EA Sports' Madden Bowl XVII Video Game Tournament Goes Live on ESPN3.com

The 17th annual event, which is being hosted by 'Access Hollywood's' Maria Menounos and ESPN's Trey Wingo, will stream live from Texas on February 3.

EA Sports Madden NFL video game football franchise has become a part of pop culture over the years. Electronic Arts has sold over 90 million copies of the game since it launched in 1988, generating over $3 billion in sales. With Super Bowl XLV fast approaching, EA Sports and the NFL Players Association have teamed up with ESPN to live stream the 17th annual Madden Bowl video game tournament on ESPN3.com from the Glass Cactus bar in Grapevine, Texas on February 3. As part of Super Bowl XLV festivities, the video game tournament and after-party will be available online and on Xbox 360 live starting at 9 p.m. ET.

"We look at this event as the true convergence of entertainment, sports and video games," said Damon Phillips, vice president of ESPN3.com. "The way interactive TV has come into play the last year or so, ESPN 3 and Xbox 360 are at the forefront of this. Madden Bowl is a very high profile event for celebrity and sports, but it also speaks to the power of gaming."

The Madden Bowl will be hosted by Access Hollywood's Maria Menounos and ESPN's Trey Wingo, who will cover the video game tournament action live. ESPN reporters Christian Fauria and Cassidy Hubbarth will headline the ESPN3.com coverage, providing red carpet celebrity and NFL interviews as well as updates from inside the event and a Madden retrospective.

Madden Bowl XVII will also feature performances by 2010 GRAMMY nominees Big Boi and Cee Lo Green. Legendary hip-hop entertainer Biz Markie will close out the evening as the event's guest DJ.

"Each year Madden Bowl gets bigger and bigger and it's the one party that both players and celebrities like to attend," said Anthony Stevenson, senior product manager for EA Sports. "It's the game that NFL pros play throughout the season and during the off season, so winning the video game tournament really means something to them."

After a down year in sales in 2010, EA Sports' Tiburon Studio in Orlando, Florida revamped the game by adding 3-on-3 online gameplay for the first time. Gamers who had shied away from Madden NFL 10 came back in droves for Madden NFL 11, which was the second best-selling game of 2010 according to research firm the NPD Group. Only Activision's Call of Duty: Black Ops sold more copies than Madden last year.

Madden Bowl XVII will use the 3-on-3 online game mode to introduce three-man teams of NFL pros. In the past, eight NFL pros would play a series of games mano-a-mano. The 3-on-3 mode allows one player to control the quarterback, one to handle the wide receivers and one to take over the running game on offense against three players handling the defense.

This opened up the ability for more NFL pros to take part in the tournament. Madden Bowl XVII will feature four teams made up of NFL stars from the reigning Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints, including MVP and current Madden cover athlete Drew Brees, NCAA Football 07 cover athlete Reggie Bush and Chase Daniel; Jacksonville Jaguars players, including reigning Madden Bowl champion Maurice Jones Drew, Kirk Morrison and Marcedes Lewis; Dallas Cowboys pros, including, DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten, and Miles Austin; and a team of NFL All-Stars comprised of 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, and former Madden Bowl champions, Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, and Ravens running back Willis McGahee.

Stevenson said tournament players will be miked and wearing headsets, so viewers can listen in on the banter and chatter between both teammates and the opposing players.

Other NFL stars expected to attend Madden Bowl this year include: Michael Vick (Philadelphia Eagles), Jeremy Maclin (Philadelphia Eagles), Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis Colts), Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals), Chad Ochocinco (Cincinnati Bengals), Ndamukong Suh (Detroit Lions), Josh Freeman (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Brandon Lloyd (Denver Broncos), and Rob Gronkowski (New England Patriots).

Phillips said this event will give sports fans and gamers the chance to see what goes on behind-the-scenes at one of the most popular Super Bowl parties.

"The lines between what's sports, what's entertainment and video games is graying," said Stevenson.

Last November, ESPN3 began streaming live sporting events to all Xbox Live Gold members, including NCAA Football games.

"We've seen immense usage by gamers since we launched, including during prime time," said Phillips. "ESPN3 focuses on providing live sports coverage and with this event, gamers can watch the video game tournament on Xbox Live and switch back and forth while playing Madden NFL 11."

ESPN3 is currently not available for PlayStation 3 gamers on PlayStation Network, but the NFL players partaking in the Madden Bowl will be playing Madden exclusively on PS3 as a result of a marketing agreement with EA Sports. Sony PlayStation is an official sponsor of Madden Bowl XVII. This means that Xbox Live gamers will be watching the PS3 version of the game with Sony PlayStation marketing built-in.

Additional Madden Bowl sponsors include Verizon, Coke Zero, Coors Light, Virgin Gaming, and Sledgehammer.

This is the latest collaboration between ESPN and EA Sports, which entered into a 15-year integrated marketing agreement back in 2005. For the last two years, ESPN2 has aired a one-hour special that focused on the finalists of the Madden Challenge championship. The first show was filmed in Honolulu, Hawaii during the Pro Bowl in 2009. Last year's show was taped at Beaches Resort in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos and aired Super Bowl Sunday. ESPN2 has also aired four seasons of "Madden Nation," a reality series that pitted the best Madden gamers in a traveling tournament for the chance to win $100,000.

Phillips expects Madden Bowl will become a staple as a live streaming event every year from the Super Bowl, but he said additional broadcast packaged shows on the ESPN television network involving Madden or other EA Sports games are also possible.