WILKES-BARRE — The newest installment of the EA Sports Madden NFL video game franchise was released Thursday, and it’s getting rave reviews from gamers all over the country.
One local business owner tried to use the enthusiasm for “Madden NFL 19” to raise his own profile in town by hosting a tournament Saturday.
“I opened my business about a month-and-a-half ago,” said Ariel Peguero, owner of the New Smoke Hookah Lounge in Wilkes-Barre. “There are a lot of Madden fanatics in the area. I thought it would be a good way to bring in business and have a good time.”
With a dozen participants on hand for the video game tournament, there were a few rules and regulations to follow.
Players could pick any team they wanted and could switch teams if they advanced to the next round in the single-elimination tournament. Among the popular choices were the Super Bowl 52 champion Philadelphia Eagles and Keystone state rival Pittsburgh Steelers.
“We charged each player $10,” Peguero said. “The winner will get half the pot.”
Each game featured 3-minute quarters and had to be played on All-Madden difficulty, a harder, yet more realistic game setting.
The new business owner decided to open his lounge at 405 N. River St. after he tired of working a daytime job.
“I realized a 9-to-5 wasn’t for me,” Peguero explained. “I didn’t really like it. That’s why I used my business degree from Misericordia and started my own business.”
Peguero is targeting the 17-to-25-year-old demographic.
“I really hope with college classes starting in a week or two that they will come on down,” he said. “I will certainly be hosting more sports-oriented video game tournaments like FIFA and NBA 2K, but I’m always open to new suggestions.”
Peguero continued: “This being the first tournament serves as a good test run. It gives myself and the people who come to my business the opportunity to try this out.”
Madden good, but not best ever
Peguero’s friend, Jamie Connors, came from Pittston to play in the hookah lounge’s Madden tournament.
“I came out to show my support and experience the culture,” said Connors, 24. “It’s a great opportunity to hang with friends.”
Peguero’s establishment allowed people to bring their own food and beverages for tournament day.
“It’s a rainy afternoon,” Connors added. “It was nice that we could have some pizza, crack open a cold beer and play some football.”
Connors continued: “What I really like about Ariel’s business is that it’s sports oriented. Other hookah bars in the area are more expensive and cater to the hipster crowd.”
The video game franchise named after Hall of Fame coach and legendary broadcaster John Madden has been a staple in American video game culture for nearly 30 years. This year, Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown graced the cover of the game.
“This Madden is good but it doesn’t compare to ones in years past,” Connors mentioned.
“My favorite Madden of all-time has to be Madden NFL 2004,” Peguero added. “You couldn’t stop Michael Vick. He was one of the best players in the league at that time.”
Reach Dan Stokes at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @ByDanStokes