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Is the NFL Ready to Embrace Virtual Reality?

One of the challenges facing virtual reality is a lack of popular content to attract a wider audience.

September 20, 2022
5 minutes
minute read

One of the challenges facing virtual reality is a lack of popular content to attract a wider audience.
The NFL and two former football players are working to change that.
A few years ago, Troy Jones and Andrew Hawkins pitched the idea of a virtual reality video game to the NFL and the NFL Players Association. The duo, co-founders of StatusPro, won the licenses for the game earlier this year. Last week, NFL Pro Era debuted on Meta Platforms Inc.'s Meta Quest 2 and Sony's PlayStation VR.

Hawkins, the president of a company that creates virtual reality sports experiences, was interviewed for the latest episode of Business of Sports. He explained that their goal is to make sure that every fan of the game gets to experience the same feeling as being on the field. He believes that their technology makes this possible.
The adoption of virtual reality by consumers is increasing, with retail prices for headsets declining, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. Hardware sales are expected to triple to more than $7 billion by 2024, the researcher said. A game featuring NFL players, teams and stadiums could expand the audience.

One of the most successful franchises in the history of gaming is Madden NFL, which has the exclusive video game licenses for the NFL and NFLPA. And just like Madden, NFL Pro Era has a star player — in Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson — to be the face of the game.
According to Jones, CEO of StatusPro, content and hardware go hand in hand, and sports is probably what brings the most diverse group of people together. He believes that after the launch of the game, many people will try VR for the first time.

Initially, Jones and Hawkins created a VR experience as a training tool. They won over coaching staffs by pitching the product as a way for players to get virtual reps in the offseason when rules don’t allow in-person practices. Defensive coaches were the first to utilize the technology, as a way to get players more experience identifying offensive formations and lining up before the snap of the ball.

Hawkins, who played for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns, said that they were sitting in the lab and thinking about how they could make the job of coaches easier, position by position and coach by coach.
After seeing the positive response from players, the company saw an opportunity to bring the experience to fans. The gameplay puts the player in the shoes of an NFL quarterback who breaks the huddle, takes a snap and looks for receivers downfield, while trying to avoid getting sacked by the defense. This allows fans to experience what it is like to be an NFL quarterback and make decisions that could affect the outcome of the game.

As you watch quarterbacks extend plays and find receivers downfield while being chased by 280-pound defenders, you'll come to appreciate the challenges they face. According to Jones, this is an incredibly difficult feat that requires a great deal of skill.

Time will tell if this game speeds up adoption of VR headsets, but StatusPro is already contemplating expansion. This game has the potential to change the way people interact with VR technology, and StatusPro is poised to take advantage of that potential.
Hawkins said that they want to create immersive experiences across sports, not just football. By creating games that make people want to try VR, they can bring people into these scenarios and let them experience it for themselves.

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