The National Football League on Wednesday signed a deal to work with sports technology company StatusPRO to create a new annualized virtual reality game to Meta’s Quest headset and Sony’s PlayStation VR. The new game will provide a first-person experience, allowing fans to play the game through the eyes of characters on the virtual field.
The two companies didn’t reveal the game’s title, projected release date or price, but they did say that they plan to crate an “authentic extended reality experience.” Among StatusPRO’s current efforts are an app for Microsoft Hololens augmented reality headset, which overlays computer information on the real world. In this case, players see digital football players superimposed in front of them as they practice various maneuvers.
The companies believe this “athlete-led technology” will help make their future VR game that much more immersive.
“Virtual reality gaming is rapidly expanding and our partnership with StatusPRO allows us to explore a new immersive version of NFL gaming with support of the two largest VR platforms within this emerging space,” Joe Ruggiero, SVP of Consumer Products at the NFL, said in a statement.
The move marks one of the biggest new expansions into gaming for the NFL beyond its existing relationship with game maker Electronic Arts, whose yearly Madden NFL Football title releases are often among the most widely sold each year. That game, designed primarily for PC and video game consoles, gives players an above-field view, allowing them to watch nearly all the players on field during the action.
The NFL and StatusPRO said they plan for this VR game to complement existing football games. It also offers a chance for the NFL to expand into buzzy new gaming technologies, including the burgeoning metaverse — a reference to shared digital worlds where people can congregate and play games together. The topic is one of the most discussed trends in the tech industry, including at the recently held SXSW festival in Austin and the Game Developers Conference, which is happening this week in San Francisco.
These new efforts may be a welcome addition from Madden NFL fans, who have complained over the years about what they say is lack of innovation. GameSpot’s Richard Wakeling noted the fan criticism in his review of last year’s Madden game, adding that a newly tweaked Face of the Franchise story mode where players create their own character and manage his career, didn’t offer “enough depth nor incentive” to devote a lot of playtime to.
StatusPRO’s VR game by comparison may offer a new spin, though neither company released any footage or imagery of what their upcoming game may look like. Still, the NFL and StatusPRO are betting their game will be up to the challenge. “We can deliver an immersive experience that helps NFL fans transform into pro athletes,” Andrew Hawkins, StatusPRO co-founder and president, said in a statement.
Both companies said they plan to release more details, including planned release timing, “at a later date.”