With developers continuing to try and innovate, will sports games start to offer more to the player?
Sports games have always been a popular yearly release for players who want to live out the ultimate dream of playing as their favorite team. This past Friday marked the release of NBA 2K17: The Prelude, a chance for players to get a head start on the game’s long-running My Career mode. The Prelude gives players a chance to play through a handful of college games as they take their created player through their one and only year of college.
The story line is relatively simple thus far, but with up and coming Hollywood star Michael B. Jordan in a starring role, there is a lot of promise of more to come moving forward. NBA 2K is no newcomer to the story mode trend that is starting to make its way into games. In fact, the series is potentially the only one that has mastered it. Because of 2K’s success, this probably forced EA Sports’ hand to try and integrate a story mode in their popular FIFA franchise. First introduced at E3, FIFA 17’s “The Journey” marks a change in direction for EA’s long-running series.
But while this is new for FIFA, this isn’t the first EA Sports title to use a more cinematic approach. Madden 06 had an RPG-style Superstar Mode that allowed players to make decisions such as where to sign, who to endorse and even an option of whether or not to star in a movie. Most notably, EA introduced possibly the best sports-based story mode ever when it released
Most notably, EA introduced possibly the best sports-based story mode ever when it released Fight Night Champion. Champion offered a dark redemption story that told the tale of a boxer’s rise to glory, fall to depths of prison inmate and ultimate return to the ring.
The real question is with FIFA bringing in a story and the NBA 2K series continuing to try and top themselves, will story modes be integrated into other sports franchises?
Players are beginning to expect more from their games, developers should remember that.
A portion of Star War: Battlefront and Titanfall players have expressed disappointment in a lack of a true story. Perhaps, the grind and repetitive gameplay bores them. Sports games are no different. It’s rinse and repeat with every yearly title. So, why not try to do something different that will keep people engaged? And if FIFA’s story mode is popular, what’s to stop Madden or NHL or MLB The Show from trying something?
What if The Show told a story about a top prospect getting caught using steroids? From there, players have to redeem themselves and ultimately make their way back to the big leagues. Or a sort of WWE 2K Showcase-esque mode where players relive some of the most unlikely Stanley Cup runs or perhaps the Miracle on Ice? These ideas could all be very interesting and potentially create more replay-ability for players. And if FIFA’s story proves to be a success, these other titles may need to look into more story-based content.
Is it something that will stick?
At the end of the day, the longevity of story modes in sports games will depend on what players want. Historically, these games have never really struggled to move units and until that changes, developers may feel more inclined to stick to what’s safe. Innovative attempts by developers have never been a bad thing, especially when it comes to yearly titles. And the good news for studios is if something doesn’t stick, the next year can be a fresh start.
Ultimately, it’s tough to see developers feeling the pressure to add a story mode to all of their sports games. It’s not an overly necessary feature and probably not a main selling point to the core audience.For every Hit Stick, there’s always a Quarterback Vision mode — one feature that continues to be part of the game through the years and another that fizzles out.While 2K Sports may continue to use a story mode, titles like Madden and MLB The Show have no competition. Therefore, neither game has no real reason to think outside the box for the time being.