Assessing the Fallout from MLB 2K13

Posted March 14th, 2013 at 4:15 pm


MLB 2K13’s release last week turned out to be an embarrassing attempt at swindling consumers into paying $60 for a year old product. No yearly licensed sports title has ever unabashedly embodied being “just a roster update” and in doing so justified the cliched criticism often directed by the uninformed at the genre. The game is actually worse than that though as it contains even less content than last year with the sneaking out of online leagues and it isn’t be expected to receive much if any post-release support.

Having already discussed how the MLB situation portends the problem the NFL now faces, what does it all mean for the future of baseball gaming? 

MLB clearly demonstrated this year that they have no concern over product quality – only that they require a game in their name available on the largest selling console. Expectation then should be that the league will again make sure there is a licensed game out next spring on the 360 as well as the next-generation Xbox. The question then becomes what company will produce the series and will it even be worth considering given the inherent complications that will be faced no matter who takes the project on.

2K Sports has now released three devastatingly poor simulation products since taking on the exclusive third party MLB license. That doesn’t even count the offshoots they attempted that failed miserably like MLB Front Office Manager. The BIGS was the shining effort from the company but that, and its sequel, failed to gain traction in the marketplace as support for full priced arcade titles dwindled over the years. Taking those out of the picture though the league really only cared about how it was being represented with the flagship offering.

Following MLB 2K6 which launched on the Xbox 360 with a crippling freeze bug that prevented games from progressing past the third inning, MLB threatened to strip the license from 2K. They relented because of the money they would be losing if they pulled out of the deal which was exorbitant compared to its actual worth. Following the disastrous MLB 2K9 the league again threatened to withdraw from the agreement. They relented for the same reason they had earlier.

MLB 2K6 had a score of 66 on Metacritic while 2K9 came in with 64. So now how will the league feel with 2K13 which currently sits at 48? The contract with 2K was made only for this single year so they are free to go elsewhere. One has to figure that MLB wasn’t so shortsighted to not have a plan going forward or already someone in place to take over as the transition to the next generation of consoles arrives. After what was seen with the events surrounding 2K13 though maybe it would be a mistake to make such an assumption.

EA Sports recently referred to new franchises being in the works and though they later attempted to distance themselves from the implications of admitting to that the return of MVP would make a lot of sense given the timing. They could have secured a license last summer or thereabouts to produce MLB games beginning in 2014 and beyond with the belief they’d have enough time to develop them – though realistically that probably couldn’t happen. MLB still would have needed 2K to fill the gap this year regardless.

What if 2K Sports is the only company that would be prepared to release an MLB game on Microsoft consoles next spring? Would the league do what they did in this instance and disregard how poorly they are being represented simply to have something out on store shelves? Or would they recognize the damage that they are doing to future sales as their brand degrades?

There is no doubt that MLB deserves blame alongside 2K Sports for how MLB 2K13 turned out. It matters not who is at fault from a consumer perspective however. The bottom line is both sides have damaged their brands through the venture. If one side doesn’t want out for good the other still may.

  • Tyler Lyon

    I feel like people forget that MLB 2k8 was a decent game of baseball. I don’t know how it holds up today and it was a year before the pitch stick was introduced. At one point it looked like 2k actually cared about the series (or were forced to because of 2k7’s bugs). Its a shame to see the series go on such a downward spiral, particularly as an Xbox owner.

    • Yeah, I mean they did innovate in that 2K7/2K8 period when Ben Brinkman was in charge. It was still deeply troubled, but there were elements that worked. 2K9 though brought it all crumbling down.

    • sdwinder

      2K7 was a solid game on the 360 in its day. 2k8 was the abortion due to the brutal analog pitch stick with all the meatballs.

      • cubs223425

        You must have been really bad at the game or something. I like the initial pitch stick offering, myself. I’ve never had a complaint about the controls of the MLB 2K products since they went to the gesture controls. Instead, it’s always an issue of what they lack or what they took away that pisses me off. That list includes (but isn’t limited to):

        –Baseburner Mode (thought it was awesome)
        –Cards (they should have evolved it into a Madden Ultimate Team-style system, or kept the FIRST offering, before they took away the salary cap)
        –Online Leagues (I think they just took them out to save money on the necessary servers myself)
        –General Polish (like another review said, how can you have commentary about John Axford’s facial hair, then have him without ANY facial hair in 2K12 AND 2K13?!)
        The core gameplay is really nice, and I personally think that it’s the best, most realistic control scheme in a game from the3 3 major American sports (baseball, basketball, and football). They just didn’t care to put in the necessary work to refine the game each season. I think part of that was trying to play catch-up (remember that VC hasn’t even been working on baseball games for very long), and the fact that 2K simply wouldn’t allow a franchise bleeding cash (allegedly $30-40 million/year) to get the level of detail and care necessary to fix issues.
        It’s hard to say how much is of the issue is the greed of 2K (which, it’s hard to blame them for not throwing money at a franchise losing THAT much money), as compared to the laziness of the team working on the games.

    • Mike

      I feel like 2K Sports forgot about MLB 2K7 and MLB 2K8.

  • irrsh

    Id rather have no game then one where they are just trying to rip people off of their money.

    • SJ13_BILLS

      How do you feel about EA games then?

      • bbbt

        The vast majority are good games. And they give you the information to decide if you think its something you want to buy or not instead of hiding them and taking out features secretly.

    • cubs223425

      Yeah, I was 100% set to get the $80 combo pack on release day, despite the fact that they upped the price from 2012’s $70, AND the fact that I’m not done with MLB 2K12. Now, what 2K has done is completely turned me off from buying their games. I was intent on that $80 purchase of both games, and I would likely get NBA 2K!4 this year as well. I’d consider BioShock Infinite, too. I’m now irritated too badly to consider a single purchase from them, meaning they’ve probably lost about $200-$250 of my money in 2013, and probably more long-term.

      I mean, to compare: I haven’t bought a game from EA since 2008 (the last would have been Rock Band 2). Initially, there just wasn’t anything I wanted. However, ever since the implementation of the Online Pass in 2010, I’ve refused to buy their games out of spite. I know that’s not even a drop in their financial bucket, but I try to be principled when I can, and that’s what I’ve done. They’ve definitely lost SEVERAL hundred dollars in business from me. In fact, just for the sake of my personal curiosity, I’m going to throw out some titles from EA I would have purchased over the years, had they not pissed me off (I know people don’t care, but I like seeing it for myself):

      –Rock Band 3 ($60)
      –Battlefield 3 ($60)
      –Need For Speed ($180; I would have likely gotten at least 3 of their games over the past 4+ years)
      –Dead Space 1-3 ($180)
      –Crysis 1-3 ($180; I actually considered grabbing the first one the other day again, then saw the EA tag and left it on the shelf)
      –Madden 09-13 ($300)

      So we’re talking around $1,000 EA has lost from me because of their garbage. I’m not even close to letting go of my frustration with them now, either. That’ll mean another $60 lost from Madden 14, plus whatever else they ALMSOT convince me to get.
      Point being, you’re right. 2K would have been better-off NOT releasing a game this year, in my mind. I wasn’t expecting a baseball game from them this year. I actually liked 2K12. I would have finished up my playing of NBA 2K11 and 2K12 (I’m REALLY slow about finishing achievements on sports games), then I would have gotten NBA 2K13 at some point (probably around now, since it’s down to $40). I would have been looking into BioShock Infinite at some point. Instead, their total failure with MLB 2K13 has convinced me to not buy from them for AT LEAST the rest of 2013. We’ll see if I change my mind at some other point–I’ll probably cave and get NBA 2K14 in 2014, when it’s down to $40 or something.
      Silly as it is to say, I wish people were as principled as I am with this stuff. I feel like gaming would be a LOT better if people spoke with their wallets, not with blogs.

  • Please please please EA I want a baseball game on par with The Show!!

  • Sad thing is, they could have farmed out 2K13 “development” to somebody on the OS forums and they could have done at least as good a job…

    • Turkeybird86

      Why do people think OS forums are the place where sports game developers are? EA keeps hiring those ass hats, and Madden gets shittier and shittier.

  • kdye

    The most shocking thing to me about this situation is that 2K Sports would ruin their reputation with such a shoddy project. This is the same company that puts effort in an excellent NBA franchise only to totally screw their customers with an equally horrible baseball product. It really does not effect me because I have a PS3 and I buy the excellent MLB The Show, but 2K puts forth no effort in completing with SONY with the baseball game. It’s a dire situation for Xbox folks.

  • Years ago I pleaded for MS to make their own game. As a first party, like Sony, they could utilize the license. They missed the opportunity and had people move systems just for baseball. Maybe its not a huge number of people in the long run, but they should have considered that PlayStations became the home for baseball not just now but probably for next gen too.

    • cubs223425

      Remember: Microsoft did a WHOLE LINE of sports games on the first Xbox. Of them all, their baseball game (Inside Pitch) was the shortest-lived. It was only around for one season, 2003. I never played it, so I have no idea of its quality. However, I really liked NBA Inside Drive (their basketball games) and NFL Fever (their football games) quite a bit.

      I’m not sure how widely-liked those games were at the time. However, you can see that Metacritic had solid 70+ ratings for each of the 3 Inside Drive and Fever games. Inside Pitch, though, was given just a 58, meaning it likely paled in comparison to the other games Microsoft’s sports crew released.

      I’d love for Microsoft to step in over this, but I don’t see it as reasonable anymore. They tried and failed in that realm already, so you’d probably need a situation where 2K refused the license, EA did the same, no smaller crew would pick it up, like how Activision somehow ended up with the NASCAR franchise (they’re not smaller, but they’re not known for sports games), and the MLB basically had to BEG Microsoft to make a game.
      If it actually got to a point where Microsoft was making a baseball game, I think it would speak to a horrid market for the games. 2K publicly said they lost tens of millions on the games (likely resulting in this fiasco). EA had a chance for 2013, but passed. The likely result of a Microsoft game would be even worse than what we got with 2K13, because they’d start from scratch with a cobbled-together developing crew, likely a ghetto physics engine, and we’d all be pissed at Microsoft for it.
      The only MAYBE I could see here is if VC’s baseball crew was sucked up by Microsoft, then they were given all of what 2K’s got from the baseball division (namely, the game/physics engine, so they had something to build off of). We’d have to then see Microsoft be willing to put the money into the game, which MIGHT be a bit tough when they’re trying to get Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 (plus the Surface devices) out there with big-time marketing. They might just not care to pump the necessary $50-100 million (not sure the cost of these games from 2K, but they claimed to LOSE $30-40 million) into a lottery ticket franchise like that.

  • msc123123

    If EA put up this sort of performance in Madden you would be bashing them to no end shouting for a NFL2k game. Why is it bad that Pirate is calling for another company to improve on a horrible showing.

    • SJ13_BILLS

      They pretty much do. NHL has even become a rehash.

  • Denny

    Dude stop with the made up vgchartz numbers. Ive got the game on 360 and there has never been more then 5500 people online even in the first few days it was out. Thats pathetic. Sales are NOT good. Amazon doesnt even sell the 360 version themselves anymore and the PS3 version was $50 after a couple days being out. No one talks about it on any Twitter or forums. Its DEAD. 2K will cancel it if they havent already.

    • smsixx

      As of March 9th (5 days after release)…

      MLB 2k sold 81,000 units across both Xbox and playstation

      MLB The Show sold 126,400 units.
      Hes not making the numbers up…and as he stated thats a “respectable” number. I played 2k for years and never played online (im more of a offline franchise user).

      • Denny

        Point is vgcharts are fake, made up numbers. Cant base arguments on that.

        • Keith.

          Any more “fake” than NPD, which doesn’t include digital sales? You’d be surprised at the number of industry analysts who regularly refer to vgchartz in their investment articles — I know I always am.

          • Distorted

            I’m ready to be surprised.

  • MoneyMayweather

    the game is fine.It’s fun.

  • Mad Habber

    These licenses are third party only right? Meaning if Sony/Microsoft wanted to make games for the NFL, MLB they could. Heck I remember when Sony did make games for every league out there. Microsoft when it first came out had more sports titles than it currently does now. If there is ever going to be a choice again, those guys are going to have to get back into the game.

  • SJ13_BILLS

    Get off it Pasta. I would love to see you go after NCAA or Madden because of this type of stunt. Madden takes a feature out and 2 years later it’s hailed is “innovation” to bring it back. If you and other sites actually took it to other companies like you are to 2K over Baseball, then they might actually wake up a little.

    • Mike

      Can you put all your emotional crap into one post ?

    • I would go after NCAA or Madden if they pulled this. Thankfully they never have.

      Can’t deny I’ve been hugely critical of NCAA the past few years – but that’s for different reasons.

      • Keith.

        Except you didn’t go after EA for putting the exact same FIFA game in Wii and Vita boxes 2 years in a row. IGN slammed them for it, Kotaku slammed them for it, OS slammed them for it….here, not even a mention.

      • SJ13_BILLS

        Maddens new engine pretty much gave us Three Stooges moments, and overall was not a great representation of the NFL compared to what The Show is for baseball and 2k for basketball. I haven’t seen any of you go after Tiburon like they deserve. I look up to these blogs as a voice for the consumer and nothing seems to ever change.

  • SJ13_BILLS

    For the record I am not trying to attack you because I do appreciate your site and blog, I just don’t get how you have been on a tirade over this game for awhile now when we have been truly ripped off season after season by EA. Even NHL is a rehash and deserves some jeers thrown at it. I would like to see you pick on the lazy effort that is Madden as well. If you are gonna bash one, then you have to bash the rest that have fallen short of expectations. NBA2K13 is the only sports game next to The Show that I will play.

    • Mike

      Actually, he can “bash” whatever he wants. You don’t decide what he does with his blog.

    • Sorry, there is no comparing MLB 2K to Madden/NHL/FIFA or even NCAA. Those games make efforts regardless of whether someone likes them or not.

  • Wes

    I don’t think it’s fair to fully fault 2k Sports. I’m sure they planned that last year’s edition was going to be the last one. However, MLB came to them late in the game. No one was going to release a baseball game on the XBOX. MLB panicked, threw money at 2k, and 2k had no time to do anything except release a roster update.

    I do think that they should have dropped the price from $60, though. One of the reasons why the 2k sports series took off 10 years ago was its price point….. Offering a baseball game for $29.99 would’ve been nice.

    Oh well. I got a PS3 a few years ago so I could play the Show. Haven’t regretted that decision.

    • I said in the piece that MLB shares in the blame. But from the perspective of consumers it doesn’t matter who’s fault it is. Just that they got screwed with a bad product or had to avoid baseball on the 360.

      Concerning the price the MLB wouldn’t allow it to be cheaper.

  • ben

    2K is probably lucky they even have a 48 score. Since they didnt send the game to reviewers few people have even bothered to play it and see what a joke it is.

  • i3i

    No they dont. Show me another sim licensed game that has an under 50 metacritic score please.

    • SJ13_BILLS

      When Madden, NHL, and Fifa are ALL the caliber of The Show and NBA2K then i will take these reviews a little more serious. I get that this game tanked, but so did others with little brought to the table except for glitch fests.

      • DistortedAudio

        I think its been unanimous that FIFA and NHL have both been of pretty high quality for the last few years. If not NBA2K quality, then at the very least a tad below it.

  • SJ13_BILLS

    That’s exactly it too. NHL is basically the same game, and don’t get me started on MADDENS innovation or lack there of…If these reviewers who are the voice of us gamers actually stepped up to the plate instead of holding back, we might see some positive changes. Until then we are stuck with what we are given the option to buy.

    • IceChief27

      All you do is bitch. You don’t seem to realize that the sport itself does not change year in and year out. Professional sports leagues don’t just change how their game is played year in and year out. The make subtle changes to make the game better and safer. I don’t think you realize how difficult it is to write the code for these games. Oh you want a completely different game every year? That is not practical, feasible, or what the average consumer wants. The average consumer just wants to see the game improved and a new roster year in and year out. I’m sorry if they can’t tailor their games to the radical vocal minority. And it that gets your panties in a bunch just go do something with your life instead of bitching on a video game blog.

  • ctrol

    Should have stayed dead after 2k12. glad to see people exposing them for what they did here

  • alex

    Have to love the Kotaku review. “Major League Baseball 2K13 is an offensively recycled product and an embarrassment to sports video games.”

  • Nov

    Says the king of hypocrisy.

  • jibberish luckerish

    Yet there are people out there that still go out and buy the product to complain about it and then go and trade it in… Useless act, you make the company money… While you’re losing money by trading it in to GameStop and making them money… If you’re one of those guys, you’re a moron and have no right to come and complain lol… Only 1. rule to live by, if the game hasn’t been up to par for the past 2-3 years, Don’t buy the game!!!

  • LMaOOO

    You’re absolutely right bro!!!! He bashed 2K on his Youtube channel, as well as Facebook… We will never ever ever see him treat his precious Madden like that no matter how crappy that game will get. Its bias!!! @Mike up above Bills comment, go and do something with yourself… Grinds my gears when trolls come out and defend another grown man like that… Wipe your mouth, you have his shit all over yourself…

  • Mike

    First of all MVP series wasn’t that good. Whats with all the love for MVP I mean come on. The show has the most promise in bringing the best game on the new PS4. All they have to do is fix some bugs and create commentary like 2k games and it would be the ultimate BB game. Stop with the MVP crap. It wasnt that good.

  • DistortedAudio

    “I’d it’s a pretty safe bet we see The Show and MLB2K as the Top 2 baseball games again next year.”

    How many other baseball games release internationally on consoles?

  • cubs223425

    To be rudely blunt, that’s sad. You’re basically saying it’s Microsoft’s fault that:
    1. 2K was too lazy/underfunded to get a decent game out there.
    2. People didn’t take to Microsoft’s self-published sports games 10 years ago.
    If you did that, I’m not mad or a fanboy or anything. I just can’t convince myself that one game franchise is worth the cost of a console. I couldn’t give up Xbox LIVE, a better controller (never liked the stick placement on the PS controllers), Halo, Gears of War, Forza, and all of the time I’ve put into my Xbox/Xbox LIVE account (over 11 years on the consoles, almost 10 years on LIVE) just to get a decent baseball game, even if I love the sport.

  • matt

    2k is the worst baseball franchise in history.. Why do these aholes still produce games? Absolute disgrace.. everyone working on this game deserves to be fired.. Unacceptable these people are thieves.

  • matt

    The only reason I own a PS3 is because of how awful 2k baseball is.. These thieves deserve to be fired.