The whole effort has been underway for some time. Playcrafting, which runs a network of game developer jams, did a couple of game jams with Verizon during 2018. Last fall, Verizon and the NFL teamed up to recruit U.S. developers for a 5G game contest, and they brought in Playcrafting to run the contest. They announced the contest at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3).
The whole point was to get the game world ready for 5G networks, which will enable smartphones to deliver the internet many times faster than today’s 4G networks.
“It was scoped for a $400,000 prize to the winning team, but the quality was so high that [we] went for the option of having two winners,” said Playcrafting CEO Dan Butchko, in an interview with GamesBeat. “We pushed this out as a nationwide contest. The target was small to mid-sized studios. This was always meant for the indies.”
In August, Playcrafting and the two organizers ran a hackathon event in New York where the contestants created game prototypes in 48 hours for the contest. New York-based Playcrafting served as the Challenge implementation partner, helping game developers get their game concepts ready for the judging.
And now two New York developers, Colorfiction and Juncture Media have been named the winners. Their games will debut at Super Bowl LIV on February 2, 2020. The games will tap Verizon 5G Labs technology.
The Verizon 5G NFL Mobile Gaming Challenge is part of the two-year innovation partnership between Verizon and the NFL to jointly develop new products and services that utilize 5G and other future technologies to enhance NFL games and the overall fan experience.
“We had a great response from developers across the country, but ultimately the concepts from Colorfiction and Juncture Media were chosen based on their innovation and scalability — and this is only the beginning,” said Christian Guirnalda, director of Verizon 5G Labs and Innovation Centers, in a statement. “Over the next few months, as these 5G experiences are developed, we expect to see the games grow and evolve before their debut at Super Bowl LIV in Miami.”
In this game, a player navigates a series of mazes in order to reach the end zone in a 3D football field. The player is about to score a touchdown when suddenly the field transforms and the player must navigate shape-shifting mazes to reach the end zone.
Colorfiction, founded in 2014 by Maximilian Arocena, is a video game developer studio that enjoys the interstitial zone between art and technology via the creation of fun interactive experiences.
The title continuously streams data into the application via 5G networks in order to display lots of cool graphics in real time.
“Colorfiction makes a lot of environmental, exploratory, super surreal experiences where the graphics are beautiful,” Butchko said. “It’s sort of mind-blowing to see it. It is futuristic looking. It’s a celebration of the spirit of the NFL without being a straight football game.”
Juncture Media’s NFL Ultra Toss
NFL Ultra Toss is a massive multiplayer experience in which players throw a football towards a pick-up truck parked on the 50-yard line at a sold-out NFL stadium. The first player to land a football in the bed of the truck earns the title of Super QB.
Juncture Media, founded in 2013 by Andrew Linde, is an intellectual property development company focused on the digital space. Butchko said the NFL was very excited about getting fans to participate in the experience of the game in the stadium itself.
Playcrafting was able to run the contest in part because it has the largest network of game developers in New York and one of the biggest in the United States. Started as a small meetup group in 2009, the organization has grown to 30,000 strong across the U.S. From design and programming to business and beyond, developers come to Playcrafting to sharpen their skills and partner with companies that help them succeed. Now it helps connect big brands with small developers.
Since the contest was intimidating to some, Playcrafting held the hands of developers throughout the process, giving them feedback on their pitches so they could make the best impression.
Now the two winners have about five months to get their games ready for the Super Bowl. Playcrafting will assist the teams to make sure they scope their work properly and deliver them on time. On top of that, they will help to see how to make the games commercially available, beyond the demos at the Super Bowl, Butchko said.