Just in time for the Super Bowl, Madden 20 will be getting a new shoe. More specifically, the Nike Vapor Edge Cleat. Among the players getting this special footwear: Christian McCaffrey, Odell Beckham Jr., Kyler Murray, Ezekiel Elliott, and Dalvin Cook (congrats, Dieter). Most notably, it will be the first time an aesthetic update will actually affect players’ abilities in-game, increasing their speed and acceleration. EA says the virtual shoes are available in-game now.
Madden is a strange product already. It’s less a simulation of playing football and more a simulation of watching football on TV. Which means it exists as kind of a bizarre, alternate universe version of the NFL with its own in-game ads and sponsorships. A real-life Nike cleat making an appearance in Madden isn’t so strange.
But the addition of the Vapor Edge Cleat sets a precedent: a cosmetic change that also grants special stat boosts. (Imagine a Fortnite skin with special buffs. That would be bullshit, right?) There are no details on how much this will affect these chosen players, and knowing how carefully Madden tries to balance itself, I imagine it won’t be huge.
Still, it makes players signed with Nike more powerful — the flip side being that an athlete signed to, say, Adidas or Under Armour, is less effective, at least in the world of Madden. And listen: players in the NFL care about Madden. They play a lot of it! A couple years ago, I interviewed Todd Gurley, who told me he tore through a lot of Madden despite being kind of terrible at it. As you might expect, as a running back, Gurley’s game plan involves a lot of rushing as the Madden version of himself. He did joke that he fumbles a lot in-game — something that the real-life Todd Gurley would never do.
But maybe that will improve in subsequent Madden updates. Luckily for Gurley, he’s sponsored by Nike.