Is 2K Striking Out?

(And is it really their fault?)

Just think, a week and a half from now the new baseball season will be starting. Of course that means I'll be doing my annual trip to PNC Park to watch the start of yet another losing season. It doesn't help when my team's general manager loves to trade away the only good players we have to the Yankees or Red Sox in exchange for prospects that we know will never amount to anything. Then we see said prospects going back to the Yankees or Red Sox and becoming successful.

Or of course they might sign another big name, turn out to be successful, and then commence his own version of "Operation Shutdown" before being released. Such is the price for loyalty to a team you grew up watching as a child, I guess.

Of course, the lack of a salary cap thanks to a greedy player's union doesn't help, and don't even think of mentioning the terms "revenue sharing" or "luxury tax," because they don't work either.

Dang, I just wish all the so-called "professionals" on ESPN would talk about this as much as they always whine about wanting a playoff system in college football.

It all points to one thing: greed. Spending tons of money to provide an exclusive deal to get a product at the expense of the consumer, and that's what's happening in the baseball video game market.

A few years ago, 2K bought the exclusive rights to all third party Major League Baseball games. Since then I felt the series has gone downhill, and it's such a shame.

After all, it was 3DO's amazing High Heat Baseball series and its unprecedented realism (at the expense of ugly visuals) that reignited my interest in baseball. Eventually playing it on both the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, it was my baseball game of choice until 3DO went bankrupt, and made me choose between the 2K series that was published by Sega at the time or EA's revamped MVP franchise.

EA eventually won me over. After suffering through the Home Run Derby that was the Triple Play series, the newer MVP series was the closest that I could get to playing a realistic baseball game.

And then it all went downhill. 2K claimed exclusive rights to the MLB and starting with MLB 2K6 on the 360 I had nothing but problems. The initial release of MLB 2K6 locked up constantly, most of the time before even the second inning. A patch was released but the damage was already done. 2K7 came out, and no matter how hard I tried to enjoy it, I couldn't with the annoying right stick batting or the CPU pitching that constantly ended up being strikes. Had they ever heard of "mixing up your pitches?"

At the time, I ended up getting my baseball fix on, of all things, the PSP. When playing MLB 07: The Show I was shocked at how such an amazing and deep baseball package could be packed in such a small UMD. It was then that I realized that Sony had themselves a loophole, as 2K only had exclusive rights to third party titles. Because of this, I found my new home for a decent baseball simulation.

Or at least a temporary home, as I moved from the PSP to the PlayStation 3 for MLB 08 and MLB 09. I admit that I did give the demos of both MLB 2K8 and 2K9 a try, and while I can't truly provide a full review based on a demo (we are still waiting our reviewable copy of MLB 2K9,) both demos were very disappointing. 2K8 suffered from horrible frame rates reminiscent of Triple Play on the PSOne, as well as an annoying pitching system that always ended up in "meatballs" being thrown. 2K9 seemed to remedy those issues but only ended up with more. One that hit me in particular was when my player was under a fly ball, ready to make a routine catch, but in the last second he inexplicably drops it. Even worse the demo had far too many home runs in a game. I know that "chicks dig the long ball" but baseball purists don't for every game. Sometimes they enjoy a good old fashioned pitcher's duel, and that was something that The Show gave me.

Needless to say the 2K exclusive deal hasn't been very successful, and while PS3 owners might have an alternative, poor 360 owners will have to wait yet another year.

However when you think of it deep down, is it really 2K's fault?
Actually it isn't.

Of all people, the fault lies at EA's hands. After all, this whole thing started with the exclusive deal they made with the NFL and NFLPA back in 2005. Because of this, 2K couldn't do anything else but retaliate by getting MLB rights.

Guess this is one of the few times to be proud to own a PlayStation 3 or PSP huh?

Currently Playing: MLB 09: The Show (PS3,) Resident Evil 5 (360)

Waiting For: Modern Warfare 2 (360)

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