SBJ/April 11-17, 2011/In Depth

Play the Game

Prominent arcade-style sports video games released in recent years

NBA JAM, EA Sports (2010)

This high-profile revival, updating a revered classic from the early 1990s, originally was to be released on the Nintendo Wii as a stand-alone product, and then embedded for free as part of the publisher’s NBA core simulation title, “NBA Elite 11” for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360. But when “Elite” was shelved last fall because of quality and game-play concerns, “NBA Jam” was released on its own for all three major gaming consoles, and then in mobile form for Apple’s iPhone and iPad. The two-on-two basketball play features no rules, no fouls and little regard for the laws of physics. The game will get a further update this fall when EA releases “NBA Jam: On Fire Edition” as a download-only title for the PlayStation Network and XBox Live Arcade.

3-ON-3 NHL ARCADE, EA Sports (2009)

One of the first downloadable-only arcade sports titles, this light take on NHL play was distributed through online networks for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. A recession-friendly $10 price point and generally favorable reviews created some early buzz. But the game last year was essentially replaced by “NHL Slapshot,” a more traditional, Wayne Gretzky-endorsed title for the Nintendo Wii targeting the casual market that features several similar arcade-style mini-games and a hockey stick controller. “3-On-3” also paved the way for a downloadable arcade version of “Madden NFL.”

FACEBREAKER, EA Sports (2008)

One of the first new game franchises overseen by EA Sports President Peter Moore after his 2007 arrival at the company, this heavily cartoonish take on boxing did not rely on licensed intellectual property. But it was seen as too difficult to play by many reviewers and gamers, and the title was soon pushed aside as the company refocused its attention within fighting titles to its simulation boxing franchise, “Fight Night,” and new mixed-martial arts title, “EA Sports MMA.”

THE BIGS, 2K Sports (2007)

One of several attempted and generally fleeting extensions of 2K Sports’ exclusive and unprofitable license with Major League Baseball, this over-the-top representation of the game featured among other elements a Home Run Derby pinball game set in New York’s Times Square. The franchise spawned a 2009 sequel, but has since faded from view.

NFL BLITZ, Midway Games (1998)

A big success created by the same operation that originally created “NBA Jam,” this hyperviolent rendering of NFL play was a fixture of the late 1990s and early 2000s gaming scene. Even after EA Sports gained an exclusive NFL license in late 2004, Midway released two versions of “Blitz,” without league marks and players. Since the recent reboot of “NBA Jam,” rumors have been heavy around the gaming industry that EA Sports will do the same with this one. But the company has made no announcements around this title, and it’s difficult to reconcile re-creating this game given the NFL’s new sensitivity toward real-world player concussions and on-field safety. Even before the Midway license expired, NFL officials pressed the developer to tone down some of the particularly violent aspects of the game.

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