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Online coaching sim gets first NFL video-game license since '04

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EA Sports is no longer the only company or developer to be "in the game" with the NFL.

Quick Hit, an online video game developer, has signed a multiyear licensing deal with the league to feature teams, stadiums, helmets and Super Bowl logos for its free online game, Quick Hit Football. It's the first major video game license the NFL has awarded since EA Sports purchased exclusive console-based rights in 2004. Because Quick Hit Football is an online game, it isn't bound to that deal.

Launched in October 2009, Quick Hit Football is a coaching simulator similar to the coaching mode on EA's old Madden games. Users select plays from a small playbook and watch the computer simulate the action. If you go in expecting Playstation 3-like graphics, you'll be disappointed. Considering it's an online game that doesn't require any downloads or installation, the graphics and interface become a bit more impressive.

After a simple registration process, users can take part in scenarios, coaches challenges or compete against other users in a multi-player game. The company hopes to expand these options before the start of the NFL season.

Quick Hit has deals with a number of ex-NFL coaches, which means you might play against a team coached by Jerry Glanville or have to compete in Dick Vermeil's challenge. Those coaching challenges are a lot like the ones in Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf (sensing a trend?) where users have to beat generic opponents in order to compete against a marquee name. Marv Levy, Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson are among the coaches that have to be beaten in order to unlock the opportunity to face the game's top-rated coach, Brian Billick. (Yes, Billick is the top coach in the game, just as he is in his own imagination.)

Five current NFL players were under contract with Quick Hit last year (NFLPA rules dictate that six players constitutes a group-licensing deal) and were used in various places in the game. Randy Moss(notes) is slated to be the face of the game in 2010. Retired players not bound by the NFLPA are also included in the game.

Because there is no group-licensing deal with the union, Quick Hit Football will have to stick with it's roster of mostly fictitious players for the upcoming season unless a deal is struck. The company is said to be "in pursuit" of those rights, but may have to stick with using made-up players with names that sound like Die Hard villains, Muppets or mediocre color announcers (my teams include Hans McLovin, Dirk Reed, Rolf Lyons and Brian Baldinger).

Clearly, this is a coup for Quick Hit, a fledgling company started two years ago that now gets instant credibility with the NFL logo attached to its site. It's also a big step for the league, which is looking to expand its online gaming presence. Quick Hit Football will be promoted extensively on NFL.com.

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