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Joe Montana Football

Joe Montana Football is an American football video game developed by Electronic Arts, and published by Sega for the Genesis in 1991. Although the game does feature Joe Montana (as the title respectively says) as a playable character, since Sega did not secure the rights from the NFL, teams are named generically after US cities, meaning Joe Montana is the only real player in the game. It was the first game in what would become Sega's NFL Football video game series.

Joe Montana Football
Joe Montana Football boxart.jpg
Cover art
Developer(s)Electronic Arts[1]
SeriesJoe Montana Football
Platform(s)Genesis, Master System, MS-DOS
Master System:
Genre(s)American football
Multiplayer (1-2 players)


Similar to other football games of the time, the gameplay follows a slightly simplified version of standard American Football rules. Players have the option to play as different teams, as well as select number of players. Players also have the option to turn penalties on or off. Players also may play a normal game, a mode with a two-minute drill, and the Sega Bowl mode.


Following the launch of the Genesis in the United States, Sega of America president and CEO Michael Katz planned to create a library of instantly-recognizable titles for the console by contracting with celebrities and athletes to produce games using their names and likenesses. As part of this, Sega signed a US$1.7 million five-year contract with Joe Montana, despite concerns among the Japanese executives that the game would not earn enough to cover this cost.[1]

Since Sega of America did not at the time have a large game production facility and Sega Enterprises had never designed a football game, Sega contracted with Mediagenic to develop the game for November 1989. No one at Sega was aware of the turmoil inside Mediagenic at the time; despite five months of reports that development was proceeding on schedule, Katz discovered in September or October that the game was hardly begun. To have a football game for Christmas release, Sega would have to find an already-completed game that could be converted.[2]

Mediagenic did develop a DOS version of the game (contractor Mindspan) and it was published in 1990 (MobyGames). The opening video clip was the first commercial use of the video playback system (developed at Mediagenic) that would later be used in "The Return to Zork".

Sega approached Electronic Arts, developer of the Madden NFL series, and president Trip Hawkins agreed to help. Joe Montana Football missed the Christmas deadline and was released in January 1991, shortly after the Genesis version of John Madden Football.[1][2]


Though Joe Montana Football and John Madden Football were made by the same company, Madden had realistic plays and a full roster of 28 teams, while Montana was a more arcade-style game with only 16 teams and a simplified, passing-intensive offense.[1] Prior to the release of Montana, Park Place had developed the game so well that it surpassed Madden, and they believed it would hurt the sales of Madden. According to Michael Knox, they took Montana and "scaled it back" just before releasing the game back to Sega.[3]

Although not as successful as the Madden series, Joe Montana Football and the sequels helped establish the Genesis' reputation as the top platform for sports simulations and proved to Sega Enterprises that sports games could be worthwhile investments.[1][2]


Joe Montana Football was followed by four sequels, all developed by BlueSky Software instead of Electronic Arts: Joe Montana Football II: Sports Talk Football, NFL Sports Talk Football '93, NFL Football '94 Starring Joe Montana, and NFL '95. After the contract with Joe Montana ended in 1995, development on the sixth game in Sega's NFL series moved to Farsight Technologies and the franchise was rebranded as Prime Time NFL Starring Deion Sanders. In 2015, Damon Grow, CEO of Superstar Games, tweeted snippets of Joe Montana Football 16. Joe Montana subsequently released a screenshot of the game. At E3, Damon Grow revealed the game as "Joe Montana Football", a mobile game coming to iOS, followed by Android and PC.


  1. ^ a b c d e Kent, Steven L. (2001). The Ultimate History of Video Games: The Story Behind the Craze that Touched our Lives and Changed the World. Roseville, California: Prima Publishing. pp. 406–407. ISBN 0-7615-3643-4.
  2. ^ a b c d Horowitz, Ken (2007-11-20). "Behind the Design: Joe Montana Football". Retrieved 2008-05-11.
  3. ^ Horowitz, Ken (2007-11-23). "Interview: Michael Knox". Retrieved 2010-02-23.