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The Three Titles That Have the Most to Prove in 2019

Madden NFL 20

The Three Titles That Have the Most to Prove in 2019

Sports gaming continues to be at a weird inflection point this year. We’re getting deep into the current generation of consoles and we’re starting to see a lot of the big innovations cool as the limits to current console power are being realized in some ways.

In that way, this article is a bit tougher to write because the whole genre has a lot to prove in the next couple years.

But, I think there are three major league titles that have more to prove than the rest this upcoming fall. Each of these titles appears on this list for different reasons, but each one seems to have a fair bit of skepticism attached to it as we move into the nutty release season of August to October.

1. NHL

What It Has To Prove: EA Sports’ NHL series has had a string of solid but not spectacular releases. It wasn’t that long ago that this series was innovating ahead of the genre and defining some aspects to it. With the NHL itself slowly gaining steam, EA Sports’ NHL needs to recapture some of that glory it has attained in the past.

The usual tweaks on the ice are needed, but the modes themselves need a shot of adrenaline put into them. Compared to its peers in the genre, NHL is beginning to feel rather thin when it comes to game modes. As the series itself continues to sell within a narrow but meaningful margin, it feels like we are going to need to see the series start taking some advantage of the league getting its foundation back and moving upwards.

Outlook: We don’t know much about the series yet. With a slated mid-September release, it seems likely we are going to start hearing a lot about NHL 20 soon enough. It may be asking too much to revamp several major modes while refining the gameplay all in one season, especially with the smaller team working on the game. It’s a full wait and see in terms of whether or not the series takes a big leap forward and establishes itself as a powerful player in the genre again.

2. PES

What It Has To Prove: Konami’s console game lineup is, ahem, rather thin these days. Quite honestly, PES has to fight for survival. The company itself seems pretty determined to continue moving into mobile markets versus the traditional console experiences. I personally think any company doing this is making a grave mistake long term, but you can’t stop short-term momentum.

With that said, PES has to justify its continued existence. Sales are down, and to me, the gap between PES and FIFA continues to widen. We need to see a better career mode, a better multiplayer experience and perhaps a reworking of the game on the pitch.

Outlook: I think PES is in deep trouble as a console title. It’s telling that Konami didn’t just scuttle the series right away — there’s definitely interest in keeping it alive. However, the game has to do big things to turn around sales or I’m afraid we could be looking at another major sports game series gone far too soon.

3. Madden

What It Has To Prove: Madden is probably a perennial name on this list because the expectations for this series are sky high. The NFL is the nation’s most popular sport and Madden is the only title carrying that banner on video game consoles. That’s enough to put Madden on this list most years.

That being said, franchise mode has been stale, and the gameplay needs a jolt of unpredictability and excitement to thrill fans of the game. On top of that, the series needs to show single-player users and online-oriented users that it is serious about both camps. At least, I hope that’s how the folks at Tiburon feel.

Outlook: Madden NFL 20‘s early returns are looking good. The series looks to finally be focusing on the core franchise experiences and redefining aspects of them. There are the usual set of gameplay tweaks that will likely be a mixed bag. Overall, Madden is in good shape but the series needs to prove it can offer something new to longtime fans.


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  1. I think PES is a better playing game than Fifa. But lack of authenticity hurts the entire experience for me. Can't even download files on Xbox. I'm optimistic about Madden this year. They seem to be putting real effort into the Franchise experience and making elite players stand out.
    I also believe NBA Live is a game with a lot to prove. This year 3 since the cancellation year. Last two years, the game has pretty much been sold at a discount from release. The game sales hasn't been that great. With the licensing deal 2k signed early in year, I don't see Live getting a discount on that deal when it is time for them to renew. EA has money, but to pay top dollar for NFL, NHL, Fifa, and NBA licenses, is a lot. There needs to be a big leap this year. I don't think Live makes the jump to the next gen. Especially if there isn't substantial improvement. Unless I'm wrong, they aren't showing it at EA Play. This really does feel like a make or break year for Live for the future of the series.
    One of the smallest dev teams EA has to offer is the one with the most to prove? Doesn't make much sense when you look at the  under-performing "flagships" of Madden and FIFA. As a sim-gamer, I can honestly say Madden hasn't even been playable on this generation of consoles (25 being the exception). The sliders seem to be inconsistent, (ie. working for one controller but not the other when playing offline 2-player) the gameplay is clunky at best, and the overall immersion is non-existent. On top of that, the whole 'CFM" mode has made running offline, 32-team leagues more of a chore than ever before.  
    When it comes to the FIFA/PES debate, I'm still somewhat in the middle. FIFA is a smoother experience for sure,and when I'm looking to play online with friends, Pro Clubs (despite horrible tuning, OP characters, useless goaltending, and just the obvious lack of care/polish that goes into the mode) is my preferred online experience. Despite that though, I still find myself going to PES when I'm looking for a more tactical, realistic, immersive offline experience. As someone who loves customization and creating fictional eLeagues for my offline experiences, PES is the ONLY choice imo. Kit/emblem importing is the best thing to ever happen in the world of customizing sports games.  The gameplay feels a bit slower, but it also feels infinitely more organic than EA's offerings. The ball physics seem independent when compared to EA's ball which always seems to be tethered in some way to the objects/players on the pitch. I think for any offline gamer who wants an immersive, customization experience, there's absolutely no debating that PES gives you the tools to make that happen and EA doesn't. Gameplay-wise, I find EA soccer to look more like hockey than soccer with the amount of sprinting, and reckless committing from defenders that makes one feel as if a hockey team is applying a forecheck. The build-up game is non-existent and scoring is mostly done through high-speed odd-man rushes rather than beautiful passing plays. TL;DR version, FIFA is not far-ahead gameplay-wise from PES unless you enjoy sprinting around all game making ridiculous  passes and shots on a game-to-game basis.
    Lastly, what about NBA Live? I mean, that series can barely get any press because it's actually so far behind it's competition, that nobody even bothers to compare the two. I believe that game has to  prove it's even worth making sometime soon before we can hold NHL (or any other EA sports title for that matter) to the title of "most to prove" don't you think?
    I rarely log-in to comment, but I had to after seeing this. How can you say PES has more to prove than FIFA? FIFA should absolutely be on that list along with Madden and NHL. It has been terrible for years. If not for YouTube-influenced kids buying all the FUT garbage, FIFA would be in real trouble.
    This generation of consoles has been a massive disappointment for sports gaming outside of The Show and 2K (not that they're perfect).

Executive Editor.

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