Cult Classic R.B.I. Baseball to return in Spring 2014
On the heels of 2K Sports’ announcement that it will be discontinuing its Major League Baseball game franchise, MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) announced this week that it will be reviving the 80’s Namco hit R.B.I. Baseball, a game whose first iteration is famous for being the first video game to feature actual major league baseball players. Though this news was just made public, Major League Baseball fans and sports video game fans alike will not have to wait long to get their hands on this now eagerly anticipated commodity. In its press release announcing the development of this game, MLBAM also revealed that the game’s release will coincide with the start of the 2014 Major League Baseball season, meaning it will be out sometime this spring.
In a sports video game world dominated by 2K’s NBA franchise and EA Sports’ FIFA and Madden franchises, this announcement could not come at a better time for baseball lovers and the MLB itself. Though Sony’s MLB: The Show franchise has been well received critically, sales of The Show games have decreased each year since they peaked in 2010. Also, any game that is released only across Sony’s PlayStation platforms naturally will not be as culturally popular as games like FIFA and Madden, which are available to all console users.
This new version of the R.B.I. Baseball franchise that has been dormant for the last 19 years (the last game released under that title was R.B.I. ’95) will excite not only college aged kids like myself who have been lacking that high quality baseball game ever since EA Sports cancelled its MVP Baseball franchise, but it will also excite middle aged gamers who perhaps grew up playing classic iterations of the R.B.I. franchise and will now have a new, next-gen version of one of their childhood favorites to introduce to their own children.
Luckily, MLBAM made the intelligent decision to develop this game for the Xbox 360 and PS3, as well as the next-gen PS4 and Xbox One, a move that should help it usurp The Show’s throne, if you can call steadily decreasing sales for a game released on one console a throne. For all you Game of Thrones lovers out there, just imagine The Show is King Robert and this new R.B.I. game is young Joffrey, poised to snatch that throne and end King Robert’s reign.
In my opinion, the most important piece of information to come out of this news is the fact that the new R.B.I. Baseball game (tentatively titled R.B.I. Baseball 14) will be released not just on consoles, but on smartphones and tablets as well. Walking around a college campus every day, I see firsthand just how many people walk around staring down at their smartphones (Hint: it’s a lot), which is why this is a brilliant decision by MLBAM from a financial standpoint. Many smart phone users are not really gamers, at least not console gamers. However, with mobile games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush having such an insane cultural impact, companies are learning that by releasing their games on smartphones and tablets they can appeal to all demographics.
The average consumer may see the $60 price tag for R.B.I Baseball 14 on the Xbox 360 for instance and immediately be turned off by the steep price. However, if they go to the app store on their smartphone or tablet and see the mobile version of that game offered for a fraction of the price, they will be much more inclined to purchase it because they have grown accustomed to playing and enjoying games on their mobile device rather than on a console. All I can say is MLBAM execs are about to be seeing dollar signs.
Clearly, the positive outweighs the negative with the release of this new R.B.I. Baseball game. At the very least this news has people excited about baseball video games for the first time in years. But will the game be a homerun, or is the MLB going to strike out and get sent back to the dugout? We will soon find out.