As we continue to move quickly into another sports game release season, things are beginning to heat up for sports game developers looking to ship next year’s products to all of us.
Before we get too mired into the nitty gritty details of each game and lose the ability to have a more high level discussion about the genre as a whole, we are taking a few minutes to pause and reflect on which games we think have the most to prove during this upcoming release cycle.
Despite the fact that NBA Live is making its return, I’m going to actually say NBA 2K18. NBA 2K hasn’t had any REAL competition in some years now, and they’ve really upped the bar in terms of what a complete sports game should be. As not only a fan but a heavily critical person when I pop in my games each year, I like to see and almost expect a complete product from top to bottom; presentation, gameplay, control(s), rosters, respective updates and a proper sim experience are just a few things that I want to see in a successful game. Again, NBA 2K has arguably done that the best out of all AAA titles for the last three to five years.
“NBA 2K has arguably done that the best out of all AAA titles for the last three to five years.”
This year though, EA Sports and the NBA Live team are really trying to put a lid on the pipe that releases the steam that the 2K machine releases. Some would say I’m crazy, but despite the issues that plague NBA Live 16, I actually enjoyed playing it when I’d throw it on from time to time. Looking at NBA Live 18 and what we’ve been shown at face value, if the team over at EA can nail down a strong Live 18 release, the 2K Sports team might have to look at their product and figure out how they can separate themselves — again — from the game that helped build EA Sports’ dynasty and refuses to die.
On a shorter-winded level, but in a somewhat similar situation, I would say FIFA 18 would be a close second. PES 2018 looks phenomenal and the guys at Konami have always brought a level of on-field authenticity to the PES series that the FIFA series sometimes struggles to find. If licensing rights were shared and PES had all the licensing FIFA had, I think there would be some extremely strong and aggressive opinions and battles that would be playing out during the last 12 months.
I would go with MLB The Show. While I appreciate The Show and all it does right, the legacy issues are starting to take their toll even on the loyal.
While other games struggle with the same legacy issues, it’s a larger issue for The Show because it’s the only game in town. And while baseball is my favorite sport, I’m not blind to the fact that the NFL, FIFA and NBA games also have more flexibility to make mistakes because their fan bases are global, and their sales probably reflect that.
The problem would be even more compounded if there was actual competition within the baseball genre, but at least for right now there is not.
“…the NFL, FIFA and NBA games also have more flexibility to make mistakes because their fan bases are global”
Again, I absolutely love the authenticity of MLB The Show, but it is possible to love a title, and still recognize that its development team has the most to prove.
There are a few games I’d consider for the top slot here, but I’ll go with NBA Live. Full disclosure: I do not play NBA Live, but used to back in the ’90s. I’m surprised NBA Live is still being made, but also surprised that this seems to be the year a lot of folks are taking notice. Is it finally going to pay off? NBA 2K is a strong effort every single year — the measuring stick for all sports gaming — and 2K is a company to me who gets how to make a sports game not just for online, but also work great in a franchise mode setting offline.
I think a lot of folks may say “Madden” for this question, but without any competition, I don’t think there is much of an argument to prove anything. We’re either buying it or not if we want a NFL game.
The other game I was considering for the top spot was MLB The Show. While there is also no competition for a AAA baseball title anywhere to be seen, I do think this is the game that could be the first to end up as an afterthought one day if they don’t proceed with care. People love the game, but when you really break down the game of baseball at an analytical level, the game is setup more for competitive, online play.
“…but without any competition, I don’t think there is much of an argument to prove anything.”
I’d be curious to see whether Microsoft (with licensing) or another independent game comes along and, for just a few examples, teams up with Out of the Park Baseball or produces a fully customizable game with sharing capability for the community to have their way creating everything from jerseys and rosters to stadiums. Is this all a pipe dream and incredibly unlikely, most definitely. But MLB The Show is the most vulnerable of the games with “no competition” right now. If Microsoft, 2K, EA, etc. somehow were to get involved, we could see a shift in not just which baseball game we play the most, but even in which gaming console people prefer down the line.