It was recently asked by Kotaku whether anyone will care that there will be no more baseball on the Xbox 360. The answer of course is yes, there are some who will care, but it certainly will not be a significant or influential contingent left abandoned.
The MLB 2K series has been cancelled, as learned back in May, and to no one’s surprise. Take Two (parent company of 2K Sports) had long expressed their disgust with the third party exclusive deal the management had inherited from those in their seats prior. Losing over $30 million every year of the deal will do that but even still Take Two has long been in the process of shifting to almost solely owned IP rather than licensed properties. Only NBA 2K remains and that is because it has become a juggernaut while the competition has vanished.
Though MLB 2K held a quasi-exclusive on the Xbox 360 sales never came close to justifying the costs incurred even despite having the advantage of the largest user base to tap into. The series struggled immediately with MLB 2K6 as the console launched – games froze after the third inning requiring an eventual patch just to complete them – and it was never able to recover even though 2K Sports made real attempts to do so. They brought in Ben Brinkman (formerly of MVP Baseball) to lead – he only lasted two years – and the right stick pitching mechanics were innovative. MLB 2K9 should never have been released and represents the low point that really buried the series for good. Though some creative ideas came out of MLB 2K they were never able to produce a viable alternative product to MLB: The Show over on the PlayStation 3.
At this point though with the generation winding down there is no reason to think the lack of baseball on the 360 will affect The Show. MLB 2K was never any sort of competition. It has been 5+ years since it became widely recognized that the legitimate MLB product could only be found on the PS3. It was at that time that consumers who cared passionately about baseball were buying the console with it largely in mind. As the next Xbox and PS4 are just around the corner that prospect is far less appealing and those who have gone this long without it probably will continue to do so. Though sales have slipped the last two years MLB: The Show is firmly entrenched and has become arguably the most predictable and certainly the most steady sports franchise on the market. MLB 2K barely registered a blip on the PS3 radar in sales and there just won’t be many flipping systems this late for a single game.
Microsoft had an opportunity earlier this generation to jump in with their own MLB product. They, along with Sony and Nintendo, were the only companies that could produce them given their first party status. Microsoft would be wise to be planning ahead and have something ready for the next Xbox whether that be the knowledge that a third party will be delivering a product on their platform or developing their own in-house. Baseball has never been a huge seller but it has proved to be a somewhat influential one. 2K Sports dropping the series also means the end to MLB on the PC for the foreseeable future.
What is your plan for baseball in 2013? Do you have a PS3 and nothing changes, or does the loss of MLB 2K have some impact? Vote in the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments!