The National Football League is taking a stab at first-person football again.
Eighteen years after NFL 2K5 toyed with the concept, the league and developer StatusPro are making NFL Pro Era, the first American football video game for virtual reality headsets. Launching this fall, NFL Pro Era will be available for Meta Quest and PlayStation VR headsets.
A video announcing the game at Wednesday’s Meta Quest Gaming Showcase gave viewers a sense of what to expect. Lamar Jackson, the Baltimore Ravens quarterback, took players into the huddle, then the line of scrimmage, where they called and adjusted the play in first person. After looking downfield, the user spears their primary receiver with a high, arcing pass to the back of the end zone.
A news release from StatusPro said game modes will let players “lead your team to a Super Bowl, improve your QB skills by participating in drills, or play catch virtually with your friends in your favorite NFL stadium.” NFL Pro Era appears to be played from the quarterback position only. The game is fully licensed by the league and the NFL Players Association, meaning all rosters will be game-day authentic.
“Utilizing player data was a must-have to create a truly authentic NFL player experience,” Troy Jones, StatusPro’s chief executive, said in a statement. Jones, an NCAA Division I quarterback at Western Kentucky and Akron, founded StatusPro in 2020 with Andrew Hawkins, a six-year NFL wide receiver who earned an MBA from Indiana University while in the league.
“The experience is so realistic that fans will be blown away by the play action and truly feel like a professional athlete,” Hawkins said.
NFL Pro Era will be the first fully licensed NFL video game, on a console, and not published by Electronic Arts since 2004. EA Sports’ Madden NFL series has held an exclusive license to “realistic action simulation” NFL video games on consoles or PC since then. As NFL Pro Era demonstrates, virtual reality football games are an exception to this, whether on a console or otherwise. EA and the NFL renewed their deal (reported to be $1.5 billion) in 2020, on terms that still allowed for 2K Sports to announce multiple “non-simulation football game experiences,” such as arcade-style games similar to NFL Blitz (a trademark EA owns).