This is an award we didn’t want to give out this year, but tradition is tradition. So, the Best Franchise Mode of 2019 goes to NBA 2K20‘s MyLeague mode.
Now, I say we didn’t want to give this award out because we’ve already given out our award for Worst Trend in Sports Games, and that went to single-player modes getting shafted. Within that award, one of the core arguments goes back to franchise modes and how they have not been enough of a focus for studios lately.
With NBA 2K20, it’s not that MyLeague was not changed at all, far from it. The issue is 2K did their 2K thing where it was just very buggy. It still remains buggy months later, but it has been somewhat improved since a rough launch.
What helped 2K win this award is that it remains the most ambitious franchise mode. The developers do try to up their game and improve the mode. The problem is you can feel the weight of their decisions catching up with them here. The mode feels like it’s buckling a bit while trying to accommodate new elements. To put it another way, it feels like the simulation engine and the overall guts of the mode seem unable to properly handle all of the information and details.
OS contributor Matthew Ederer wrote a good piece about MyLeague late in September. (Some of the issues mentioned in it have since been patched.) The point of the article was that there was a good mode there, it was just buried under a lot of bugs and glitches. It’s frustrating to run into problems in these franchise modes when you get past year one, and it does seem like that’s one of the biggest faults with most of these games. That was even more true for MyLeague because there was a brutal issue with players coming off their rookie deals earlier than expected.
Those sorts of errors just should not happen at this point. On top of that, members of the community were incensed about the changes to MyGM mode. The 2K developers took that mode in a completely new direction revolving around competitive leaderboards, and it did not sit well with many people here on OS.
All that being said, NBA 2K20 does have the most comprehensive online franchise mode, and positive strides were made there. More than anything, that is what also helped push it over the top among the staff. Madden 20 is the only other game that really delivers on the online franchise mode front.
Again, I don’t know if there’s a true winner in this category when it comes to traditional sports games. There’s still great text sims out there like Football Manager and OOTP delivering depth and longevity to franchise modes, but console sports games need to pick it back up.
Community Vote – The Best Franchise Mode of 2019
1. NBA 2K20
2. MLB The Show 19
3. Madden NFL 20
The community vote was much closer than our staff vote. NBA 2K20 got about 35 percent of the vote. MLB The Show 19 was close behind with 32 percent of the vote. Madden 20 trailed well behind those two games with 10 percent of the vote. I think if The Show had an online franchise mode, it would have pushed it over the edge.
Well, and just improving the mode in general would probably get it over the edge. The Show has carry-over saves, which is still the best feature, but it feels like not enough is improving year-to-year here. The CBA being in flux probably doesn’t help things, but it’s long past time for The Show to put some effort back into franchise mode. It’s not even that the mode is so terrible in the context of today’s games, it’s just not a mode I want to talk about that much as a strength of the game.
And that is a core part of the issue. None of these games can point to their franchise mode as the best part of their game. Every single one of these franchises has had strengths through their many releases, and a lot of the time it used to involve franchise mode. People are still playing College Hoops 2K8 and NCAA Football 14 for their franchise mode equivalents. Madden was once beloved in part due to its franchise mode back in the 2004-2006 era. I played all 162 games of my MLB The Show franchise back during the PS3 era.
I don’t believe developers have forgotten how to make quality franchise modes, I just think companies need to realize that now as well.