Before jumping into this explanation, please understand when referring to baseball video games we are referencing the MLB The Show series. In no way is 2K Baseball close to being as good as The Show. That is a different point for a different day.
Today we are focusing on comparing MLB The Show to any other sports gaming platform out there. The top competitor is actually soccer/futbol but in the United States you will be hard-pressed to find anyone that knows how transfers and team management works in soccer (present party included). If it seems that I am coming from a somewhat biased perspective it is because I am. The best selling games in 2012 have been the more popular titles of course, but are they really the best? No.
The Show has been one of the most consistently high-quality and true simulation sports games over the lifetime of this console generation. SCEA (the developer of The Show) has been one of the most highly rated sports gaming developers because of the quality of The Show. Between the actual gameplay and the depth of modes like Franchise Mode as well as the new Post-Season Mode there is little more to be desired. However, that is where The Show really shows why it is the best sports game out there with so many details like ball trajectory and other physics based implementations that you will start asking where it is in other games like Madden.
While The Show is by far the best baseball game when competing with the awful 2K Baseball, its only competition in terms of quality comes from EA Sports’ NHL and FIFA games. The one thing you will notice is that baseball, hockey and soccer are all ‘niche titles’ with relevance to a select number of people in the United States. Baseball has been dying a slow death in terms of popularity among sports fans. That may be a big reason why The Show flies under the radar when compared to games like Madden and NBA 2K (which are typically the higher selling sports titles in the U.S. every year).
The trend of baseball gaming has been on a down-slope as far as game sales go. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the fact that if you enjoy baseball and want to play a great video game version of the sport. Go out and buy a PS3 if you don’t have one (as this game is only available on the PS3 console) and get The Show. It is that good.
Why Is Baseball Dying?
I am of the opinion that baseball was both saved and destroyed by steroids. The 1993-94 strike made many fans turn their backs on baseball. It wasn’t until the home run explosion between 1996 and 2001 that people started to care about baseball again. Say what you want about the ‘purity of the game’ but steroids brought fans back and brought more money to owners as attendance went through the roof. Then, as if someone called the cops to bust up a great party – the Mitchell Report destroyed the game from the inside out.
The legacy of steroids in baseball goes back to the 1980s where there was a tremendous boom in the overall use and production of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). This is also the same time period that saw the beginning of Free Agency (players were able to look for new teams as their contracts expired). While this was something that happened a few times before, it became quite normal as the 1980s and 1990s came and went. This should make you consider the motivation that players had to use PEDs – it was about the ability to command more money in their contracts. If a player like Barry Bonds could increase his output as a batter from an average of 25 HRs during his time with Pittsburgh to 39 HRs during his stay in San Francisco, why wouldn’t he use what he could to demand more money? The same goes for players like Alex Rodriguez who could be on his way to a Lance Armstrong collapse in the coming weeks.
People suspected that players like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds were on some sort of PEDs as they started having numbers pile up that no one had seen in the history of the game. Why is it that some fans were so appalled when the report came out. Many people started making these players they all but worshiped at one point into pariahs to save face in some sort of non-existent social witch hunt.
I am not suggesting that steroids should be legalized or that they don’t artificially inflate statistics. I will demand that society takes a look in the mirror and honestly asks what they want from entertainment. Society doesn’t want purity in sports. Society wants to appear concerned about safety and legitimacy while demanding more power, speed and violence. We are living in the greatest example of hypocrisy in entertainment and the only thing we can do is edit our video game rosters and change every player’s ability rating to 99 – call it digital steroids.