The World Cup is the most watched soccer competition on the planet, but former Liverpool and EA Sports CEO Peter Moore thinks the metaverse will revolutionize how spectators interact with the competition and the sports world as a whole.
What are your World Cup viewing habits?
within the living room? at your local? You may have had some on at work given the Qatari kickoff timings.
Because there are so many games every day, it’s likely that you watched a good number of them on your phone, either live or as highlights while you were on the go. Twitter and WhatsApp are also always within reach, allowing you to yell into the void about what you think Gareth Southgate is doing wrong.
Before a few tournaments, the thought of being able to watch games on your phone from anywhere in the world was an impossibility. However, because of its international appeal and quadrennial character, the World Cup has always been a great indicator of developments in both technology and spending patterns.
We’ve come a long way from the first World Cup in color in 1970, when Pele-led Brazil astonished the world in Mexico, to Germany ushering in the razor-sharp HD generation in 2006, and now to the current reality that in China, the tournament broadcast rights were obtained by the nation’s version of TikTok.
Peter Moore, coming from a sun-drenched California where it is impossible to conceive anything other than color, adds, “I’m old enough to remember watching football in black and white.”
The former chief executive of EA Sports and Liverpool FC then gets to work on what he thinks will be the next chapter in World Cup broadcasting history.
He cites Japan’s second goal as the cause of Germany’s shocking loss in Group E’s opening match.
“One of the top goalkeepers of the past ten years, Manuel Neuer, made a mistake. To see the exact view he had and to figure out what went wrong, I would love to be able to drop the camera into the penalty area as he was shooting.”
The fact that attaching a GoPro to his chest is not the solution will be welcomed news to Germany’s top player. Takuma Asano, a Japanese player who won the match, wasn’t anticipated to enter the game sporting smart glasses a la some type of futuristic Edgar Davids.
The approach instead draws on Mr. Moore’s prior experience working for EA, the gaming behemoth that produced popular sports games like Madden NFL, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, and – most notably – FIFA.
The problematic camera angle
“You haven’t been able to in real life the inconceivable camera angles you may see in a video game,” claims Mr. Moore.
And there is a whole generation that has grown accustomed to holding the controller and viewing these viewpoints.
Since more than 20 years ago, gamers have been able to pause the game and move a virtual camera across the field with accuracy and fluidity that real broadcasters could only hope for.
The chance to obfuscate the distinction between the digital and the physical also becomes more alluring as the graphics get more lifelike.
Here comes Unity, a provider of software for video games best known for its identical engine, which it licenses to other creators to power their games.
However, Unity is expanding its portfolio just as rival game studio Epic has seen its Unreal Engine used outside of games, most notably to create backdrops for the Star Wars television series The Mandalorian.
What is the technology’s mechanism?
Mr. Moore, who oversees Unity’s sports and live entertainment division, gave a quick overview of how the company’s technology has already been used by the UFC, a mixed martial arts organization.
The demonstration features two combatants who were “volumetrically captured” on a sound stage in Los Angeles. The fight was recorded by numerous cameras all around them, and the data was subsequently converted into “voxels”—3D pixels that, after being processed by potent computer software, could be output as lifelike models.
As a result, the fighters are visualized using data and can be viewed from any angle, just as you would expect them to in genuine footage.
In a sense, you act as your own cameraman.
As he navigates through the conflict on an iPad, Mr. Moore makes a tribute to his past by saying, “Video games come to life.”
It demands a lot of computer power and bandwidth, but it develops just like any other piece of technology I’ve worked with.
The intention is for recording technology currently utilized on sound stages to ultimately be utilized in live settings.
In a few years, according to Mr. Moore, it will be “ubiquitous and available to anyone with a touchscreen device,” possibly in time for England’s unlikely 2026 World Cup victory.
The ambition may be laughed at by fans, especially those who spent four figures on a 3D TV a decade ago after being told it was the future of television.
Additionally, Unity believes that technology is a component of the much-discussed metaverse, which some believe to be nothing more than a gigantic technological illusion created in Silicon Valley.
But Mr. Moore actually means anyone when he claims that it will be available to everyone.
He departed his beloved Liverpool in 2020 after a three-year run that saw the club win its first Premier League championship, but if he were still there, he would suggest it to manager Jurgen Klopp as a way to conduct in-game analysis.
Coaches, fans, and commentators have all turned it into a pejorative, but Mr. Moore is persuaded that technology may even alter how we perceive VAR.
Even if England were to win the World Cup, it would still be a miracle.