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StatusPro announced that its NFL Pro Era will debut this fall on virtual reality headsets as the first officially licensed NFL VR title.
Miami-based StatusPro is a sports technology and gaming company that uses real-time player data to create authentic extended reality experiences. The game, shown off today at the Meta Quest Gaming Showcase, will debut this fall on the Meta Quest and PlayStation VR platforms.
The goal is to help fans experience what it’s like to compete as the quarterback of their favorite NFL team, through a first-person 3D immersive experience, said Troy Jones, cofounder and CEO of StatusPro, in an interview with GamesBeat. (Jones will be on a VR gaming panel at our GamesBeat Summit 2022 event next week).
“You’re immersed in this world. You are seeing the defense come at you,” Jones said. “They’re coming to tackle you and you have to make those decisions that a quarterback has to make. And I think that’s the most exciting part. You’re going to see for the first time ever and be in control of making those decisions and making those plays, and it democratizes what it’s like to actually play. Only VR/XR can provide that.”
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StatusPro dropped their official trailer for NFL Pro Era with an up-close view from NFL quarterback Lamar Jackson’s perspective, incorporating pre-alpha gameplay and a voiceover from acclaimed hip hop artist and former NFL draft prospect Tobe Nwigwe.
The game will take players from the pre-game locker room through the tunnel to the explosive sounds and sights inside the stadium — even including the chatter inside the huddle, Jones said.
As a quarterback playing the game, you can play standing up or sitting down, said Andrew Hawkins, cofounder and president, in an interview with GamesBeat. You can make throwing gestures with controllers in your hands. You can make running motions with your arms, but the game does not capture your leg movements. Otherwise, you would probably run into a wall.
“It’s really about extracting the fun,” Hawkins said. “It’s the democratization. We understand that everyone can’t throw like Tom Brady. But you don’t have to have a perfect flowing motion to complete a pass. That’s not what this is about.”
Hawkins added, “To get your quarterback to run, you can use the toggle as well. It was important for us to create those physical movements as well. So that, you know, we always view our game as like merging of the digital and the physical space. And our experience brings that to the forefront.”
StatusPro’s team of developers want to change the future of sports gaming and provide a genuine level of engagement between athletes and fans. Utilizing a combination of real-time NFL game data and StatusPro’s athlete-led technology, NFL Pro Era aims to be an authentic and immersive first-person VR football game.
Derrick Levy, StatusPro director of AI and gameplay, said in an interview with GamesBeat that he uses AI and machine learning to make the game’s realism better. He once worked on Madden NFL football video games and now the times have changed in terms of degrees of realism. He said StatusPro has looked at 10,000 plays that a team has called in the past and how they would likely act in a particular scenario.
“The idea is that when you’re playing against a team, you’re going to see the same tendencies as a real team,” he said. “We have access to that data and we are using it. This is a unique opportunity to give consumers fans this unique perspective of the athlete that you know no other game will provide them.”
Levy thinks there are a lot of fans out there like him.
“I’m a big football fan. And one thing that has always intrigued me is, especially from the quarterback’s perspective, that you see Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers make these incredible throws. They pinpoint it 60 yards down the field. When you dissect how difficult that is to do, it’s amazing.”
He added, “These guys can actually complete a pass when they have only two and a half seconds before they get tackled by a 300-pound guy and they have to throw it 60 yards down the field with accuracy. It’s incredibly difficult to do. From a fan to know put yourself in that perspective and try to do that. Certainly, in the game, we help you a lot, or else you probably would never complete it. But if we didn’t help you, it would be impossible for the average person to do that. So we want to give that perspective. You get opportunity to be that superhero.”
StatusPro has been in the works for about five years, starting out first with a suite of training products for NFL football players and other athletes. Their Pre Game Prep tool used data combined with augmented, mixed, and virtual reality technologies to train athletes. The founders assembled a team that has about half former athletes.
Both Jones and Hawking are former athletes, and they saw opportunities to try to help impact the game and help players and coaches get better.
“We saw that through using virtual reality, coaches can do that,” Jones said. “So we built a training product that allows players to take the player tracking data and re-create plays into a 3D simulation that then can be experienced through mixed reality or a big screen. They saw the use case to help them improve, and they also had fun with that headset.”
Jones added, “That’s when Hawk and I looked at each other and said, ‘There’s an opportunity here not only to leverage the simulation product we built to help athletes get better, but extract that simulation in a game and put fans in the shoes of their favorite players to give them an experience they’ve never had, playing in the shoes of an NFL player.”
Since they already knew the NFL, they were able to secure a license with the league and the NFL Players Association as well to get the rights to use the images of players, teams, and more.
The company’s investors include notables such as Naomi Osaka, LeBron James, Maverick Carter, Paul Wachter, Drake, Jimmy Iovine, along with investment groups Greycroft, TitleTown Tech, Verizon Ventures, Haslam Sports Group, 49ers Enterprises and SC Holdings.
The company raised a seed round in 2021. With consultants and employees, the company has about 40 people working on the product. The team plans to grow the team.
The team is working remotely, though some are concentrated in Florida. Jones noted that the NFL is experimenting more with new types of game categories. The title has been in the works for about 2.5 years.
“It’s really just about getting people excited, starting to build momentum,” said Jones. “This is a new opportunity and a new space. We’re excited about getting people’s eyes on it. We understand we are not trying to replicate the console gaming experience. We’re looking to leverage new technology and do something different.”
And if you play the game this fall, make sure you put the controller strap on your wrist. You don’t want to throw the controller into your TV.
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