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NFL’s new virtual reality game


Lamar Jackson in your face.

Lamar Jackson in your face.
Image: Getty Images

NFL football is going virtual in the first officially licensed football game by the league set to be released this Fall. The NFL, along with StatusPRO Inc. and the NFL players association, brings us NFL Pro Era, the first virtual game that puts you in the shoes (and helmet) of NFL quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson. The game will debut on Meta Quest and Playstation VR.

Jackson worked with StatusPRO to help create that authentic NFL feel for fans and gamers. In NFL Pro Era, the gamer plays the role of an NFL QB and simulates many real-life on-field scenarios like Jackson and others. You’ll go inside the team huddle, inside the locker room, and even experience various sights and sounds from around the stadium.

“When we think about this experience, you’re finally immersing yourself as the professional athlete for the first time ever and seeing it in a way that you’ve never seen it,” StatusPRO co-founder Troy Jones said. “It is the future, and we look at it as the new era of gaming and the next step in the way people will consume sports.”

In NFL Pro Era, fans no longer have to live vicariously through NFL players. In this game, you get to feel what it’s like to be an NFL QB, whether it’s the roar of the crowd after scoring a touchdown or their jeers after taking a bone-shattering sack. Call the play, walk up to the offensive line, read the defense pre and post-snap, then decide which target to hit. NFL Pro Era is putting the player in the player’s mind and body.

I’m sure most people wonder how this game will compete with other football games, most notably Madden. This feels like it will be a different experience from Madden overall. In NFL Pro Era, you’ll play from the perspective of the QB only. When making a pass downfield, you’ll view it from the same angle as a professional QB. As the gamer, you aren’t hopping around controlling what the running backs and wide receivers are doing. You’re the man under center or in the shotgun, and you call the game as such.

While NFL Pro Era does give the player some similar features to other football games, the main focus of this game is putting fans in the driver’s seat and focusing solely on the field. So unlike Madden, you won’t be acting as a coach, general manager, or owner. Apparently, you also won’t be operating in any other position besides QB.

Only controlling one position and aspect of the game could get old quickly for some, but initially, this seems like a fun experience for many that have never been on a football field. It’s hard to compare this game to Madden because that game has such a long, rich history and has monopolized football video games for the better part of two decades. If StatusPRO Inc. stays away from trying to compete directly with Madden, then this gaming experience could certainly catch on.

For anyone who remembers the Michael Vick experience (above) commercial, it feels like the finished product of this game should resemble that. Since Jackson is in some ways a throwback to Vick, we could get a little bit of that Vick roller coaster ride in the game. Other aspects I’d hope to see in the final product are the ability to control a defensive player, maybe a middle linebacker or safety. Special teams are another part of the game I think many people would love to experience from the players perspective. Imagine running back a 90-yard punt return for a TD to win the game.

The overall idea of NFL Pro Era is awesome, but I hope by the time it’s released in the Fall, StatusPro will have made a few tweaks to the game or added a few more real-life aspects to this gaming experience. I don’t expect this game to threaten Madden sales, but NFL Pro Era could undoubtedly carve out its own niche if they play it right.

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