XOS, EA Sports bring 3D football gaming engine to coaching ranks

By Ken Kerschbaumer

For more than 15 years EA Sports has dominated the videogame market thanks to one blockbuster title: the Madden football franchise. Since its early days the game has consistently fed the fantasy of football fans who wanted to run like Barry Sanders, scramble like Michael Vick (or Randall Cunningham back in the day) and blast through offensive lines like Brian Urlacher. But this week EA Sports, with the help of XOS Technologies, is bringing the publishing engine that makes its football franchise such a rich experience for consumers over to football coaches and players in an effort to help them execute better in real life.

“This extends our offerings and the primary purpose is to help coaches prepare their players,” says Albert Tsai, XOS Technologies VP, advanced research. “This allows coaches to leverage the EA video game engine and drop their normal diagrams into the system.”

Dubbed the XOS PlayAction Simulator Powered by EA Sports the initial version will run on a PC as that is the hardware platform that XOS currently uses. However there are plans to eventually bring it over to gaming consoles so that players could brush up on new plays and schemes via a familiar interface.

The system is sold in two parts: publishing seats that allow the coaching staff to incorporate play diagrams into the simulator and then seats of the simulator itself so that players can dive right in.

“The learning curve is virtually nil because the coaches are already using our tools to create the play diagrams,” says Tsai. “All it takes is a couple of button pushes and the plays are in a 3D environment.”

The Madden franchise (and also EA Sports’ college football game) are both known for realistic player ratings and attributes but Tsai says that level of data won’t be pushed through the initial version.

“This is more of an extension of the playbook but as we get deeper into it and begin to address rights issues we would love to incorporate more realism,” says Tsai. EA Sports has many of the licensing issues solved so adding in player ratings is a distinct possibility.

“The end goal is to find a better way for coaches to communicate to the players,” adds Tsai. Features like multiple-choice questions and 3D “drills” with customized camera angles are all designed to keep players thinking and learning.

“We’re going to start with key offensive positions like quarterback or the other skill slots but ultimately we want this to be something for every player,” says Tsai.

Expect the system to ship this summer (and to be on display at June’s National Association of College Director of Athletics convention in Orlando) and for pricing to be determined.