A recent post on Kotaku questioned rather there really is any impact of the Xbox 360 losing its one serious baseball game, and I have to answer: I hope so. Baseball is my favorite sport. My great grandmother was an Atlanta Braves fan, my grandfather was an Atlanta Braves fan, my father is an Atlanta Braves fan, and I am an Atlanta Braves fan. Coming from Alabama, there is definitely a bigger push for young people to be football fans, but baseball has always been the sport I’ve been most attached to and for more reasons than just my family’s fandom lineage.
So now that 2K Sports has finally let go of their exclusive hold on the MLB videogame license, it has been tough to stifle my body from going into an hours-long, euphoria-induced, celebratory dance marathon. As a baseball-loving gamer, I have too long suffered their utter disdain for the sport by putting out year after year, a weaker and weaker version of the game I love.
Of course, as Owen Good over at Kotaku accurately points out, no MLB 2K game means no MLB game for the Xbox 360 ever again. Given its critical acclaim and success, MLB The Show will be the only serious baseball sim left, one that is strictly exclusive to Playstation consoles. However, I am more worried about how this will hold back baseball videogames as a whole.
Baseball videogames have been around forever. I can fondly remember playing RBI Baseball on my Nintendo every day after school. I held it in the same regard I held Mario and Dragon Warrior. For my birthday in 1999, my parents and I went shopping for my present. They bought me two games that day and gave me the option of opening one of them when I got home, but I’d have to wait on the other one until my birthday party. Which game did I choose? Triple Play 2000 of course! More telling, however, is the game I decided to wait on: Final Fantasy Tactics, my now favorite JRPG ever.
For the longest time, I thought this sort of lineage was normal. I figured every game loved baseball games as much as they loved system and era defining classics or ‘nerdier’ titles like Final Fantasy and Baldur’s Gate. It was only later in life that sports games aren’t really true games and the wall of separation between appreciating the latest MVP or Madden sports and appreciating the latest Everquest expansion dawned on me as actual, natural rules of being a gamer.
Yet, I don’t understand the disconnect. You can argue that there just isn’t the overlap in the two fanbases, but I have to ask: why? Sports are just as much games as video games themselves are. Like any RPG, baseball has classes and stats. Hell, it’s even turn-based. Yet because baseball predates videogames or because its something your dad might be into or just because its so construed with being a physical activity, self-defined true gamers look at its gaming cousins with an altogether different pair of eyes than the ones that often affix longingly on the next great Final Fantasy.
Even with less than simulation baseball games like the ever amazing Baseball Superstar series on Android and iOS, I have to wonder if non-baseball fans are picking them up. They should be. Rarely do you find as perfect a battle system as the one that takes place between pitcher and batter, especially in games like Baseball Superstar. And that’s before you touch on the character progression of leveling up your various stats to become an all-time hero on the field. Baseball may be a sport but it is also a RPG.
Which is why I hope that EA Sports jumps back on the MLB license and gives a true successor to MVP 2005. It’s why I hope that baseball as a yearly gaming staple survives on all consoles forever. I am a baseball fan and a gamer. I still feel like those aren’t mutually exclusive categories. It’s also why I hope more gamers can fall in love with my favorite sport and whatever video games might come to represent it.