Nerjyzing Diversity in the Video Gaming Industry (From BlackEnterprise.com)

Nerjyzing Diversity in the Video Gaming Industry (From BlackEnterprise.com)

Company CEO takes HBCU football to next level
By Marcia Wade Talbert – November 20, 2009

Some people sit and watch on the sidelines, while others play the game. Jacqueline S. Beauchamp plays the game. Not satisfied with the dearth of diversity in the video gaming industry, in 2004 Beauchamp partnered with three colleagues to start Nerjyzed Entertainment Inc. to not only put more African American players in games, but also to increase the number of developers in the field.

“I kept saying for about two and a half years [that] someone needs to… bring some different products and different experiences to the market segment,” says the former Motorola executive. Then she realized that she was that someone.

With the release of “The Black College Football Experience: The Doug Williams Edition” Nerjyzed has done what no other company has done before: It has created the first game published by a black-owned interactive digital media company for high-end video game consoles.

Over the years, Beauchamp, now Nerjyzed CEO, and her three co-founders– all graduates of HBCUs–were able to raise $8 million in seed money and hire 45 programmers and video game developers to work toward their goal of creating a sports video game that focuses on the football leagues of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

The endeavor has been five years in the making and the Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based company has seen its share of ups and downs. But now, after the game’s autumn release, Beauchamp, 47, a former manager with experience working at Motorola and IBM, is ecstatic that BCFx is finally taking up shelf space at Wal-mart, GameStop, and Amazon.com.

BCFx features more than 40 teams from HBCUs that battle on the football field using not only their players but their drumlines. It also has interactive halftime shows complete with drum majors, cheerleaders, and bands. The drumline portion of the game allows players to compete against other players in a rhythm-based competition. Using a drum pad, gamers can choose to perform one of over a 120 songs ranging from artists like Beyoncé to Frankly Beverly and Maze.

Beauchamp spoke with Black Enterprise about Nerjyzed’s false starts, the support the company received from HBCUs, and explained why it is important to honor NFL legends who have roots in black college teams.

BlackEnterprise.com: Why did it take such a long time to obtain the certification to produce the games on Xbox and Sony Playstation consoles?

Jacqueline Beauchamp: Our product is very different. We have integrated two of the top tier genres in the video game industry into one product: football and head-to-head, rhythm-based competition on one game. We were the first to be able to do that.

The integration of two different genres [created] a different class of product, which took a little bit longer than we had anticipated. It was just a little bit more challenging. There were some rules that actually changed in the middle and we literally had to go back and redo a number of things that we had previously met the requirements on.

What other hurdles did you have to overcome to produce the video game?

The process for obtaining licenses from the schools took a little bit longer than what we would have really liked. Those institutions are very accustomed to licensing their brands for t-shirts and cups but licensing for a video game was very new. So we had to spend a little bit more time in educating them and getting them comfortable with the entire video game industry model. Once we got to that point the processes for getting the licenses and closing contracts went a little bit faster.

How much in sales do you need to make in order to consider the project successful?

Success for us is going to be achieved [by reaching] $14 million in revenue. Now we are in the process of making sure that everybody is set, ready, and prepared for the Christmas push on marketing and promotions, and making sure we have enough inventory in the [retail] channel, which is why I’m spending direct time with retailers like Walmart.

What role did HBCUs play in getting the game launched?

The Historically Black Colleges and Universities have supported the roll out of the product. They have participated with us in some of our TV show airings, and allowed us to come on their campuses and promote the game. Their bands got involved in recordings, and we recruited their cheerleaders and band members to do motion capture [to create animation in the game]. So they were an integral part in not just creating the product, but helping to promote it and drive sales and we’re providing royalties [from the game back to them].

Why is the game called the “The Doug Williams Edition”?

He’s been the first in so many categories — first African American quarterback to not only start in and win a NFL Super Bowl but then to be named MVP [of the game]. Doug is a huge proponent and spokesperson for Black college football. He and James Jack Harris, [who both played for Grambling State University,] just announced the formation of the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame.

There are so many greats that came from these institutions—like Jerry Rice and Walter Payton — and a lot of people really don’t know that they did. We want to pay respect to all of these individuals that have made an enormous impact on not just collegiate football, but on the entire game of football, even at the NFL level.

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