GREEN BAY – Although StatusPRO’s NFL PRO ERA virtual reality game allows fans to quarterback NFL football teams in realistic settings, it does not come with an appearance on a virtual Pat McAfee show, or with bruised ribs and a broken thumb.
“It’s as close to reality as you can get,” said Troy Jones, CEO of developer StatusPRO Inc. is what it looks like when I’m in the pocket, and this is what it looks like when I’m jamming,” so, you know, we were trying to do our best to make the necessary changes to make it feel that way. (Andrew Hawkins, co-founder of StatusPRO) and I like to say: it’s one-on-one, but one-on-one with the most fun parts of the game.”
Much of the professional football experience is embedded in the game, which hit the market in September and was showcased at the Green Bay Packers’ pep rally in London in October. TitletownTech, a partnership between the Packers and Microsoft, has helped make virtual gaming a reality.
“They just bring a unique set of experiences through their affiliation with the Packers as well as Microsoft, so they’re always on call and available whenever (Hawkins) and I want to bounce something off of them,” said Jones. “They are part of every board meeting we have.”
NFL PRO ERA is the first virtual reality simulation game licensed by NFL and NFLPA, and is available on the Meta Quest 2 and Sony PlayStation VR platforms. The game retails for $29.99. The cost of headsets from Meta and Sony are in the mid-$300s and up.
StatusPRO founders Jones and Hawkins have a history with football. Jones was a college quarterback who has business experience with Morgan Stanley, the NFL Players Association and Mixed River. Hawkins had a six-year NFL career with Cincinnati and Cleveland, worked as a broadcaster for ESPN, NFL Studios, Amazon and others, and worked with sports analytics companies.
TitletownTech became involved in the project in early 2021. In addition to being an investor, TitletownTech provides legal, accounting and other support for StatusPRO.
“In a way of navigating as an early-stage founder and working with some pretty big investors and companies, we’ve been able to add a ton of value,” said TitletownTech Partner Cordero Barkley. “We’ve been able to help them beyond just dollar investments.”
Virtual reality was not new to StatusPRO. He developed VR training programs, used by six NFL teams, with data collected by the league from sensors worn by players. The NFL uses its Next Gen statistics to analyze player trends and performance, improve the fan experience in the stadium, online and during game telecasts.
StatusPRO worked with Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson to develop in-game player performance metrics, and Jackson is the game’s cover model.
The game includes mini-games and a practice mode to develop skills; the multiplayer sandbox, which allows players to play with friends in any NFL stadium; and a two-minute drill, which provides a quick simulation experience and allows players to compete against other players for the top spot on the leaderboard. It has a locker room and a trophy room, and players can customize their players.
“Once they’re ready for game day, they can quickly advance to play full 11-on-11 games in exhibition mode and rack up trophies while playing a full NFL schedule and take their team all the way to the Super Bowl in our season mode,” Jones said.
Accurate representations of all 30 NFL stadiums are included. Barkley said fans who never visit Lambeau Field, let alone stand on the turf, can get a sense of that experience.
This YouTube video shows the game, but cannot convey the full immersive sense a player gets from being in the game. It’s nearly impossible to avoid flinching when defensive linemen rush at you while you try to find an open receiver.
“I saw grown men hugging each other because they thought they were getting fired by Ndamukong Suh,” Barkley said.
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Broken thumbs and bruised ribs aren’t likely to happen unless a player forgets where they are and starts bumping into furniture. There are always risks in football, it seems.
The NFL and NFLPA licenses allow the use of real player names and statistics, but, so far, individual player characteristics are limited. As with Madden NFL, the console video game that debuted in 1988 and is also licensed by the NFL, changes can be anticipated as technology improves.
“Since launch, we’ve been focused on improving the game we have. As far as look and feel, I think the team has done an amazing job doing their best with the kind of the technology that’s out there, but there are new technologies coming and obviously we hope to keep improving the experience.” said Jones.
“And in terms of features, we’re exploring what we think our audience wants and that’s what we’re digging into now, and over the next few months we’ll be able to finalize those features and start preparing. to develop them so they are ready for next season.”
Jones said the game has been in the top three on the Meta Quest store for seven weeks. Advertisements for the game aired during Packers and other NFL games.
“We’re part of Meta’s holiday campaign. We’re part of a larger spot that showcases the most popular titles as the holidays approach. We also have our own 30-second spot that you see airing on various games. It’s exciting and amazing to watch. It’s cool to watch a game with your family and see an advertisement for the game come up,” Jones said.
Often, the first out of the gate with new technology is overtaken by later rivals who take advantage of experience and technological improvements. Think Super Bowl Tecmo vs. Madden. Jones and Hawkins are aware of the risk of standing up.
“The pie in the sky goal is where I can have my own virtual football team and we go against yours. We’re years away from that, but how can we achieve that?” said Jones. “Building the roadmap and working backwards from there based on what the technology allows us to do is what our approach is now. We’re going to work towards that.”
They’d also like to have a college football game, but that might be an even more difficult task than trying to imagine technology that doesn’t yet exist. Everything there is a moving target.
“It’s all in the works. There’s a lot of moving parts to it, but I think there’s a pathway to trying to get started with something like this that we’ll be looking to explore pretty quickly. When will it appear? in the product? We don’t know yet,” Jones said.
StatusPRO did well in meeting its development milestones, which were on a fairly tight schedule, Barkley said.
“Aaron Kennedy (TitletownTech’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence) is spending time with Troy, really helping him organize his board meetings and some of the structure for his team meetings; how to lead leadership. Troy really engaged with us,” Barkley says.
Jones talks about democratizing the game, making it fun for football nerds and casual fans alike.
“The goal is to take this thing as far as possible and try to make it as big as possible. We think there’s a lot of potential in this idea to democratize the experience of an NFL player. and PRO ERA has many legs. We’re taking it one step at a time,” he said.
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