Madden 21 held its inaugural Pro Bowl this year and it seemed to go down well.
With lockdowns and player safety a priority it wasn't a surprise to see the NFL 'go digital' with the end-of-season celebration.
So what happened?
2021 Pro Bowl Format
You can find full details of the format here but essentially there were two teams of four players, one representing the AFC and one the NFC.
Each team was made up of 2 current players, 1 former player, and 1 celebrity guest.
They then played a quarter each, using the Pro Bowl format on the game and the real Pro Bowl teams.
The game was streamed on multiple platforms including Twitch, Youtube, and Twitter - with the players mic'd up and on camera.
2021 Pro Bowl Result
The NFC trampled all over the AFC with a final result of AFC 12 - 32 NFC.
Deshaun Watson and Kyler Murray were fairly evenly matched in the first quarter. But then Bubba Wallace (NASCAR driver) outscored former NFL WR Keyshawn Johnson by 19-0 in the 2nd quarter to make the difference.
Derrick Henry and Jamal Adams matched each other point for point and the Snopp Dogg and Marshawn Lynch failed to score anything in the last quarter.
In the end, Kyler Murray was given the Pro Bowl MVP award.
2021 Pro Bowl Reception
The Pro Bowl doesn't get a huge amount of love in the first place.
Players don't go full tilt and don't want to get injured in what is an end of season celebration.
So it wasn't surprising to see fans being sceptical about watching a Madden version of the Pro Bowl.
But the participants made it worthwhile and shined through.
Following the path forged by Twitch streamers, it tapped into the idea that people do actually enjoy watching other people play video games.
And when they have personality and jokes flying around on stream you can really buy into it. In one drive Jamal Adams used the same play four times in a row and Derrick Henry couldn't stop it. The laughter and energy was infectious and this video went viral.
Due to the negativity around the existing format, it is a low bar for the NFL to improve things. The reception for the 2021 Pro Bowl was generally positive with most people saying 'better than I thought it would be'.
Future of the Pro Bowl?
It's very easy to see this becoming the standard policy for the NFL.
They have tried adjusting the format in previous years, without much success. It does act a nice little holiday for players, but with them not playing properly it's not much of a spectacle.
The idea of a Pro Bowl team and nomination will always continue, it is a measure of success for players and despite question marks over it being a popularity contest (as a fan-voted mechanism), it is broadly right.
Streaming of games is a growing industry and we think the lines between gaming, entertainment and television will start to blur in the next decade.
This was a popular stream and it is likely we will see something similar next year, even if the game itself happens too.