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Evolution of MLB The Show From 1996 to 2020

evolution of mlb the show

MLB The Show 20

Evolution of MLB The Show From 1996 to 2020

With Opening Day hitting tomorrow, it seems like a good time to look to the past before coming back to the weird and wild present. After all, we’re going to be hearing The Show all year long during MLB games. With that in mind, I wanted to share a cool video from Video Games Evolution that looks at the evolution of MLB The Show from 1996 to 2020.

It’s sometimes easy to forget how long some of these franchises have been with us, but one cool thing about sports games at this point is they act as time capsules for video games as a whole. They are a good benchmark of where video games are at graphically, and they also serve as a good reminder of how much things can change generation to generation.

With The Show, it started with MLB Pennant Race in 1996, but really doesn’t become full formed until MLB ’98. An interesting aspect of these early years on the PS1 is how the commentators change year to year. It’s not dissimilar to the way The Show is now rotating through color commentators in the present day. Vin Scully finally brought some stability to that aspect of the game with MLB ’99, and the living legend would hold things down until MLB 2006 when Matt Vasgersian took over.

MLB 2006 was another big changing of the guard year for the series as this is one of the few series where we duplicated the seasons out for a franchise. MLB 2006 came out in 2005, and then we got MLB 06: The Show in 2006. These were entirely different games, but a rebranding was in order and I assume The Show wanted to fall in line with other sports series out there where the game was labeled based off when the last game of the season was played in real life.

I don’t want to overlook Vasgersian either. He’s been in the game now for 16 iterations, and that coincides with Kevin Harlan also taking over the NBA 2K franchise with NBA 2K6. These are the old guard now in the sports franchise space. What’s also interesting to note here is John Madden did commentary in his own football game from ’94-’09, so Harlan and Vasgersian will surpass Madden now if they both come back for year 17. (This is something I care about from a historical perspective, but I understand if no one else really cares.)

Another thing that really stands out in this video is how much these games graphically improve during a generation. The first PS3 game was nothing spectacular to me, but after a few years I can really see how much the game improved from a graphics standpoint. This seems to be consistent throughout the generations, and a lot of it just seems to come down to lighting and getting a better feel for the hardware.

What also stands out is how long some animations have been in The Show. Now, I’m not one to say you should remove lots of old animations because the whole point of being iterative is to add on rather than take something away — otherwise you take away an inherent strength of coming out each year. So my surprise is more how enduring some animations have been in the game and how they’ve even transitioned from one generation to the next rather than stating it as a negative.

Anyway, as someone who has been playing this franchise since I was in my cousin’s bedroom listening to Vin Scully serenade me, this was a treat to watch, and it will be fun to see MLB The Show advance in the future as it goes multi-platform.

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  1. Baseball is the only sport game I play. Since ‘96 I have looked forward to every new addition of the game. It has always been something new. I don’t know which game it was, but how cool was it the first time we saw the catcher throw the ball back to the pitcher? The first time we saw the catcher take his mask off on a pop up?
    Playing with a friend we thought, “how the heck do they do this?” Looking forward to the PS5 version. The team at SDS has done a really fine job putting baseball onto a little circular disk for our enjoyment.
    played the hell out of MLB 99 even though I always killed the cpu. loved hearing the disc start up with ‘‘989’’ Sports, or Studio. can still hear it like it was yesterday, gives me chills. it was every bit the equal to EA's disc starter ‘‘It's in the game’’. would love to see SDS do something with that old 989 brand as some sort of homage to those beginnings. maybe as billboards or outfield fences at the fake MiLB parks.
    Asp86
    Amazing!!! Didn’t realize this series has been around since 1996.
    yeah, the last MLB game they did under the 989 umbrella was MLB 2006, released in spring 2005 with Vlad Sr. on the cover for the PS2. this was the first year with Vasgersian replacing Scully, who was in MLB 2005 with Soup Campbell, who stayed on with Vasgersian.
    fast-forward to spring 2006, this was the rebranding as SDS & MLB 06: the Show, with Big Papi on the cover. so you got 9 years under the 989 moniker, & now 15 years as SDS' the Show. I was 26 years old when this series started and now I'm 50. though I didn't play the first couple years, 99 was my first venture into what has become my little baseball fortress of solitude.
    Caulfield
    yeah, the last MLB game they did under the 989 umbrella was MLB 2006, released in spring 2005 with Vlad Sr. on the cover for the PS2. this was the first year with Vasgersian replacing Scully, who was in MLB 2005 with Soup Campbell, who stayed on with Vasgersian.
    fast-forward to spring 2006, this was the rebranding as SDS & MLB 06: the Show, with Big Papi on the cover. so you got 9 years under the 989 moniker, & now 15 years as SDS' the Show. I was 26 years old when this series started and now I'm 50. though I didn't play the first couple years, 99 was my first venture into what has become my little baseball fortress of solitude.

    I was more of a Triple Play/MVP guy. Back 15-20 years ago. Kind of screwed not having a PS4 now. MLB The Show looks incredible. But not enough to buy a PS4 for one game.
    MLB 2005 for PS2 with Eric Chavez was my first baseball game. Nice memories. They were ahead of their time back then with having a career mode, even though being able to player lock wasn't introduced until MLB The Show 06 or 07. 
    Good video. I still remember how awesome 2008 was, the jump from 07 was pretty huge. I feel that The Show 10 through 13 look better than 17 through 20, the graphics are more rich cinematic. But the newer games are definitely more full of life and organic, not as stiff and scripted.

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