For me, a baseball season just isn’t complete without my own virtual experience on the side. I am a gamer, and I love to take over a franchise and make a run at the World Series year in, year out on my Xbox 360. It usually starts with me assuming control of the Pittsburgh Pirates, which I abandon annually after the sad realization that my favourite team is comprised mostly third and fourth tier talent, and then I opt to take over a power house and waltz my way to victory. As we wade through the offseason that is, I am coming to grips with the reality that my baseball gaming experience is scheduled for extinction.
Take-Two Interactive, publishers of the MLB 2K series for Xbox 360 and Sony Playstation, have all but officially declared that they’re out of the baseball game market. Next season, at least for Xbox 360 owners, there will not be a baseball simulation option. Take-Two’s venture into baseball gaming has been something of a disaster. There are a few areas in which the 2K series has trumped Sony’s MLB: The Show (i.e. – its analog pitching controls), but for the most part it’s been a glitch-ridden inferior experience compared to what’s offered by Sony’s effort.
It’s been a long but expected path to departure from the genre for Take-Two, which expected an annual loss on its MLB product upwards of $35 million as early as 2010, but they continued to serve their license while only marginally improving the series entries. Despite its glaring deficiencies, baseball sim craving Xbox 360 owners continued to gamble on the 2K series, with approximately 370,000 copies of MLB 2K12 sold globally this year (figures via VGChartz).
So, what now for Xbox 360 owners?
Sony’s MLB: The Show, available exclusively on Sony’s Playstation console and handheld devices, has established itself as console seller for many baseball fans, and there’s bound to be more than a handful of baseball loving gamers crossing over come spring 2013. Despite growing stale in some areas of game development, The Show is set to rule the roost in terms of baseball video gaming. EA Sports was thought to be the obvious entity to snatch up the abandoned MLB licencse, but the company has expressed little-to-no interest in re-entering the genre. EA last published an MLB video game seven years ago with the iconic MVP Baseball 2005. With their MLB license expiring, EA left game files open to be manipulated on its PC effort. MVP Baseball 2005 developed something of a cult following, spawning an online community that tinkered with everything from the game’s player and stadium models to it’s ball physics. It was MVP Mods, and it was a glorious experience for baseball gamers as next generation consoles struggled to meet the demands of realism.
Much to the disappointment of fans of the MVP series, EA Sports executive Andrew Wilson has stated that an MLB game is not in the company’s immediate plans:
No, we’re not. Do I like baseball? Absolutely, I’m a huge baseball fan. But right now, we’re focusing on the franchises we’ve got. We’re focused on doing the UFC, and making it big and global. Is there an opportunity for us to do something with baseball one day? I hope so. But are we doing anything with baseball today? It’s just not something we’re working on right now.
Via Jon Robinson, ESPN Playbook
EA isn’t out of the baseball genre completely, though. The company unveiled an MLB Facebook game last spring, and they released a version of MVP Baseball in Korea (FIGHTING!). The optimist would wager that EA Sports could be attempting to regain their footing in the baseball gaming market by catching up with advancements in the genre on a smaller scale with a Korean Baseball League themed release? We can only hope so, my fellow Xbox devotees.
Other than jumping ship to Sony Playstation (not happening because Halo, amirite?), our options are limited. We can wrangle a copy of MLB 2K12 or MVP Baseball 2005 for PC and hope for an MVP Mods update, or we eschew the joys of pitching, hitting and fielding altogether and assume the role of team executive in Out of the Park Baseball. Or we just take the hand we’ve been dealt and put on a smile in the summer of sad.