How the MLB said "FINE, we'll make our own baseball game, with blackjack and..."

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How the MLB said "FINE, we'll make our own baseball game, with blackjack and..."

Postby benji on Tue Jan 23, 2018 7:55 pm ... am-history

The firm produces some mobile games as well as one console title: R.B.I. Baseball, a 1980s franchise that MLBAM resurrected in 2014 amid dire circumstances in the baseball video game market.

Until recently, the company relied primarily on outside studios for development of R.B.I. Baseball and its other video games, with a small group at MLBAM overseeing production and managing publishing duties. That has all changed over the past year. Banks’ anecdote is a story from the development of R.B.I. Baseball 18, for which MLBAM took an unprecedented step: The company built a sizable internal team to develop the game itself.

As the only instance of a professional sports league producing its own console video game, R.B.I. Baseball was already a unique product. Now MLBAM is going further, hoping to cement the game’s place in the market by responding to feedback from critics and consumers with a major expansion in its scope.

Fifteen years ago, baseball fans were awash in video games. Back in 2003, no fewer than eight MLB-licensed titles were released on consoles. The plethora of choices included a now-unimaginable six simulation games, such as 3DO’s High Heat Major League Baseball 2004 and Acclaim’s All-Star Baseball 2004. Among the two arcade-style options was Midway’s MLB SlugFest 20-04, in which players could catch “on fire” and attack each other with wrestling moves.

Today, none of those three publishers exist

Despite continuing unfavorable reviews, the series proved to be commercially viable. Garden says sales rose “pretty dramatically over the first few years,” and he stresses that the company wouldn’t take a hit on the game just to ensure that an MLB-licensed title continues to exist outside the PS4.

“If we didn’t think it was a business where we were going to make money, we wouldn’t do it to lose money for the rest of our lives,” says Garden. But he does acknowledge that MLBAM is still in a tough spot: If the company were to cease making R.B.I. Baseball, other parties would be unlikely to jump in to address “this middle market [where] there’s a tremendous amount of fans” whom the league wants to reach.

“We just don’t think that there’s a lot of folks out there that would necessarily want to invest the effort to do the sort of game that we’re doing,” Garden says.

R.B.I. Baseball’s first three years of sales indicated that it was worth dedicating more resources to the series, according to Leece and Garden. And it appeared that it would take a significant investment to deliver the kinds of improvements that the franchise needed.
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