An overview of OverDog: Video games with athletes

overdogBY TROY PHILLIPS

For those that have been wondering, I would agree that we at Poor Scholars have been missing out on a large component of pop culture by not including video games in any of our articles. I’m not here to promise that there are any large scale changes coming to appease the gaming community, but I think that ex-Bear Hunter Hillenmeyer’s new idea should be a great way to make up for some of that lost time.

OverDog’s concept is revolutionary and very appealing for dual sports/gaming fans like myself. As improbable as it may seem, Hillenmeyer is promising a widely accessible application that pits professional athletes against fans in Madden, Call of Duty, or any other game that an athlete wants to play head to head. At this point, there are at least thirty professional athletes on board with OverDog, including Calvin Johnson, David Price, Randy Moss and Matt Forte. After scanning the list of names on OverDog’s Kickstarter page (Which, by the way, is still actively seeking donations) there appears to be a significant slant towards football players, and Chicago Bears in particular. Such is to be expected from an NFL veteran who spent his entire career in the Windy City. In time, Hillenmeyer should have no trouble corralling a cast of NBA, MLB and NHL players to fulfill the desires and interests of sports gamers from across the globe.

After reading through a few summaries on OverDog, I’ll admit that I’ve more than bought into the taglines that are being thrown around to spur excitement. I can’t imagine how anyone else who has ever collected sports cards, Googled stat lines or purchased a jersey would feel any different. Yes, you can force a fumble while playing Charles Tillman. Yes, you can hit a home run off of David Price. Yes, you can ask Jerome Simpson h0w it felt to do this. And you can beat all of them at their own game, or on the battlefield, or in Viva Pinata. All idealizations granted, the virtual field never would be drawn permanently closer to the big time.

Two potential drawbacks to OverDog could lie in the accessibility of both the athletes and the product itself.

With schedules that are already well staffed with time-consuming activities, how often will most athletes really be able to hop onto their Xbox or Ps3 to play some CoD? Hillenmeyer pledges to use an unbiased lottery system to select the player(s) that will fill a given opening, but will membership swell to the point that the likelihood of being selected can be equated to buying an actual lottery ticket? The staff at OverDog will have to be on top of athlete activity trends and be prepared to bring in a high volume of professional players to ensure a worthwhile process for subscribers.

Also, how much will users be willing to set back in order to take part in such a unique experience? There is no defined membership price as of yet, but donators that pledge twenty dollars on Kickstarter are being given a membership through the end of 2013, which will be viable as soon as next month as the beta testing phase begins. Twenty bucks for nine months of membership is a great price, and probably just an introductory rate, but how much will the sticker price increase once the app gains its’ footing? Part of the incentive for athletes to play with fans on OverDog will come from financial compensation. Satisfying a payroll for a staff whose majority are millionaires will require a large amount of revenue to be a financially successful endeavor. Can OverDog pull in profits without pushing membership prices into the neighborhood of an Xbox Live subscription?

Only time will tell, as the product hasn’t even hit the open testing stages — which are tentatively scheduled to begin in April. Hopes are high for OverDog, and though I have my suspicions I’ll be tracking the project closely over the coming months. The official launch is rumored to be in late summer or early fall of this year, and as long as there aren’t any major red flags between now and then I’ll be happy to pull out my debit card and create an account.

Quick Extra: Rex Grossman is currently listed on the roster of players on board with the app. The current Over/Under on Rex’s tenure with OverDog is at three months. I mean, c’mon, this site is going to be crawling with restless Bears fans! Should make for some interesting in-game chats, to say the least.

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