Posted by: Patrick | May 26, 2009

VentureBeat: Quick Hit out to tackle Madden football game market

Peter Suciu | May 25th, 2009

As summer inches closer, Madden NFL Football from Electronic Arts is arriving in video game stores almost like clockwork. Lots of rivals have failed to tackle Madden, which has become a multi-billion-dollar franchise. But Jeff Anderson’s Quick Hit (previously named Play Hard Sports) has a decent chance of winning some fans, not with a long bomb but with a game for those with short attention spans. Anderson’s venture-funded team has designed Madden and other football video games before. Anderson, who also spent time in the EA ranks and was CEO of online game maker Turbine, discusses why he thinks this game could become a quick hit just because of its approach of targeting a more casual, less rabid audience.

VentureBeat: There has been a lot of competition on the virtual gridiron over the years, but every time Madden manages to be the one who gets the championship ring. So do you think Quick Hit Football will give the old guy a run for his money?

Jeff Anderson: Unlike other companies, we aren’t trying to recreate Madden. We’re making something very different. We’re building a truly unique gaming experience that combines authentic football with player advancement in a robust social community. Even more importantly, Quick Hit Football is free-to-play, giving everyone a chance to manage their own football team. That’s not Madden or EA –- especially since they just canceled Head Coach 10. So, for people who don’t want to pay $50 for a console game, Quick Hit is the perfect football game.

VB: Obviously you have an advantage over the other football games too, in that Madden — and practically most of the other game series — have moved on from the PC. Does this make a Flash-based game all the more desirable?

JA: Absolutely. The PC (and specifically Flash) is a tremendous social gaming platform that has the ability to connect players from all around the globe.  Players can chat, socialize, and compete all in one place.  Essentially, Quick Hit Football is a persistent community that’s there whenever you are. Secondly, many consumers are concerned about prices in today’s poor economy. High-quality PC games are a terrific value -– especially when they’re free! People are looking for more low-cost alternatives for entertainment, and games that require a $300 console are missing the mark.

VB: And given that it is Flash-based, is your thinking that this is something you can play at lunch, or during a break? After all most offices probably don’t have a PS3 or Xbox 360 — at least those outside the video game world — so does doing a game like Quick Hit Football open the door for more quick play “break” type games?

JA: I couldn’t have said it better.  We developed Quick Hit Football to be something people can play in 20-25 minutes from start to finish, for exactly that reason.  Most console games require you to be sitting down in front of the screen, usually with your competitor sitting beside you and can take up to an hour to play –- not something you are going to do during lunch.  If you find yourself with 20 minutes of free time -– before work, during lunch, before bed, you can get in and play a full game of Quick Hit Football.

VB: Is this a game you think can appeal to a wider audience than Madden — or any of the other football simulations out there? And is this a game that might appeal to the non-gaming football fan?

JA: Most certainly.  As I mentioned before, there is a massive audience of football fans who would love a game that doesn’t require “super-thumbs” (like Madden) or a PhD in statistics.   Quick Hit Football takes a player’s football knowledge and turns it into winning strategies.  It’s not about how fast you can juke your RB left or scramble your QB out of the pocket.  It’s about taking what you know and love about football and using that knowledge to coach and manage your team.  We have spent a lot of time ensuring the game has the authenticity and depth that more hard core fans will want, but an ease-of-use component that allows anyone to get in and start playing with no barriers. At the end of the day, we want the game to be fun, authentic and accessible and I think we’ve accomplished all those things.

VB: One thing about the consoles is that it is truly a level playing field. While one player might have better surround sound and a bigger screen than the next, the fact is that an Xbox 360 always runs like an Xbox 360. But PC games have to deal with “specs” and compatibility, so how does making a Flash-based game come into the mix?

JA: An Xbox might always run like an Xbox, but a Flash based game like ours presents a very low barrier to entry for the consumer and very few compatibility issues. Flash is installed most of the machines that are online and runs smoothly on machines that are several years old and running a variety of browsers and operating systems. In a way, Adobe has absorbed the cost of compatibility for us and allows the game to run easily on low-end PCs. Similarly, football is a “turn-based” (not twitch) game with relatively light bandwidth needs. Quick Hit Football doesn’t have nearly the lag or latency sensitivity issues as a high-end massively multiplayer role-playing game (MMORPG).

VB: To many players a game is typically better as the graphics improve, so going with Flash is likely going to mean a step back. Do you think the fact that this won’t have the latest and greatest graphics is going to be something you’ll have to overcome?

JA: It depends on your starting point. For most Internet gamers, our console-quality graphics are one of our biggest assets –- bringing compelling visuals to a Flash game.  We know when people hear “Flash” they typically assume the graphics are low quality, but we have used Flash, in conjunction with our back-end technologies, to create very sophisticated graphics that players will find hard to believe they can get in a ‘free” game. Obviously, we’re not going to be Madden, but Quick Hit Football looks pretty amazing for a free-to-play, online game.

VB: How big do you see the online community getting for this type of game? Is this the step that Flash needs to become a truly robust gaming platform?

JA: There is an enormous opportunity with more than 20 million fantasy football players and about 8 million Madden players in North America. Of course, no one knows the exact market size, but we believe that Quick Hit Football is exactly the kind of game to capture the hearts and minds of these football fans. As for Flash, it already has established itself as a a great web platform for many different types of applications; and we feel that it’s utility as a gaming platform will continue to grow.

VB: Finally, having a team that comes from different directions in the world of video game football, do you think that Quick Hit has just the right mix to truly be something that has just the right blend of everything?

JA: I believe our team is one of the most unique in the industry.  It brings together the best talent from sports gaming, MMORPGs and fantasy sports – the ultimate trifecta.  We have designers and developers that have worked on Madden, NFL 2K, ESPN Football, All Pro Football, NCAA and more.  Marry those guys with the team that worked on major MMO hits like The Lord of the Rings Online and Ultima Online and you have something very distinct in Quick Hit Football.  I think we’ve taken the most excellent elements from MMORPGs, casual games, console games and fantasy sports and combined them into what we hope will be a football game for the masses.

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