Will Quick Hit Score Big? Behind the Scenes with Foxborough’s Newest Team

5/29/09Follow @wroush

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executes the play, while the coaches look on from a bird’s-eye point of view. How many yards the offense gains or loses is determined in part by the comparative health and skill levels of the simulated players, and in part by how cannily the coaches select their plays.

The on-field graphics in Quick Hit are far more schematic, and the selection of plays far more limited, than what users of console-based games like Madden NFL are probably used to. But that’s okay, because Quick Hit really isn’t about the violence, the simulated sweat on each player’s brow, or the dexterity of the person at the controls. It’s about the play-by-play tactics and the choices that go into building a strong team over time.

Which is where the role-playing game elements come in. In Quick Hit, the gamer’s team is the equivalent of a character or an avatar in a classic MMORPG. Like a fantasy character, a Quick Hit team gains experience in the form of “fantasy points” for every game completed. (Winning, of course, garners more points than losing.) After gaining a certain number of points, a team advances by one experience level, at which point the coach gets “coaching points” that can be applied to individual team members, such as the quarterback or the running backs, to improve their skills. For example, a certain number of coaching points might earn the quarterback a “cannon arm” that makes passes go deeper. Part of the strategy in Quick Hit lies in knowing the skills of your own team and scoping out the skills of the opposing team, and picking plays accordingly.

Quick Hit ScreenshotThere’s a lot more to Quick Hit than I have space to describe here. (By which I really mean, there’s a lot more than I could absorb from Anderson’s demo, suffering as I do from football-related attention deficit disorder.) But one of the neat things about the game is that beginners can choose from broad-brush plays like “run” or “pass” while more experienced users can drill down into a playbook with scores of unique formations, each with their own complicated choreography. From playing RPGs, I can definitely understand the appeal of nurturing a team over time, deciding where to invest coaching points, and testing a team’s mettle against competitors. And I can see lots of other ways for Quick Hit to add complexity for those who want it—not to mention monetization opportunities. (Anderson says the company is already making plans to sell branded virtual goods—think virtual Gatorade, giving your offensive line a temporary burst of speed.)

But I have a hard time predicting exactly how big of a hit Quick Hit will be. There’s no denying that casual Internet games are on the upswing—especially social games in which users are playing against other humans rather than a computer. And the company was wise to focus on a game that’s already America’s national obsession. As Anderson puts it, “Most people already know everything about football.” (To which I say: speak for yourself.) But he’s right—even apart from all the passion and money generated by actual college and NFL football, the sport has a generous online following, claiming more fantasy-league adherents, by far, than any other sport. (There are 22.5 million fantasy football league members in the U.S., compared to 8.1 million for baseball and 5.7 million for basketball, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.)

I do wonder, though, how quickly the three most obvious audiences for a new online sports strategy game—console game players, MMORPG players, and fantasy league participants—will cotton to a game that bends and mixes genres the way Quick Hit does. My concern, in fact, is that the company may be occupying whatever is the opposite of a sweet spot. Madden NFL players may be put off by … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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