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The Slow Death of Baseball Games

/ Jun 12th, 2012 No Comments

mlb 14 the show review

MLB 2k Box

MLB 2k Box

Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of 2K Sports, announced their planned releases for the 2013 fiscal year in a financial report. The Major League Baseball 2K franchise was never mentioned. Thus, MLB 2K came to an abrupt and unceremonious end.

Although no the company has not officially said they are abandoning the franchise, all signs point to the end of MLB 2K. There is some precedent for this as 2K Games pulled the plug on their NHL and college basketball franchises in the same manner. Take-Two president Strauss Zelnick has repeatedly said that the MLB franchise has done nothing but cost the company money and he plans to switch focus to original IPs.

The seven-year pact with MLB began in 2005 after an unexpected string of events. 2K Games was born when Take-Two bought Visual Concepts and Kush Games from SEGA for $32 million. EA purchased the exclusive rights to the NFL, effectively ending the successful NFL 2K series. Take-Two fought back by spending $30 million to obtain exclusive third-party licensing for MLB.

MLB 2K - Screenshot

MLB 2K - Screenshot

The partnership has not worked out for Take-Two. The MLB 2K series has failed commercially and critically year after year. It continually falls short of expectations due to unintuitive gameplay and disappointing graphics. It’s only saving grace was the fact that it was the only option for most console gamers. Now, the future of baseball gaming looks murky for Xbox 360 and Wii owners.

MLB: The Show is widely considered the best baseball sim on the market but is only available to PlayStation owners. It is highly doubtful that Sony, who produces the game, would make their successful baseball franchise accessible to any other console. Sony would only be hurting the value of their console by doing so. Even if they were willing to become a third-party developer, Microsoft would never allow a Sony disc to enter the trays of Xbox systems.

Another developer could decide to pick up the license for MLB gaming. EA once produced the highly-regarded MVP Baseball franchise, even turning it into a college baseball game after losing the MLB license. They could get back into the baseball business. Activision, Konami, Ubisoft or another major company could also emerge as potential third-party developers for a baseball franchise. However, those companies have been hesitant to get into the sports gaming market.

Baseball Video Games are Dying

Baseball Video Games are Dying

Take-Two lost over $30 million every year of their exclusive licensing deal, losses they expect to recover over the next two years. Another publisher will not want to deal with the high costs for developing a completely new franchise while also forking over millions for the MLB license. The next-generation of consoles has yet to be announced but most analysts seem to think it will begin by the end of 2013. No development studio will want to incur the costs of starting a completely new project if it will only be mediocre on the next-generation gaming systems. Any doubt that the game would have commercial success is enough for developers to steer clear.

In the unlikely scenario that MLB reaches a licensing agreement with a game studio, there is no chance that they would be able to complete a full-fledged game before the start of the next baseball season. Of course, the terms of the deal would also have to make much more sense for the developer.

The gaming community has continually voiced their displeasure with 2K Games’ baseball effort. Next season appears to be even bleaker. Only PlayStation owners will be getting a baseball sim. Without any competition, MLB: The Show developers might not put as much effort into their product. Meanwhile, Xbox 360 owners can only hope for a scaled-down downloadable baseball game in 2013.

 

Ryan Bloom

Ryan Bloom

Chief Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Ryan Bloom is a writer and avid gamer from Orange County. He received a B.A. in Communications with a minor in American Studies from California State University, Fullerton in 2010. Follow him on Twitter @BloomsTweets.
Ryan Bloom
Ryan Bloom

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