Bats & Bytes: It’s Time to Bring MLB 2K to the Xbox One
I am issuing a call to arms to Microsoft: It’s time to bring real baseball gaming to the Xbox One.
Not an indie title. Not big-headed cartoon baseball.
And for the love of everything holier than Daniel Murphy’s social politics, NOTHING with “RBI” in the title.
We want an authentic simulation of the game we love, complete with realistic visuals, actual MLB teams, and nary a whiff of “arcade” controls.
Since we know you’ll never actually make the title yourselves, unlike your competition, we have some good news. An acceptable alternative already exists.
Microsoft, let’s make the MLB 2K series available to loyal Xbox One owners via backwards compatibility.
A little back story…
For those of you who don’t know, while Playstation loyalists have enjoyed the pixel-perfect majesty of The Show, the folks behind Windows never saw a need to compete. They had the rights to produce their own in-house sports dynasty. They just didn’t have the desire.
Because of some legal malarkey I’d rather not get into here, over time MLB became very particular about which companies could utilize its properties, leaving gamers with little choice when it came to baseball video games.
Whereas it was once commonplace to see 4-6 unique titles competing for our dollars each year, in turn creating a golden age of baseball games, today’s exclusivity agreements have trimmed that total to one (zero if you played RBI).
Even EA – a company synonymous with sports gaming – wasn’t allowed to make an MLB title after losing the license in 2005. In fact, no third-party game developer could even sniff the license because 2K Sports secured exclusivity with MLB and the MLBPA, setting a precedent that has forever ruined sports video games.
2K Sports held this third-party exclusivity for years, but rarely did much to justify it. Sure, it churned out annual updates, but fans were met with rapidly diminishing returns. By the time the company’s swansong, MLB 2K13, hit the shelves, it was already expected to be a festering, steaming pile of a cash grab, with no significant improvements, and several key omissions.
And those predictions were correct. Yet four years later, it remains the last baseball simulation to grace any Xbox console, and even its biggest detractors would welcome it back at this point.
Present company very much included.
Days of future past…
Game consoles are expensive, and most enthusiasts can only afford to have one. As such, customers who opted for an Xbox One are now faced with three baseball gaming options:
- Sell a kidney and get a PS4, The Show and an extra controller
- Drink heavily and pretend RBI Baseball is a good game
But it doesn’t have to be this dire, Microsoft. Here’s our plea:
We know you have lawyers – good ones, even. We know you can buy your way into and out of any situation. And we know you’re well aware of your current second-place status in today’s two-horse race for video game supremacy.
You also recently implemented backwards compatibility on the Xbox One, making it theoretically possible for 2K’s games to be played on the machine. We know it might cost a few ducats to get 2K on board. It might cost even more to get MLB to loosen its vise-like grip on the licensing.
But the last time I checked, MLB was perfectly happy to take money from people, so work that angle, if and when you get your sit down.
There was a time not that long ago when Xbox consoles were a hotbed of sports gaming. The 360 was a destination for all sports lovers, and had better-playing versions of almost every EA title during the system’s reign.
Wouldn’t it be worth the expense just to reconnect with those lost fans? Maybe playing a four-year-old, last-generation sports title isn’t ideal. But then again, neither is watching droves of sports gamers abandon the Xbox One, in favor of shiny, new, baseball-friendly PS4s.
MLB 2K13, while hardly a stellar game, IS the most recent title in the series, and would require the least amount of work to become presentable. Activate a few servers, slap on some downloadable content, and throw a little light social media promotion in the game’s direction.
Before long, you’d have throngs of baseball-hungry customers dropping serious coin on a game they had long since forgotten.
Not a bad tradeoff for practically no effort, eh?
One more thing…
Playing a dated baseball game isn’t fun on its own – we don’t need to wax nostalgic about rosters from a half-decade ago. And manually updating them wouldn’t be fun, either.
So, here’s another bone to throw to your waning audience. Pay 2K to assemble a team dedicated to creating relevant roster updates for the next few years. The team doesn’t have to be significant, just functional.
- A few people handling rookies and minor leaguers
- Another few updating the title’s existing names
- One lone guy to handle stadiums, sponsorships, managers and other minutiae
Easy peasy, bunty squeezy.
To make it easier, if possible, just hire back the guys who made the game. We won’t be as picky about their efforts this time. As long as we have updated names, stats and a consistent look and feel, we’ll be too busy to notice old uniforms, or how 2K made Mike Trout resemble Chaz Bono.
Every month, shoot out another update along with some kind of bonus and you’ll see the kind of engaged player community 2K wished for back in the day.
Let me just say I’m aware this likely won’t happen. I fully expect to hear from Twitter rock stars about “Licensure this,” and “Legalese that” … we get it. But Microsoft is a company that was more or less founded on a loophole, so let’s encourage them to put those hefty retainers to good use.
Microsoft, if you truly have no interest in developing a new IP for baseball gamers, at least let us squint our eyes and pretend the 2K titles are better games than they actually are.
Spend a few bucks, get the necessary rights, and placate an increasingly frustrated fanbase with a title it didn’t even realize it needed. Flip the switch and add MLB 2K13 to your growing backwards compatibility list.
This would not only be a win for baseball gamers, but will also serve as a strong, profitable reminder about the value of appeasing all fans, old and new alike.