Friday, September 5, 2008

EA, ESPN launches 'Virtual Playbook'

You know, I read this whole press release and still I think this is the sort of thing you have to see when it debuts on Sunday to understand. Personally, it seems to me that ESPN is going to create play scenarios with "Madden NFL 09" and then dissect them, while talking to the virtual players... which just sounds nutty to me.

Here's the whole press release, see if you can make sense of it:

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. and BRISTOL, Conn. – Sept. 5, 2008 – EA SPORTS™ and ESPN are advancing media convergence and delivering a new enhancement to in-studio sports analysis with the debut of EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook, on ESPN’s award-winning NFL programs. The new television technology, developed jointly by EA SPORTS and ESPN, delivers an “augmented reality” that allows ESPN’s football analysts to interact with the virtual players from EA SPORTS video games and provide insight, education and analysis to fans about key football plays and techniques. EA SPORTS is a Label of Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS).

The two companies announced the launch of EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook today, and it will be integrated into ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown, Monday Night Countdown and NFL Live shows. It will make its debut on the September 7th Sunday NFL Countdown and will be integrated into Monday NFL Countdown and NFL Live throughout the 2008 season. It may also be used at times in other ESPN television programs including SportsCenter, ESPNEWS and First Take.

“EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook is born out of our deep football heritage at EA SPORTS and our drive to expand the impact of our innovative sports technologies beyond gaming,” said Peter Moore, president of EA SPORTS. “Telecast on ESPN, EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook marks the future of sports production by allowing television analysts to highlight, critique and dissect on-field action more intimately than ever before. EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook brings an entirely new level of excitement and realism to football analysis to ESPN viewers this NFL season.”

John Skipper, executive vice president, content, ESPN, said, “ESPN’s technology, production and content teams have a long heritage of developing and implementing game-changing enhancements that have advanced the way fans engage with sports on television. With EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook we’ve been able to integrate EA’s game technologies and assets into our studio programs like never before. It will again move the industry forward, while further connecting two media worlds important to fans.”

Developed jointly by EA SPORTS Technology Licensing Group and ESPN’s Emerging Technology group, EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook merges the depth and realism of EA SPORTS industry-leading graphics with the award-winning production, personalities and analysis of ESPN’s programming. As fans tune into ESPN’s NFL studio programming they’ll find ESPN’s commentators providing pre-game analysis of week one match-ups as if the teams’ lineups were playing on the set – demonstrating defensive schemes, receiver sets or other scenarios with realistic players generated by EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook.

How EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook Works

EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook is created using feeds from in-studio real-world cameras as well as an in-game camera that captures EA SPORTS in-game graphics depicting real game scenarios. The real-world studio and game images of virtual characters are combined to create the effect of “augmented reality” -- virtual players appearing in the studio alongside real life hosts and analysts. Both real and virtual people are able to move realistically around the studio set to demonstrate plays and scenarios. The system accommodates, and in fact is controlled by, the multiple real-world cameras that are typical in today’s sports analysis television programs.

For the 2008 NFL season, commentators on ESPN’s Sunday Countdown, Monday Night Countdown, NFL Live and other programs will use the EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook to analyze game matchups, demonstrate offensive and defensive schemes, and even highlight mismatches as if the players were alongside them in the studio.

In 2005, ESPN and Electronic Arts announced a 15-year integrated content and marketing agreement for ESPN media and personalities and EA SPORTS games that includes ESPN content integrated into multiple EA SPORTS titles and EA SPORTS content appearing across ESPN media platforms.

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