Sports are on the back burner right now (for obvious pandemic-related reasons), but football fans may be able to get a glimpse of the gameday experience in VR later this year.
Developer Status Pro, which has made mixed reality sports training apps under the name ByteCubed Labs, is currently working on an untitled VR game coming this fall, first on Oculus headsets and later on other platforms. For sports fans, the premise is an enticing one: You can, among other things, step into Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson’s virtual shoes and recreate real highlight plays from his record-setting 2019 season. It’s the first part of a larger group of planned VR products called “The Lamar Jackson Experience.”
The developer’s announcement, while light on specific gameplay details, did reveal that those plays are re-enacted virtually using actual player data. It’s played in first-person and features multiple positions. Players will also be able to pick from an array of difficulty options just in case they don’t happen to be as athletic as the demigods NFL teams trot out every Sunday.
In an interview with Mashable, Jackson said the VR game could give players more insight into what it’s actually like to be on an NFL field; something traditional football video games simply cannot offer.
“You’ll be able to see things a lot clearer because it’s right all in front of you,” Jackson said. “You’re in the game. You’re feeling it. You’re embracing it.”
Jackson’s made plenty of memorable plays on his way to winning a league MVP award in 2019. One play, in particular, he’s excited for players to experience is his first touchdown pass to Marquise “Hollywood” Brown — a 47-yarder that Jackson fit into tight coverage to break open their game against the Miami Dolphins in the first quarter.
“That’s a dope one,” Jackson said.
While Jackson is looking forward to players being able to do what he did on Sundays, he noted that it might put their skills to the test.
“The game’s hard,” Jackson said. “You’ve gotta actually follow through… [and] throw a perfect pass. I love it.”
Jackson’s time with the untitled VR game wasn’t his first experience with the new gaming medium, however, as some NFL teams (including Jackson’s own Ravens) have already experimented with virtual training from companies like STRIVR in recent years. Status Pro’s game was actually borne from an existing VR training program, which could likely give it some authenticity for aspiring athletes who play it.
Much like the rest of us, NFL players are stuck inside during this pandemic. In the meantime, Jackson believes VR can step in and serve as a football training tool, as well as an entertainment product.
“It’ll keep you going. It’ll keep you in that football mindset,” he said of the upcoming game.
Unfortunately, if you’re interested in trying your hand at virtual football while the real deal is on temporary hold, you’ll have to wait a bit. Status Pro said there are more announcements regarding the game planned in the coming months.
It’s no substitute for a typical NFL offseason news cycle, but it’s better than nothing.