With Major League Baseball spring training getting underway, baseball is just about here for 2014. Under normal circumstances, this time of year would be when we get tons of info, screenshots and trailers for the upcoming baseball video games, but so far that hasn’t been the case. After years of dominance by the MLB: The Show franchise, 2K has finally thrown in the towel and opted to discontinue the MLB 2K series, leaving The Show as the one and only Major League Baseball game for at least 2014, possibly longer. Last year, MLB 13 released on March 5, but we’re less than a month away from that date this year, and as of right now there is no release date for MLB 14 and we haven’t seen anything about the game from official sources in months.
In the past, generational transitions typically haven’t been kind to sports games. The first year of sports games on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 were far inferior to the Xbox and PS2 versions in a variety of ways. They may have had better graphics, but most suffered from bare bones presentation, missing features, and a pervasive feeling that the games had been stripped down from their last-gen counterparts. MLB 07: The Show was the last time this series transitioned between generations, and while it wasn’t as egregious as something like Madden 06, the Playstation 3 version wasn’t as polished as the PS2 version. It’s also worth noting that the Playstation 3 version didn’t hit store shelves until 2 months after the PS2 version.
Despite the track record of sports games typically dropping in quality during the first year of a new generation, there was an expectation that this time would be different. The PS4 and Xbox One version of NBA 2K14 was a technical powerhouse, sporting fantastic visuals while still maintaining the same high quality and not stripping away very many of the features present in the seventh generation versions. While obviously this has no bearing on MLB: The Show, it showed that next gen sports games could avoid that drastic drop in quality we’ve seen in the past. Even Madden, while not really much of a visual leap over the last gen versions, debuted on the new consoles without any of the missing features we saw last time around. These examples, in combination with some big talk and impressive comparison screenshots between the PS3 and PS4 versions led many, including myself, to believe that MLB 14: The Show on PS4 would be the best version of the game hands down.
It’s entirely possible that MLB 14 on PS4 will be everything fans hope it will be, but the months of silence and lack of a release date at this late stage is not very encouraging. However, the most encouraging aspect of this situation is the consistently high quality of the series. As someone that has been playing baseball video games for over 15 years, I can say with confidence that the recent entries in the MLB: The Show franchise are the best examples of video game baseball I’ve ever played. I’ve put hundreds of hours into the series over the past two years (after a several year break from yearly sports games), so if anything Sony San Diego has earned the benefit of the doubt. The total silence over the past several months is certainly concerning, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the game is real trouble.
Whatever is going on with the game, it seems clear at this point that it won’t be releasing during the usual window of late February/early March. There have been rumors that it will hit in early April, but we’re just going to have to wait and see. Hopefully the game is doing well, but I can only imagine what the addition of new hardware does to the already rigorous development schedule of a yearly sports title. As a huge fan of both Major League Baseball and the MLB: The Show series, I really hope MLB 14: The Show doesn’t wind up being a disappointment.