These two former football players have created the fastest-selling sports game in VR history

BY Preta Peace Namasaba February 8, 2024 3:37 AM EDT
Troy Jones and Andrew Hawkins. Photo credit: StatusPro

People watch sports because it’s thrilling, and it’s a venue for emotional expression, an escape from real-world troubles and enables them to connect with others. Virtual Reality (VR) gaming extends the sports experience by allowing fans to interact with the game from a player’s perspective. Former footballers, Troy Jones and Andrew Hawkins are using real-time player data to create authentic extended reality experiences for sports fans. They are at the forefront of one of the most successful sports franchises in VR history.

Their sports technology and gaming company, StatusPRO, is part of driving a surge in a fast-growing industry. Developments in the market indicate that next-generation devices such as Meta’s headset lineup and Apple’s Vision Pro spatial computer are in pole position to drive forward the VR gaming industry. Additionally, projections show that VR gaming will grow to an estimated $50 billion in 2028.

On their part, StatusPro promises to be different from the competition by generating a deeply real phenomenon through their games.

“We try to extract the fun part, capture the emotion and capture the control. You have to physically throw the ball. We handhold, so you know who your receiver is. Then, the higher you go, the less assistance you get,” StatusPro said about how customers can experience sports first hand.

StatusPro’s unique advantages include the fact that it is created and funded by insiders in the sports industry. Hawkins played football in the NFL for six seasons while Jones was a quarterback at college who went on to work in game development. Hawkins worked for LeBron James’ firm SpringHill Company following his stint in the NFL. The duo combined their diverse backgrounds in football, technology and marketing to found StatusPro in 2020.

The company was developed on the premise that the way coaches, players, and fans experience sports could be elevated to a new level through extended reality (XR) technology. Hawkins and Jones then combined player data and XR to create a suite of training and fan engagement products for enterprises and consumers. They had the vision to develop Pre Game Prep, a tool that would introduce the brand’s technology to NFL teams and improve the athlete training experience. This innovation is currently utilized by teams.

In 2022, the company launched its first title NFL Pro Era. The technology was initially created to help actual quarterbacks prepare for game-day experiences and probable defensive sets. It eventually evolved to accommodate a wider audience through its immersive, gamified experience of being an NFL quarterback. The game allows multiplayer competitions and casual, social experiences such as hanging out in an NFL stadium and playing catch.

“We wanted to democratize what it could be to be an elite athlete. You have to know football, but we try our best to make it inviting for any and all fans to enjoy,” Hawkins said of the vision for StatusPro.

NFL Pro Era has earned licenses from both the NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). It is available on Meta’s Quest headsets and Steam’s store and has been downloaded more than one million times. Pro Era holds the record for being the fastest-selling sports title in VR history with players spending an average of 41 minutes in the game, twice longer than industry averages. The game is a leading title on the Meta Quest platform and features among the most successful Black-founded gaming franchises ever.

StatusPro counts prominent entities such as the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, the NFLPA and several National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) teams among its clients. The company has been supported by high-profile sports personalities such as LeBron James, Naomi Osaka, and Lamar Jackson, among others. It raised $5.2 million in a seed round and $20 million in a recent Series A funding round.

Jones and Hawkins plan to expand their proprietary XR technology and venture into other sports beyond football. StatusPro will benefit from the industry expertise of some of its prominent investors.