GAME THEORY: Sports games can be enjoyed by all

Nathan Mendelowitz

Whenever you hear people talk about sports games, it’s common to think of games about pro sports and jocks playing them. The former is correct, but the latter – not so much. Sports games are enjoyed by a wide range of gamers, from the hardcore to the most casual.

However, I was never convinced and hated sports games, especially after I played “NBA 2k7” where sinking 3-point shots with Yao Ming was a standard. They were fun, novelty games but never felt right and, most of all, they weren’t cheap.

Sports games cost the same as any other game, but what made them expensive is that they came out every year. Most games don’t have a sequel come out for at least two years, and most of the time the games felt new.

Sports games for me never felt that way. Playing “Madden 06” felt like the 2007 and 2008 version. Making things worse is the “Madden” franchise put together a string of mediocre games. From 2007 to 2010, the “Madden” games included nothing new of interest. Most games again had minor gameplay changes and some added new features, but they all felt exactly the same. So paying $60 for new rosters and minor gameplay changes never seemed justified.

That was until I picked up “NBA 2k13.” Instead of feeling like an outside omnipotent being controlling any and everything, I was now just one player: myself. It was a completely new experience and it was fun.

Players are able to create their own character, with the intention of creating yourself as a basketball player. Customizing everything from height and weight to how you shoot your jumper was something I never thought would happen. After a few games, it’s easy to get lost in your own stats and gameplay as if it is really you in the game. Soon, you feel as if you could’ve done something to win the game and get mad at yourself for missing the last second jumper to seal the win.

Other sports games have followed this and it’s led to great success, but even with all of this, it’s still hard to justify the full price tag on each new game.

The “Madden” games are one of the main reasons for this feeling but it’s hard to fault them. It is easy to make baseball, hockey, soccer and basketball games follow a single player because every position is worth playing. It’s hard to make an offensive line position seem appealing, or even a slot receiver, since you’re really not necessary every play.

However, there can be a solution.

Each game does not have to be a standalone title. It makes more sense to update each game with new rosters, players and gameplay tweaks. “NBA 2k13” already updates each day so every time people play each other, the most up-to-date roster information is there. Updates like this keep the game fresh without having to throw out the old game. I understand companies need to make money, so for the big stuff like new modes and gameplay tweaks, have people pay for it like downloadable content. Games cost $59.99, so make the huge update half of that. In reality, each new game is the old one with a facelift.

It’s like giving your car an oil change. You’re not changing the actual engine, just the oil inside of it to make it work. People shouldn’t have to pay for a whole new game when really it’s like the game is just getting its oil changed.

Only time will tell if game companies would move on to something like this. “Madden NFL 13” sold 1.6 million copies its first week out, which is more than it’s previous installment by 200,000. So clearly, EA, the company behind “Madden,” is doing well with the current formula for releasing “Madden” games.

Still, it would still be nice to see another change. I was pleasantly surprised by the change the “NBA 2k” series brought and I’ve been playing it constantly. Hopefully things will continue to change for the good and maybe playing all sports games will become a reality.


Nathan can be reached at: [email protected]