#8 of 2012: NHL 13

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Posted December 19th, 2012 at 10:00 am

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At one point Madden NFL 12 faced the prospect of releasing while the league was in the midst of an ongoing lockout. Later NBA 2K12 actually did have to deal with the league being locked out for the first two months it would be on the market. The conflict with the NHL though has dragged on even farther with the possibility that no season at all will come about.

That certainly has affected NHL 13 and not just in sales (which was up initially and has dropped off since) but in consumer perception. Fans of the NHL are left without the daily news of the season to drive interest while those who otherwise might not care either way have even less reason to pick up the game that represents the league. NHL 13 offered some significant technological advancements but ultimately did not have the reach to draw in anyone but the ultra hardcore crowd. 

The ranking of games in the best of 2012 list is based on number of factors including the personal amount of enjoyment had with a particular title, whether advertised features were fully delivered, post-release support, community interaction and communication, overall gameplay experience, feature set, and online play performance. Again this is largely a personal take and one with the advantage of tracking the games beyond just the release frame and does not act as some sort of recap of those with the highest scores on Metacritic. The analysis is weighted heavily towards those high in fun factor while considering them as a whole and compared relatively to the field.

The NHL series has become arguably the least accessible major sports franchise. Joystiq touched on the topic and it holds true for many. Ever since NHL 09 when EA Sports Hockey League was introduced (finishing as the runner-up  in 2008) the appeal for those who are not intensely knowledgeable or experienced with the series has significantly dwindled. At the same time series such as FIFA and NBA 2K have been able to grow while reaching new demographics that previously would not have had interest. It’s a serious concern for the NHL franchise that will have to be addressed by EA going forward.

The big new feature expansion for NHL 13 came with GM Connected mode which offered the opportunity to involve as many as 750 users in a single league. The breakdown would have a commissioner, single GM for each team, and then “players” who could get involved in an Online Team Play environment. It was an idea that was made to sound spectacular but logistically turned out to be a nightmare as it proved to be difficult to manage and sustain. The number of people who would be able to take full advantage of the feature was limited. It didn’t help that navigation within GM Connected was so frustratingly sluggish that it turned many away from playing almost immediately.

Other improvements came with the new skating engine (incorporating physics) and improved AI. The recognition of the benefits of those two areas was appreciated but, again, generally only by those who have consistently played the series and could identify the differences when compared to year’s past. Be a Pro and EA Sports Hockey League got a number of understated improvements as well.

Ultimately it is hard to overcome the effect of the lockout. EA made one attempt to provide some fresh content outside the scope of the league with a huge roster update to European teams. Regardless with no NHL on a daily basis interest in the game was going to dissipate quickly.

The NHL series has been very steady late this generation and has continued to offer innovations along with more than sufficient content. This isn’t NCAA Football where effort has been lacking. However its inaccessible nature, and limited appeal, has become more apparent at the same time. The lockout has only further exposed that the series has hit a wall of sorts. It’ll need to do something big next year in order to recover from the damage done by the league’s absence and capture back consumers that may have been lost in the process.

Year in Review
Much more to come throughout the month!
•#8 of 2012: NHL 13
•#9 of 2012: NCAA Football 13
•#10 of 2012: NFL Blitz
•Vote for the 2012 Community Choice Awards
•Revisiting the Top Stories of 2012: Disingenuous Marketing and Unfulfilled Features
•Revisiting the Top Stories of 2012: The Disastrous Road Towards NBA Live 13

  • http://twitter.com/PezDOY PezDOY

    I hated this game.

  • Keith.

    First

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.query.3 Mike Query

    I feel like the game just being poor compared to past years had more effect than the lockout did.

  • HuckCity

    This game provides much more frustration than enjoyment for me. I feel that the magic poke check and “suction” really make this game unplayable.

  • Keith.

    I love the new TV broadcast camera view, but haven’t taken NBA2k13 out of my PS3 to play this game in weeks. Without a real season going on, there’s just not enough to make me want to fire it up.

  • Arrowe76

    I don’t understand the “inacessible” criticism. Football is such a complicated sport, it’s impossible for anyone to enjoy any football game without a better-than-basic understanding of the strategy. And even though I have yet to play NBA 2k13, I have played 2k12 and it wasn’t necessarily easy, with my good-but-limited knowledge of the sport.

    My point is, one might be able to understand soccer or baseball by playing a video game because the pace of both sports is slow but hockey, like football and basketball, need that learning curve by design. You can’t single out the NHL series because (I presume) you don’t watch hockey as often as football.

    • mcmax3000

      I’ve always found hockey games to be much more accessible for non-fans/casual fans than Football, and Basketball.

      There are definitely strategies that you need to learn to play hockey games well, but the basics (pass & shoot on offense, check on defense) are easy enough to understand that most people are able to at least get into it on a simplistic level.

      Whether people like the game, or not, I do feel like Madden the past couple of years has done a better job than normal at being accessible, with the automatic play calling, and drawing out the plays for you on the field before the snap, which allows someone who knows next to nothing about football to have a better idea of what’s going on.

      NBA 2K I still feel is the least accessible of all major team sports games (though I know baseball well enough & have played the series long enough that I can’t really properly judge MLB: The Show… That one seems like it might be pretty daunting for someone with limited experience/baseball knowledge).

  • http://www.facebook.com/vchadl Chad Lovett

    “750 users in a single league”…it’s almost impossible to play and complete a league or season with 6 or more users in any sports game…I appreciate the grand scale of their thinking but they need to fix the foundation before building on more floors. They need to make the menus more accessible, easier to navigate, allow players to play seasons online with as few as two players and allow those players to control the other teams opposing team…in other words, allow us to run and manage a season/franchise online in the exact same manner that you can offline, no exceptions. It really is that easy….sometimes simpler is better, well most of the time it is.

  • 49ersfan1

    in the real world, this would be #3.
    NHL 13 has done a great job with this game, even tho theres a lockout.

  • Fact

    NHL 13 is the worst in many years … Probably wont get 14 cuz of it

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