Earlier this week, Arcade1Up announced that it would bring back one of the most popular arcade sports titles of the 90s. NFL Blitz is on its way back and while it isn't entirely the game that everybody remembers, for reasons that will be discussed shortly, it's still a beloved arcade classic for many reasons. When Shacknews heard that NFL Blitz was about to make its glorious return, we reached out to the team at Arcade1Up to ask about everything that went into making this happen.
Davin Sufer, Arcade1Up's Chief Technology and Product Officer, spoke with Shacknews about taking steps to modernize Blitz while keeping it as close as possible to the game that everybody remembers. He also talks about acquiring all the necessary licenses, working with the NFL, and whether there was any consideration to building an NFL Blitz with today's NFL rosters.
Shacknews: What steps did you take to remaster the classic Blitz titles visually and technically for the modern day?
Davin Sufer, Arcade1Up Chief Technology and Product Officer: It was a major effort on our end to re-create and remaster Blitz for a new generation, while simultaneously preserving the authenticity that made the original games so beloved. This was a AAA development effort with enhancements such as a higher-resolution, anti-glare LCD screen allowing for the game to be seen more clearly than ever before, Wi-Fi capabilities allowing for all three Blitz games to be played online with friends all over the world, and a durable 49-way joystick allowing for "true to arcade" control.
Shacknews: What difficulties did you encounter in acquiring the licenses to make this arcade compilation possible?
Sufer: Fortunately, we were able to work with fantastic partners at both the NFL as well as the FGA (Football Greats Alliance). I would say that the biggest hurdle was remastering the game and preserving the gameplay while meeting today's Player Health and Safety needs. We would not have recreated this game in any other way out of great reverence for the legacy of these football legends and their time in the league.
Shacknews: Were there any other obstacles or challenges that you faced in putting this compilation together? And what had to happen for the team to finally be able to make this arcade machine a reality?
Sufer: This is without a doubt the most challenging project Arcade1Up has ever tackled. Right from the beginning we had the help of the original developers of NFL Blitz, Mark Turmell and Sal Divita. They confirmed that it would be theoretically possible to remaster these games and pointed us in the right direction.
It is always a challenge working with an outdated codebase, as everything from the underlying game code to the player animations must be translated into a modern engine to work on our hardware. However, choosing to go the extra mile and add Wi-Fi to an already major development effort has more than paid off in the quality of the experience.
Shacknews: A lot has changed in sports since these games were first released. Did you experience any blowback or difficulty from the NFL, who maybe didn't want to emphasize the more violent elements of the Blitz games, like the late hits or bone-crunching tackles?
Sufer: The NFL has always been supportive of this project. Together, we set out to create a fun, action-packed game like the original that, for the first time, fans could play on a home arcade machine. We worked closely with them to make sure that Arcade1Up's NFL Blitz Legends was aligned with the modern standards of the NFL while also being respectful and authentic to the original games. We have included over 84% of different hits from the original Blitz games along with all the plays such as Hail Mary's, interceptions, game-changing tackles, and touchdowns.
Shacknews: In your opinion, what about NFL Blitz still holds up today? What has made it such an in-demand title for audiences over 20 years after they were released?
Sufer: I think what makes NFL Blitz Legends so special is that it's not a simulation. The core thesis of the game has always been to take the iconic sport and knock down all barriers between the player and the fun! It is faster, it's easier to control, and accessible to an audience of every age group.
Similar to the meaning behind being a 49er faithful or part of Raider Nation, this is a game to be shared with friends and family whether its local or online. It is authentically and undoubtably an arcade experience and you only have to pick it up once to immediately be hooked. And, the best part is that we created NFL Blitz Legends in a home arcade format, the first time in the 25 year history of the game.
Shacknews: Arcade1Up, by nature, is all about preserving classic games in a life-sized time capsule, but was there ever any consideration given to building the old NFL Blitz games with modern rosters?
Sufer: Authenticity has always been paramount to Arcade1Up's goals. With every game, we keep in mind the respect owed to those who created these iconic games and franchises, not to mention the incredible NFL Legends who paved the way for this title’s success. Who knows what the future holds but for now, we could not be prouder of the work we have done with both the NFL and FGA to preserve what Blitz truly is. A large part of what makes a franchise timeless is accessibility and we are so honored to make this arcade classic accessible on a mass scale.
We would certainly consider the possibility of future versions with a different approach to the rosters but the focus today is on launching Arcade1Up's NFL Blitz Legends with the most authentic experience we can offer.
Shacknews: Lastly, how much additional work went into ensuring these games work over Wi-Fi with accurate leaderboards?
Sufer: Our Product Development Team has been working for over a year on every digital feature of this game. As always, going back in time to add features to classic games is no easy task, but it is more than worth it when you see the results! Having live features in all our titles really does bring them to a whole new level.
You can learn more about Arcade1Up's NFL Blitz cabinet from this week's announcement. The cabinet itself (which features NFL Blitz, NFL Blitz '99, and NFL Blitz 2000) will retail for $599.99 USD with NFL team stools also available for $79.99 USD each. The hardware is expected to ship in early October with pre-orders now available on the Arcade1Up website.