With just under six weeks until the usual launch date for sim licensed baseball games, the first Tuesday in March based on the terms of the MLB contract, the lull in marketing and any information relating to MLB 14: The Show has become notable. It’s been discussed briefly on the Press Row Podcast along with Kotaku and Operation Sports writing about the topic.
Typically in the past features and other details have started flowing in early-mid January. On some occasions gameplay videos have even been available by this time while the series has often been on put on display at CES which is held early in the month (however it was absent this year). Never has there been uncertainty about a release date. There are two huge new variables that could be altering the marketing strategy however. The lack of established competition and the first release on the PS4.
With the secrecy over the release date it has become evident that something atypical is taking place. Maybe it’s nothing and everything is going to be crammed into a smaller window this year but that wouldn’t explain why SCEA refuses to confirm the date. It could be that all versions are being shifted back a few weeks closer to the start of the Opening Day. EA Sports found that moving Madden closer to the regular season helped awareness and sales and that could also be the case now for The Show. With MLB 2K gone – and R.B.I. Baseball 14 not expected to be true competition – SCEA would not be risking a loss of sales to another product.
The other possibility is that the PS3 version will come out in March and the PS4 version and maybe even Vita pushed back a month or more. There is precedent for SCEA to release the new generation’s first title late. MLB 07: The Show arrived for the PS3 on May 15, 2007 with the PS2 and PSP versions having gone out February 26, 2007. Interestingly the ESRB has already cleared through the PS3 version of MLB 14 yet the PS4 and Vita have not completed the process…if they’ve even been submitted for it yet. That could indicate a gap between their respective releases.
The fight for consumer dollars on the PS4 and even Xbox One really begins to ramp up in March. Sony’s own Infamous: Second Son has a release date of 3/21 and they have Driveclub expected around that time. Titanfall will be garnering a great deal of attention for Microsoft when it arrives on 3/11. If a delay to the PS4 version of The Show is happening moving away from all that could prove beneficial though it wouldn’t be the reason why. It would also mean contesting with 2014 FIFA World Cup and EA Sports UFC during the April-May period. SCEA would be able to capitalize on hardcore baseball fans potentially buying on the PS3 and then later the PS4 – but that proved inconsequential to total sales for Madden NFL 25, FIFA 14, and NBA 2K14.
It’s easy to forget about the game for the PS3 with so much focus now on the PS4 but that will still be an important seller for the company. Considering that there has been absolutely nothing said about the PS3 version – the only info so far has been specific to the PS4 – it has to be especially unnerving for those interested in the game. SCEA also still hasn’t detailed the changes to the currency system which has allowed concern that will be present prior to release for all sports games now to fester.
It’s definitely not the norm to be this close to a league licensed product’s expected release and have uncertainty surrounding the official date. That surely is not a reflection on anticipated quality but instead a shift in marketing plans that may include moving the date back or releasing different versions on different dates. Needless to say all that will have to be communicated soon – rosters would already be locked down and the game nearing gold status if it were to release in early March – to coincide with the initial rush of information on the products and the consumer interest that will follow.