The Justification Behind Sports Game Purchases

As a sports gamer, often I find myself coming under fire for my choice of gaming purchases. Each year we see the same litany of games hit the store shelves and each year, I like millions of other, buy each and every one of them. Like many gamers I enjoy playing these games against friends online and off, the same exact way I enjoy playing Call of Duty or Gears Of War. Yet when I play those games I hear no sarcastic sneers and receive no pointed questions heaved in my direction. Yet when I buy Madden or Smackdown or MLB The Show I get bombarded with the likes of…

Why did you buy that when _____ is coming out next week?

Why do you waste your money on the same game year after year?

Why do you pay $60 for a roster update?

Why not buy last year’s, it’s half the price?

Why, why, why???

Well, that’s an easy answer.

Because I want to play that particular game and I like that particular franchise. It’s a fairly simple concept.

Funny isn’t it how we all buy the same FPS’s year after year yet no one says boo about that. Really is Left 4 Dead 2 going to be anymore different from Left For Dead as this years NBA 2K was from last years? Nope. Yet we all will buy that without pause.

I feel however you’re not going to leave this subject alone until I really prove the validity of these games and prove without a doubt my justification for lining EA’s pockets with gold.

For the sake of argument I will use Madden as my example. It’s the most prominent and played sports game so it will work well as my point of thesis. Yes we do get a roster upgrade, you are correct there but we get quite a plethora more. I feel most of this animosity comes from folks who aren’t avid fans of the sports in question or aren’t well versed in the nuances of the particular leagues so they don’t notice the little things that make huge differences to those of us who follow the game and thirst for realism.

Playbooks are the biggest upgrade from year to year. Take the wildcat formation. It has taken over the NFL by storm when two years ago no team even ran it. Now it’s in Madden and the teams that run it in real life each have their own specific wildcat plays. That’s just one instance. On a larger scale teams fire and hire coaches each year. These coaches then implement their own offensive and defensive schemes which in most cases are completely different than their predecessors, thus changing completely the way a team plays and operates. A teams playbook in 2008 isn’t the same as in 2009. A small thing you might say, but it’s rather big in actuality.

Same thrill, different games

Beyond the playbook we get animation upgrades on both sides of the ball which change the way the game is played. Gang tackles can now take place. Quarterbacks can now release the ball mid sack. Fumbles no longer appear magically in the hands of a player. Blocking improvements completely changed the way we Madden players approached the game. Michael Vick is back and better than before. Online franchise mode has so much user control that you can do any pregame task with your cell phone or computer. Exploits were fixed, other were found. New stadiums were introduced as well as new jerseys and effects which mirrored things exclusive to this years NFL season. A half time show was added on. Referee animations and cut scenes added a level of realism never present in the previous installments. A new injury system was implemented giving the user the choice to put your player back in and risk further injury or have him sit it out. That’s just to name a few and I mean it when I say I could go on quite a bit longer but I think you get my point. The same game as last year? I think not.

While you might not be able to tell the difference, that doesn’t change the fact that there are differences. Are the games remarkably similar year to year? Sure they are. So is every Halo or God Of War. Each successful series refines rather than reinvents. That’s why we love them so. They perfect what needs to be perfected and keep in tact what already worked. Now I’m not saying every sports game is good. Lord knows MLB 2K9 was just awful. I’m not defending every title either. Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf stands out as the one exception to the rule that doesn’t change enough year to year to warrant the price tag, but the same could be said for many non-sports titles as well, and like I said, it’s clearly the exception to the rule.

So there’s your answer. That’s why I buy the same sports games every year. I fork over my $60 for the same reasons you did or will for Halo 3: ODST, Modern Warfare 2 and Uncharted 2. I’m a gamer and that’s what I love to play. So when a new installment come out I buy it, simple and plain. So maybe now we can put this little question to bed once and for all and stop all the jabs. We’re all gamers. Belittling what I choose to play doesn’t make your 360 or ps3 perform any better than mine does. It doesn’t make you any better at the games you play. It doesn’t even damage my credibility as a gamer. My library of titles likely mirrors your own. So let’s just stop and realize that we are all gamers. No matter the genre, we all simply play what we like because we think that it’s good.


FIFA 10 is another good example. At GamesCom they had a short presentation where they ran through around 230 odd changes they had made to the game. None of them big headline grabbing stuff, small things. For example, it now supports 360 degree dribbling, defenders can turn, jump and block in one movement, goalkeepers can claw lobs from under the bar etc. Plus of course the roster updates etc. In the future though, sports games are one of the most obvious to move to a new digital distribution model. Why bust a team's ass to ship a game in 9 months every year? If the process is one of continual refinement then an MMO like approach would fit best. For those that say selling each iteration is what makes EA and the likes money, remember every year they are throwing money 'away' at retailers, distribution, packaging etc. We'll get there eventually, EA already do FIFA Online in Asia and are moving Tiger Woods to this model on PC. The biggest barrier to a more rapid wider adoption is that sports games are bought by a very wide demographic. Some people probably just by Madden and never take it online.


"Really is Left 4 Dead 2 going to be anymore different from Left For Dead as this years NBA 2K was from last years? Nope" Yes. New levels, new characters, new storyline, new multiplayer, new weapons, new enemines, new boss characters, new gameplay, new locations. Now let's look at NBA 2K: New roster. New... menu music. Same characters, same arenas, same gameplay, same online, same multiplayer. A few new animation updates that they could have put in last year but didn't otherwise they'd have nothing to put in this year.