After previously examining the trends of pro football video games of the last five years, it's now time to look at how baseball games have fared within the same time period. Could they live up to the hype they themselves created following their golden years in the mid-2000s or did it all just fall apart. Find out after the jump.
After the Triple Play series completely fell apart circa 2002, EA decided to completely revamp its baseball game and came up with the most highly regarded baseball series of all time, MVP Baseball. We've examined it in the past and it may be the greatest sports video game series of all time (with competition from mid-2000s Madden and the current NHL series). But everything fell apart once Madden secured the exclusive NFL license…
After EA and the NFL had effectively murdered their highly regarded NFL2K series in cold blood, Take Two and 2K thought they had to fire back and damage one of EA's most highly regarded properties, MVP Baseball. They paid an enormous amount for exclusive third party control only, which would eventually come back to haunt them. But they had taken EA out of the game save for the mediocre MVP college games for Xbox/PS2 but MVP was never taken to this current generation of systems in any format.
Sony's The Show was just in its infancy at this time, still regarded as mediocre especially when nobody would give a chance to any Sony sports game after Gameday, Gamebreaker and all the other Sony sports games had fallen apart, eventually leading to the demise of 989 Sports. But they quietly trudged on and kept slightly improving every year. They finally had their opening with EA out and no obvious champion already there. When ESPN NFL had gone under, Madden was already the behemoth but in baseball's case, the giant had been killed by David. Sony thought they had their shot.
2K put out a mediocre offering in 2006 but it really wasn't all that different from what they had done pre-exclusivity. But once they hired MVP's producer Ben Brinkman away, everything finally was looking up. Sony still wasn't on the radar at this point and 2K could improve at their own pace. Finally, after a couple year hiatus, we'd finally have a good next gen baseball game. Well it wasn't coming from where we expected.
Sony's The Show revamped its franchise mode and by the 2006 game came out, people were really impressed. It had most of the features of the heralded owner mode in MVP Baseball while also adding things like player morale and such. While the original iteration of the mode didn't allow you to actually play the games, this was fixed by 2007 and it finally looked like 2K had some competition.
That year, 2K threw in a bunch of new features like signature style and a new way of fielding, but the overall game experience wasn't really improved that much. It was still regarded as a nice game, getting a 7.9 rating from IGN. But people were really excited for what Brinkman could do the next year since years two and three of MVP were fantastic. Well, we were sadly mistaken.
MLB 2K8 was an unmitigated disaster. Naturally featuring a Met on the cover, Jose Reyes, the game was universally panned. The analog pitching system took literally months to get used to while the swing stick was just a cheap imitation of MVP's right analog swinging. The other new features, minor league teams, was also just something that MVP had as well. They just essentially made a horrid ripoff. Brinkman even told numerous publications that this was supposed to be the middle version of the three year plan they did for MVP. Well MVP 2004 is a classic. MLB 2K8 not so much. While there were a couple magazines that did in fact enjoy the game, like Game Informer, the community hated it and still wished they had MVP back.
Enter The Show. After 2K failed again, they finally had their shot. They had a full blown owner mode at this point as well as a more MVP style pitching mechanic. Their hitting just involved hitting buttons, no gimmick swing sticks. Everything was simple, just like baseball should be. Gimmicks just weren't thrown into the game as 2K had done and just forgotten about. The Show tried to just add in little things and then just gradually improve them. Look at the Road to the Show mode for example. It's the first "Be a Pro" mode that was available fully and they really haven't made any drastic changes lately. After adding in things like the minor leagues, they just finely tuned everything until it was pitch perfect. And that method is really what's set the two companies apart.
Things really haven't changed that much since then. The Power Pros series has finally come to America but only for Nintendo systems and PS2. The Show's just moving farther away from the Brinkman-less 2K series. While there were some minor glitches in The Show 09, the game's back and better than ever this year, while 2K's losing gobs of money on its baseball license.
The end of the license is coming up in a couple years and EA's looking to pounce. Whether they actually will be interested in time is unknown, but us MVP fans can only hope. MVP continues to have a life through mods and other resources, but at least we've got The Show now, and for us PS3 owners, that's more than enough. Xbox 360 owners: you'll just have to wait.
We'll have more Madden news soon and a review by the beginning of next week, so stay tuned to pnosker.com for your tech news and reviews.