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OS Roundtable: Do You Have Confidence in Next-Gen Sports Game Launches?

WWE 2K20

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OS Roundtable: Do You Have Confidence in Next-Gen Sports Game Launches?

Roundtable Question: WWE 2K20 was another rocky launch for sports games in 2019, do you have confidence in sports games improving their launches when next-gen rolls around next year?

Jeff Botkin: I don’t have much confidence in sports titles improving their launches when next-gen rolls out. The fact that many sports titles cannot deliver on all fronts is what prevents me from instilling any confidence in the next gen of sports titles. I would be more than willing to wait an extra three months for a sports title that can put together a complete product. Booting up a game only to experience several errors or glitches causes such a disappointment in your gaming enjoyment. This causes you to dive into sliders and settings at an exhausting rate that could be avoided if a well polished product was released in the first place.

TJ Henderson: In a word, no. If I were asked this question in the middle of a cycle, then maybe. But the fact is that the first sports game or two on a new console is usually nothing to write home about outside of the new shiny visuals. Beyond that, they take some time to gain their footing. Couple that with the problems we’re currently seeing and I really don’t know that they can avoid the even taller hurdle coming a year from now. So I do ask the question, should these games move to a type of subscription model? To borrow from another genre, Rock Band 4‘s release on current gen was met well by its dedicated fans, and those fans tended to ask a couple of years ago where Rock Band 5 was. Harmonix made it clear that Rock Band 4 would be the title “for this generation” and have opted instead to continually update and expand the experience.

Is that same thing possible with sports games, much like with something such as No Man’s Sky? Not in a free update sense. But a subscription model that alleviates the pressure of yearly releases (hard deadline only needed for day-one rosters) may be the answer going forward.

Joel Smith: Based on the rough launches of NBA 2K20, WWE 2K20 and major issues in FIFA 20‘s career mode, it’s a very concerning time and makes me extremely nervous for the next-gen launches of games on PS5 and Microsoft’s Project Scarlett. We’re well into the current gen and release blunders such as what we’ve seen over the last two months are almost inexcusable at this juncture. New tech, new engines and whatever else is needed for the next generation of our favorite titles means new issues and problems to encounter and overcome for developers. So if they can’t get a release right at this point, I’m deeply worried about what we could be going into in December 2020. Let’s hope that serious work is put in to ensure that the next-gen launch is smooth for sports gaming and that the AAA developers don’t butt fumble the games we love.

Matthew Ederer: I am cautiously optimistic. It would be impossible for game launches to get worse. Regardless of what the next-gen brings us, we can all agree that current standards have plummeted. WWE 2K20 is the equivalent of an assignment hastily emailed to the professor 90 seconds after the deadline passed. Next-gen games don’t have a huge bar to clear. In fact, we don’t even know that sports games will continue to be yearly releases. It’s entirely possible that in five years we don’t have “game launches” at all. Maybe we will buy an NBA/NCAA hybrid game called “Basketball 2K” for a flat $99 fee and then a $60 roster update every year. Maybe we just buy a game in segments where you pay $20 to take a MyPlayer to the NBA from the remaining 17 NCAA schools. Throw in high school as well maybe because they already have a high school mode programmed into 2K anyway — It’s called The Park (“BANG! BANNGGGGG!” – Mike Breen). Either way, the possibilities for next gen are such that it feels silly to be down on it already.

Phil Varckette: I don’t have confidence in any game’s launch by this point, let alone sports games. It’s obviously become harder to get a finished product out on time when it comes to sports games these days. Having only about a nine-month development cycle and strict dates to hit is really hurting these games. I think in the case of WWE 2K20, Yuke’s leaving caused this mess. I don’t want to give 2K a pass, but if you’re ever going to give a game a pass, this might be the one. Nevertheless, it’s become the norm to strongly rely on patches. Patches used to fix bugs here and there, now they are basically part of the development cycle. This can be good if it truly makes the game better, but it’s also frustrating because it almost makes you not want to buy games at launch anymore. As far as the next gen goes, it will probably take some time to master the new architecture of the new systems, but I don’t see there being problems on the scale that we have seen during some other next-gen launches. I think processing power will help out with this issue.


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  1. No. The trend this entire generations has shown that buying games on release day is a waste of time and money. Games end up being completely different from when it was released after a couple of months. By the time games are playable in the way it should have been at release, the games are probably half priced by then. Madden, for example, will leave you frustrated because we end up having to start a whole new franchise to take advantage of updates that should have been in the game initially. 
    Why people still pre order games now is beyond me.  The ony way I would even consider it is if the game has a demo, and that still doesn't guarantee the game will be finished on release day.  Plus most games are on sale a month or less after release anyway.  
    I'm not, because usually it's the third iteration of a sports game that it starts to play well enough to notice any difference between it and the past generation's game.  
    thing im most worried about is that whenever sports games leap into the next gen they take away soo many features and do it all over again and wait at least a few iterations for features to comeback. I really hope that's not the case again
    All we get is a graphic upgrade, nothing more. Probably with the same legacy bugs. No confidence. That's why backward compatibility is so important.  I still can't see how boxing missed a whole console generation?
    Not even a little bit. We have gone from having choices in the major sports to having one pro football, zero college football, one hockey, one baseball (if you are lucky) and one basketball game. Not surprisingly, there is such little innovation that I do not buy any of the sports games on an annual basis anymore (as compared to when I would buy multiple games for the same sport). We are well into the dark days of sports gaming, and, with the focus on online and card modes (and the technology acting as a bar to entry for smaller developers), things are likely to get worse rather than better. I really cannot see myself buying the next generation console.
    The primary purpose of these games at this point is to make money for greedy immoral investors and the leadership of the companies who could care less about the integrity of the games or honoring the sport they are representing. Greed will lead to corners being cut and less money given to things like quality control. Video games are a very good expositions of the excess of late-stage capitalism. 
    No confidence at all.  This has been the worst year for sports & sports entertainment games that I can remember.  Not only do wee have fewer choices than ever, but the ones that are left are mostly bug-ridden, micro-transaction dependent disasters.  
    I also have little hope any of these will be any better experiences in the next gen.  I'm fine living in the past off previous games.  I've felt a slow slow decline in recent years, but this year things seem to have fallen off a cliff. 
    I bought WWE 2k19 last year for $25.  There is zero chance I'm moving to 2k20.  Bought Madden 20 and I still have a love/hate with it. I'll keep it because then I'll have it next year to keep me away from 21.  From my perspective Madden needs a completely new engine in order to get noticeably better. 
    Why should we.  Just only looking at Features.  If you look at the PS2/Xbox era of games the games seemed to be overflowing with features from deep Franchise / Superstar modes to the creation on everything on the field. Fast forward to the 360 / ps3 era Lot of the features of the old gen are gone and yes new ones are in but i feel there was some sacrifice for better graphics.   Now go to where we are currently at the Xbox 1 and PS4 the games seem so bare bone and every game feels the same.   BUT the one thing that always seems to get attention in Ultimate team.    I have to give the teams some props because if feels they are stating to add back to the career mode but if you look at games from 04 to 07/08 the games where all so deep and fun.

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