August 05, 2014, 6:02 AM —
It's August and that means football season is right around the corner. In fact there was a pre-season game on last weekend. I must admit I missed it; the season has really snuck up on me. Microsoft, on the other hand, is all over it!
First, they've announced a new Xbox One bundle that comes with a (digital) copy of Madden 15. It also comes with three Madden NFL Ultimate Team Pro Packs. The bundle is priced at $399, same as the stand-alone, Kinect-less Xbox One console (and no Kinect is in this Madden bundle). It arrives on August 26th.
It's a great deal if you're a Madden fan but just feels like yet another nail in the Kinect coffin. I'm not sure what the value of the Ultimate Team Pro Packs are but the game of course would normally cost you $60, so let's estimate a savings of somewhere between $75 & $90 (assuming the Pro Packs are either $5 or $10 each).
During the World Cup I was running that Brazil Now app that Microsoft created to help you keep up with all the action. Whenever a team scored I'd get an alert (which was great for me but other members of the household weren't quite so enthusiastic). Now that football season is here Microsoft is doing something similar with this year's version of its NFL app; the update is scheduled to be ready by week one of the season.
In addition to setting up custom score alerts (you can specify the teams you're interested in), you'll be able to track NFL.com's Fantasy Football league (fantasy football from other providers will also be supported, though Microsoft is being coy as to which ones), as well as manage your fantasy team from within the app. You'll also be able to access the upcoming NFL Now service as well as NFL Redzone and NFL Sunday Ticket (subscription fees apply, of course).
I'm looking forward to watching the local Carolina Panthers (often my only option since I'm too cheap for Sunday Ticket) play while tracking my favorite team 'back home' via having the NFL app snapped next to live TV (this isn't new this year but I hadn't really bought into the whole 'snapping' concept when the XBox One and NFL app arrived near the end of last season). If you don't have an Xbox One, you can get Microsoft's NFL app for any Windows 8 device.
Microsoft is getting involved more directly with the game, too. As part of its partnership with the NFL, the sideline coaching staff of each team will get 13 specially modified Surface 2 tablets, while the coaches up in the boxes will get another 12. So what's special about these tablets? The cameras are disabled, they can only connect to a special private network, and they only run a single program; one used to look at game photographs. Oh and they're encased in a waterproof, shock-proof enclosure.
Basically the idea is to replace the binders full of printed photographs that coaches have traditionally used to review the game as it progresses. I guess this is a 'greener' system and is a little bit faster than the old way. Unfortunately Engadget reports that the Bills coach Doug Marrone ran into problems during that pre-season game we mentioned. By half-time everything was fixed and Marrone said he liked the system a lot. Hopefully the problems he experienced won't be a recurring issue during the real season. Of course no one is forcing the teams to transition to digital and I'm sure they'll all have binders and Polaroid cameras at the ready, just in case.
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