SBJ/March 4-10, 2013/Media

Quiet pre-launch leaves gamers guessing about ‘MLB 2K 13’

2K Sports will release “MLB 2K 13,” the latest edition in its troubled baseball simulation video game series, on Tuesday. But what consumers will see and how they will react remains a mystery.

"MLB 2K 13" came about only after an unexpected new deal involving 2K Sports, MLBAM and the MLBPA.
The game publisher in January announced a surprise one-year licensing deal with MLB, MLB Advanced Media and the MLB Players Association to produce another version of the game. 2K Sports’ prior pacts with baseball had expired at the end of 2012, and by all accounts the company had been ready to walk away and not renew. Many editions of “MLB 2K” had been critically panned, and executives for 2K Sports parent Take-Two Interactive pegged its MLB-related losses at more than $30 million a year.

But 2K Sports ultimately returned, at licensing terms thought to be more favorable to the company, to produce a game for 2013. “MLB 2K 13” will be the only baseball simulation game available for the Xbox 360 gaming console, as Sony’s competing “MLB 13: The Show” is predictably for its own gaming platforms. The one-year 2K Sports contract extension is designed as a bridge deal until more is known about the next generation of gaming consoles, such as Sony’s recently announced PlayStation 4.

Little, however, is known about what “MLB 2K 13” will contain, as 2K Sports officials declined to discuss any details about the game or how it came to renew its deal with baseball. Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price is on the game cover, 2K Sports is reviving its $1 million Perfect Game Challenge for a fourth straight year, and the company is again offering a bundle deal at retail in which the game is packaged with the popular “NBA 2K 13” at a reduced price.

Beyond that, 2K Sports did not conduct any pre-release game demos with anybody, leading the gaming press to conclude the baseball title will be little more than a uniform and roster update from “MLB 2K 12.” The MLB-2K contract extension had been in the works since last fall, prior to the formal announcement. But even that did not provide anything close to a normal development cycle for an annual sports title like this.

Bob Bowman, MLBAM president and chief executive and a member of Take-Two’s board of directors, said the agreement to create “MLB 2K 13” was “the right deal at the right time.”

“This worked as well as could be expected. We’re clearly in a transition year in the industry, and you never want to be dark on a platform like Xbox,” Bowman said. “I credit a lot of people, particularly [MLB senior vice president of licensing] Howard Smith, for seeing this through.”


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