I like to think that competition brings out the best creativity possible, in any form of entertainment out there. Whether it be writing, film making or video game development, without that extra push of someone trying to step on your toes, take over your turf and do what you are doing but better, people start to get complacent with doing "just enough" instead of breaking ground and pushing out the best.
MLB '13: The Show is the shining example of this in the genre of sports video games. With the Madden series, there simply isn't any other NFL game out there competing with the market share, therefor allowing those developing Madden to not necessarily take the biggest risks or implement drastic changes to the series. The years that the Madden franchise made the biggest, most drastic improvements was when the NFL 2K franchise came out of no where on the Dreamcast and became the best NFL simulation games on the market.
NBA 2K13 is the only game in town for NBA games, thanks to NBA Live going belly up over and over again. But the year in which NBA Live was supposedly supposed to make it's triumphant return to be a thing, the developers of NBA 2K knew they had to step their game up, which led to the biggest thing in basketball games ever: locking down the contract to not only use but completely feature Michael Jordan throughout the game, from the box art to the special Jordan moments mode and everything between. When that game released, the hope and future of NBA Live immediately died on the spot.
With baseball games, it's a different story. There isn't a definitive, stand alone franchise representing the MLB, but instead, two. You have the mulitplatiform franchise of MLB 2K, and then you have the Platstation exclusive IP, MLB: The Show. While the MLB 2K games have thrived off of their namesake (and giving away a million dollars in the Perfect Game sweepstakes each year), The Show franchise is still trying to find their footing in the gaming landscape. Of course, there biggest hurdle is that they are exclusive to the PS3 and Vita consoles, immediately eliminating the owners of non-Sony consoles. They also don't have the classic, everybody-has-some-attachment-to name that their competition benefits from, so trying to establish themselves as the "go-to" baseball game has been tough, it seems.
But it shouldn't be.
This is a phenomenal game. I am brand new to the franchise myself, but I am blow away with what they have done as far as recreating a baseball experience. Baseball is probably, I imagine, the hardest of the sports to nail as far as the little idiosyncrasies that goes along with the game of a million unwritten rules. Honestly though, this is the first baseball game where I genuinely felt not only engaged, but apart of the game. And that's special to me, as a lifelong, diehard baseball fan.
I've been playing this game all week, and every time I play it I have enjoyed it more and more. Every mode, every customizable feature and option, everything has been a blast. Today, I have been playing a lot of the Road to the Show mode, where you create a player and he gets thrown in the minor leagues, and you get to play your way up into the bigs. Not only are you playing the minor league games (which is done is such a smart way with the simulation up to the points where you need to hit or have a play to make in the field), but you build up XP basically, used to train your player and build up better skills. You can also do random training sessions that improve certain skill scales, and there are even challenges for you to try to accomplish to boost you even quicker.
If I play nothing BUT this mode forever, I will still feel completely satisfied with this game. But, there are also the season modes, franchise modes, quick play modes and online modes as well. Overall, I don't know if they could fit more baseball into this game if they tried.
So while they might not be winning the battle of biggest brand name or most popular, if they keep this up, they may eventually win the war. However, to be fair, I do plan on playing MLB 2K13 as well to do a head-to-head comparison and give a final verdict of who has the best baseball game. Either way, however, just be glad you have to fantastic franchises pushing each other to improve and get better.
Dreamcast and NBA Live ... please come back. Soon.
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