Is the loss of College Hoops a sign of things to come?

Posted January 16th, 2008 at 5:17 am


Now that we know College Hoops 2K9 has been canceled, and that it didn’t have anything to do with exclusive license negotiation, it would make sense to look at the other titles in 2K Sports’ lineup. Relatively low sales, alarming lack of growth and potential, and the troubled status of Take Two appears to have led to the decision that the College Hoops series was expendable. What does this mean for the rest of their lineup?

NBA 2K: The only game that turns a profit it has become the flagship title for 2K Sports. Sales have been strong but it is tough to rely on just one game to carry the load. The NBA is not interested in exclusive licensing so there isn’t any worry about that happening. NBA 2K is going to be around unless the company folds and that seems to be an unlikely scenario with all the talk about a potential sale.

MLB 2K: The third party exclusive license has really been dragging 2K down. It should have been obvious when EA decided to pull out of negotiation having determined that it wasn’t a smart business decision. It seemed to be a sign of desperation following the loss of the NFL. Back when the deal was signed analysts pointed out that baseball games have never been huge sellers and combining that with not being a true exclusive it made for a questionable move. No matter with the license MLB 2K is definitely secure.

The BIGS/Power Pros: The BIGS is an example of taking advantage of having the license and trying to squeeze whatever possible out of it. It is the same idea that EA has used with the NFL license and games such as Tour/Street and Head Coach. There is a pretty good chance there will be a follow-up to The BIGS as the game sold relatively well on both the 360 and the Wii. Power Pros was published by 2K in the US but not developed by them so it is hard to say what will come of that, however the game definitely didn’t sell well at all.

NHL 2K: This would appear to be the most likely game to be in danger based on the circumstances. As with the NBA, the NHL has also shunned the idea of an exclusive license. In 2006 both 2K and EA signed multi-year deals with the NHL. Exactly how many years that deal runs wasn’t revealed, but when it comes up again 2K may face the same decision they did with College Hoops. Their NHL game doesn’t sell all that well and they have a competitor in a market that may not justify two competing games. Will it be worth it to continue down that path?

All-Pro Football: Another installment was already at best questionable, but given the latest developments it seems even more unlikely. Sales were poor and the cost of signing every legend individually dragged down potential profitability. Not to mention questionable marketing decisions such as seeking out OJ Simpson to be in the game. One thing that could give it a chance to return was some talk that the contracts for the legends in many cases were two year deals (although I don’t believe that was ever confirmed). If that was the case they may look to take advantage of not having those costs for 09. A rumor blurb in Game Informer, which was actually the magazine that got to reveal the first details about APF 2K8, suggested that the game wouldn’t be returning.

Don King: Prizefighter: The recent announcement of this game becomes even more baffling after the news about College Hoops. It may have actually provided the first sign of change as 2K revealed that the game would only be released on the 360 and the Wii cutting out the PS3 where low sales wouldn’t have been able to justify the costs involved. Regardless there doesn’t seem to be demand for another boxing game right now. Fight Night has established itself for the more sim crowd while others such as Wii Boxing have captured the casuals. They had to shell out for the licensing to Don King and the individual boxers which couldn’t have been cheap and is reminiscent of what happened with All-Pro Football.

So what could happen with 2K Sports? It could be sold, as has been long rumored, however interest may not be all that high right now. It isn’t really an appealing scenario to go up against EA, and there doesn’t seem to be much incentive to suggest that EA would want to purchase 2K either. The one rumor that makes the most sense is Microsoft purchasing 2K to have their own line of sports games to combat Sony’s. Even though the 360 has established itself as the premiere console for sports gamers this generation they would definitely benefit from some exclusives like the PS3 has with MLB: The Show. EA can’t afford to abandon the 360 regardless of whether MS were to have their own sports division or not.

The loss of College Hoops probably isn’t a sign that anything else drastic is going to happen in the near future. But it is a sign of the state of Take Two and how the 2K Sports division is viewed, and that doesn’t bode well for the long term.