placement on the calendar. Because football is such an injury risk, the Pro Bowl isn't played midseason where players could get hurt and miss meaningful games. Until recently, the Pro Bowl was played a week after the Super Bowl, but by then most fans had moved on from the sport until the NFL Draft months later.
For the past several seasons, the game has taken place in the week before the Super Bowl, which means players on the Super Bowl-bound teams sit out. Basically, there's never been a great way to handle the Pro Bowl, and in a pandemic, there is even less of a reason to subject players to the real-life exhibition game.
Thus, Pro Bowl 2021 will come by way of EA's mega-popular NFL sim, the companies have jointly announced.
"Today, the National Football League (NFL) and Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA) announced plans to transform the 2021 NFL Pro Bowl presented by Verizon by going virtual in Madden NFL 21," reads the statement. "The opening of the Pro Bowl Fan Vote presented by Verizon also kicks-off today, along with the unveiling of early details of an all-new virtual Pro Bowl experience within Madden NFL 21. After the announcement that the Pro Bowl game will not be played in Allegiant Stadium in 2021, the NFL will incorporate several additional elements which will ultimately comprise this new virtual Pro Bowl experience."
The event will feature celebrities, NFL players, and streamers playing across a number of matchups in the week-long event using the real Pro Bowl rosters as voted by a number of bases, including the fan vote which has just opened on the league's website. Fans will also be able to vote within Madden NFL 21, as well as on Twitter. In December, NFL coaches and players also contribute votes toward the final tally. In total, 88 players will be voted to the Pro Bowl and still received the honors, even if the game is moving to an entirely digital platform in 2021.
The digital Pro Bowl will kick off in February 2021.