For the last year and a half a startup called Quick Hit has been building a football simulator, looking to combine the impressive graphics gamers have become accustomed to with a casual experience for people who don’t have hours to dedicate in front of their video game consoles. And from the looks of things, they’ve managed to pull it off: I’ve spent the last few days playing around with the AIR-based game, and it sports a level of polish rarely seen in a free game. Quick Hit isn’t launching to the public just yet, but the first 250 TechCrunch readers to email firstname.lastname@example.org will be invited to the private beta. The company expects to open to the public in the next week or two. Update: All the invites are gone, sorry folks.
To be clear, this isn’t a Madden-like video game where you’ll be furiously jamming on your keyboard as you try to get your players to do what you want (given the game’s graphics I suspect this may frustrate some Madden addicts). Instead, it’s a coaching sim: you pick a play from your playbook, your opponent picks theirs, and you watch the two teams duke it out on the field to see where your play calling got you. The game also shares many elements with fantasy football, featuring extensive stat tracking that effectively makes it a football RPG — your players gain experience points depending how they perform on the field, and you can boost their stats accordingly.
Quick Hit runs on Adobe AIR, but uses a browser interface for all the player management and stat tracking that goes on off the field. Getting started is fairly easy: you pick a team logo, name, and then from a few options that let you tweak your team’s gameplay style (for example, a run-heavy offense). Once you’ve finished this you’re thrown into the game’s lobby, where you can challenge other players to a match (you’ll have to download the AIR client the first time a match begins, but from then on it will launch automatically). The game’s graphics and UI are generally impressive, though I ran into a few slowdowns (I suspect these will be ironed out before the full release). To help keep matches balanced, Quick Hit rewards players for challenging gamers with a higher ranking than them, which discourages veterans from just picking on newbies all the time.
Quick Hit has a few plans to generate revenue: first, it occasionally shows advertising during games (Best Buy is already running a campaign). Quick Hit is also considering allowing brands to place themselves in the game — for example, an item that provided an energy boost to your team could be sponsored by Gatorade, or a stat-boosting uniform could be provided by Under Armour. Finally, the game will offer premium goods that will allow players to further customize and improve their teams (for example, you might be able to purchase extra special plays to suit your playing style).
All in all Quick Hit has built a polished product, but it has a few challenges to grapple with. For one, Electronic Arts has the exclusive rights to NFL licensing for official teams, stadiums, and players, which means other games have to use more generic logos and names. To help work around this obstacle, Quick Hit has signed on a number of high profile players and coaches, like Bill Cowher and Warren Moon, to help bring a more authentic feel to the game. It’s obviously not the ideal situation, but given that Quick Hit’s competitors have to deal with the same restrictions, it shouldn’t be a game breaker.
To date QuickHit has raised $13 million, including a $8 million Series B round last January.