Don’t Hate On Sports Games So Much
What’s up everyone, Dan here.
It’s the start of many new sports seasons soon (or already!) and with that comes the releases of sports games to coincide with the coming seasons. Unfortunately, this also means that the moaning about sports games reaches its peak. Moaning that I think is, at least for the most part, unjustified.
We’re now into August (where has this year gone?) and therefore just a few weeks away from entering the period of release for a large number of sports games. Madden 16 releases in August, followed by the very busy month of September in which we see the releases of NHL 16, FIFA 16, Pro Evolution Soccer 2016, NBA 2K16 and NBA Live 16, which releases at the very end of September/start of October depending on whether you are in North America or the rest of the world.
That’s a lot of games vying for your attention within a period of just one month. These are all annual releases, because let’s face it, sports seasons are annual, so why wouldn’t their games be? I have to admit, Madden 16 is the game I’m following more than the others currently. It might be because the NFL is the sports league I have the most interest in, or it might just be that Madden 16 is dropping first, so all the news is really coming out for that game right now. It’s a game that I buy every year, while some years choosing to pass on other sports games completely.
Why am I bringing this up? Well, it’s because I often see in the comment sections for sites, people venting along the lines of ‘same as last year…pass’ or ‘I’m not buying another one until they actually change stuff’. My argument is why? Why is it so important to players that sports games change every year? Surely if you’ve cracked it, there’s no need to alter the formula that’s giving players what they want in terms of a sports sim game.
Not once have I heard a fan of football (the round version that actually uses the foot!) complain that the Premier League is pretty much the same as last year and voice their frustration at the FA’s lack of game changing ideas such as injury time multi-ball or that the goal of the winning team expands with every goal they score, so that the opposition has a greater chance of coming back into the match. Such changes would ruin the game, so every year, players play the same sport as previous, which might have had a couple of rule tweaks at best and it works.
So to bring this back to video games, there shouldn’t be a need for dramatic changes each year, after all I would expect that most people purchasing these games, are doing so people they enjoy the sport and that isn’t going to be any different, year-in year-out. I buy Madden every year, knowing full well that most years, the shiny interface to navigate around the game probably won’t have changed, nor will the system for calling plays. The on field action won’t have changed much, a few interactions will have been altered and graphically the game is always improving and that’s fine. I do this, not because I’m a sucker for annualised titles, but because of the enjoyment I get from the sport and the game, despite really only getting updated team rosters. I do this to feel up-to-date with the sport I care about.
NBA, NHL and football are all sports I am aware of, but none of them are ones which I need the latest game to keep up with, as most of the players’ names will mean little to me and I’m happy to play in ignorance with outdated rosters knowing that the game’s own AI will take care of the rest and move players around at will. Some people will argue that it’s unfair that gamers are paying for what might be little more than a roster update but I don’t buy that logic. You don’t demand money off a season ticket just because you watched the team play last year, nor do you expect to get into the cinema cheaper each time to watch the same film over and over just because you’ve already seen it. I will caveat this slightly and say that roster updates should stretch beyond the one season, with perhaps a one-time new season update to a maximum full coverage of 2 years, which would allow players to buy new games on a 2-year cycle, rather than annually, but roster updates shouldn’t last forever. A lot of money is put into these games, so there has to be some incentive for gamers to move onto the next iteration, or no-one would by the latest game and the series would falter and we as gamers would be left with nothing.
Now, I’ve spent this article defending sports games so far but don’t get me wrong here, if a game series has had serious in-game bugs and glitches that carry over year on year, then yes, gamers have a right to complain as the final product should be as polished as possible. I was pleased to hear that those working on Madden 16 removed a lot of the legacy issues that have been carried over from year to year. I’m not going to claim to know how easy it is to strip long standing coding issues from a game, but I’d imagine that it’s not a quick process so the fact that it has taken this long does not surprise me. In this case I feel that it is credit where credit’s due and the work being done to fix all of these long standing issues should be acknowledged and appreciated. Hopefully this work will leave Madden with a strong foundation to build upon going forwards.
People who buy an annualised sports game are fans of that sport, pure and simple. They know what they are getting going in and for the most part will accept it and keep silent. Those who expect some form of dramatic changes are forgetting that the number one point of sports games, is the sport, not all the other interaction. Not to say these things aren’t important, they’re just not number one on the list of priorities. If you are someone who feels they need to see greater changes in the overall package before buying a sports game, trying taking a break from that sport’s game, take a year or two, let the developmental cycle move on and then comeback to the series, you might be surprised. Personally, I had not played a FIFA game since 2008 until last year, picking up FIFA 15. The sport played the same way as back in 08, the user interface had changed but that wasn’t what drew me in, I wanted to play a football game and I had a blast doing it. That being said, I probably now will not buy another FIFA game for a couple of years and will simply let my current edition of FIFA 15 satisfy any football cravings I might have.
I could probably ramble on about this topic for a while, but instead I’m going to cut things off here having imparted my opinion on why it’s okay to buy sports games every year and why I think people should let up on their dislike of the annual releases that sports games bring. If you agree, or completely disagree please let me know in the comments, but until next time, cheers!