Madden 21: Release date, gameplay, X-Factor, Ultimate Team, cover star, trailer, demo, beta, & everything you need to know

EA’s flagship franchise is sure to see changes to every game mode ahead of the next gen consoles.

Toby Durant by Toby Durant
Lamar Jackson and Madden 21

The sporting world is frozen in place thanks to coronavirus, but it looks the gaming world, and Madden 21, should be untouched.

EA are in a battle for NFL supremacy with the news that 2K Sports will once again be making a football game in 2020.

That means Madden 21 will be their last un-challenged NFL game for a while.

We’re expecting EA to come back with a bang when it comes to the next installment. But what will they bring to the table?

NOW WATCH BELOW: Master Madden 20 and blow away your opponents!

Keep reading for everything you need to know about EA’s next installment to their flagship franchise.

Release Date

Madden titles have always had a release date in August ahead of the NFL regular season. The last two versions hit at the start of the month, with Madden 20 being released on 2 August.

READ MORE: Madden 21 – Next gen consoles promise most realistic game ever

There should be a closed beta period before this, with the timing and sign-up process almost certainly getting announced in June.


MADDEN SEASON: EA don’t hold back with their trailers

We got our first sneak-peek of Madden 20 in late April, so fans should circle that date in their calendar.

While gameplay snippets were missing until the summer, this was where EA showed off the inclusion of College Football play for the first time ever.

Will they be as generous with the first trailer for Madden 21? We can only hope so.

The first gameplay trailer will hopefully drop around E3 in June.

Cover Athlete

Lamar Jackson celebrating in Madden
MVP: Baltimore’s star quarterback is the favorite for the Madden 21 cover

The Madden cover spot has usually resulted in an attack from the Madden Curse, but in the last few years this has died down.

All-time greats like Tom Brady, Bret Favre, and Ray Lewis have graced the cover of EA’s game, with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes getting the spot for Madden 20 and then breaking the curse by winning Super Bowl LIV.

EA have held a vote before, but since it resulted in Cleveland running back Peyton Hillis winning it’s unlikely to happen again. So who could be the Madden 21 cover athlete?

READ MORE: All the best playbooks in Madden 20

Lamar Jackson was the breakout star of this season and was named MVP. He is undoubtedly the front-runner for the spot, but players like Julio Jones and Ezekiel Elliott would certainly carry the cache to do it.

It would be nice for another defensive player to make the cover. It hasn’t happened since Richard Sherman on Madden 15, so maybe Aaron Donald or Stephon Gilmore could be the star for Madden 21.


Aaron Rodgers' X-Factor abilities in Madden 20
X-FACTOR: New for Madden 20, players had mixed feelings about the abilities

New for Madden 20, the Superstar and X-Factor abilities were an interesting addition.

There was initial worry that it would be an over-powered ability that would ruin the game. That was only partially correct.

In Franchise Mode it had minimal effect as there were only a handful of players with abilities and once players retired it was very hard to develop young players to X-Factor level.

READ MORE: Franchise Mode tips to build a dominant team and win the Super Bowl

However, in Ultimate Team, where X-Factor abilities could be applied and immediately activated to three players on offense and three on defense, it started to take over.

So will EA keep X-Factor powers or will this feature go the way of the passing cone? We don’t know yet, but whatever the answer is there is sure to be some that disagree.

Franchise Mode

franchise mode needs a refresh in Madden
SAME AS BEFORE: Franchise mode players have been neglected

It’s safe to say that Franchise Mode has been rather forgotten of late. It has been crying out for a refresh across the board, from the trade possibilities to contract negotiations, player development, and even the overall presentation.

Face of the Franchise was a brief prequel to a Player Franchise Mode, but other than that it didn’t add much to the game. With reports that EA may finally be reviving NCAA Football, the inclusion of a story before entering the NFL may a one-year thing.

READ MORE: Madden 20 – MUT Team of the Year is here!

Franchise Mode is sure to be a core mode for players once again, even online should Connected Franchise Mode survive into Madden 21. However, projecting improvements at this point may be more hopeful than anything else.

Ultimate Team

Aaron Donald's MUT TOTY card
ULTIMATE TEAM: There’s always new content for MUT

This is where Madden’s attention is, and where the innovations will be.

Madden Ultimate Team has been wildly successful in its 10 years in the game, with this year’s offering being the best yet.

The number of programs, challenges, game modes, and seasonal events keep players engaged and coming back for more.

READ MORE: Tips & tricks to dominate Ultimate Team

It’s unlikely that EA make any tweaks to pack probabilities or their carefully mapped out microtransactions, but they are slowly making it more possible for casual players to build the team of their dreams, which is what the mode should be all about.

The ability to build your own stadium through collectibles, mash-up uniforms, or create unique chemistries between players that were teammates would help make for an even more immersive experience.

Next Gen Consoles

Madden 21 and the Xbox Series X
NEXT GEN: What do the new consoles hold in store?

With both the PS5 and Xbox Series X boasting impressive specs that will help bridge the gap to the PC Master Race, the next generation of consoles are set to raise the bar for realism, gameplay, and graphics.

Madden 21 will hit the shelves before the new consoles are released, which means they won’t be optimized to make the most out of their awesome power.

Fans may have to wait until Madden 22 to truly get the full next-gen experience, but the big promise of both Microsoft & Sony is that loading times will be a thing of the past on their new consoles.

This alone is worth it.

Cross-platform play

As things stand, Madden players can only face off against those using the same hardware as them. This has been the standard in gaming forever, but the barriers are starting to break down as games like Fortnite and Rocket League, not to mention the latest Call of Duty, have allowed cross-platform multiplayer.

READ MORE: The best safeties on Ultimate Team

One problem for Madden is that each platform has their own MUT Auction House, with different values for cards that could create imbalance between rosters.

A common market place for cards would be an amazing addition to make for Madden 21, while the expanded player pool of cross-platform play could create improvements for competitive and casual players alike.


Aaron Donald in Madden 20
SUPERSTAR: Donald is a shoo-in for the 99 Club once again

As you would expect, there are no ratings out for Madden 21 yet.

EA made a concerted effort to create true separation in their ratings. Only four players (Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, Bobby Wagner, and DeAndre Hopkins) received a 99 OVR, and that is likely to carry through into Madden 21.

It’s likely that Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson will be in consideration for 99 OVR. As will Saints receiver Michael Thomas. While Donald is a shoo-in for the max rating once again.

Head Coach mode?

The world of managerial & coach sims is strong. Football Manager is obviously the most recognizable one, but there are plenty of others.

There is a history of head coaching games for EA Sports. Starting in 2006, they release NFL Head Coach on PC, Xbox, and PS2. It was never an enormous success but it did garner it’s hardcore fans along the way and had generally good reviews.

It would be great to see a Franchise Mode version where you never controlled a player, but instead oversaw practice, playbook installation, in-game play calls, subs, and more.

Toby Durant

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