Sports Video Games and the Annual Release Model: is it Time for the Subscription Model instead?
Is it time for the Sports Video Game Industry to completely change their release model??
Once upon 1999, I a wee, fresh naïve eyed lad got a special gift for my birthday: Madden 2000, "Football For a New Millennium!'. Back when Madden actually had John Madden on the Call, and in the Intro. Rest in Peace, John! In a perfect world I wish I could do for Soccer what you Accomplished for Football!! Sure it was the tale end of the 'polygon players' era right before graphics took leaps forward in the Early 2000s, but Madden 2000 might still be the most complete Madden Game as far as Features goes. A pretty complete Franchise Mode for the Time, Custom Playbooks, All-Time & Classic Teams, Tournament Mode, Create a Team with the best of Customization at the time, and I feel like there must be several things I'm forgetting. That's how awesome it was. The big plus in bad graphics is that they really had to sell their game, now Madden pretty much lives on Ultimate Team and being the only game with NFL Players. How did we get here??
Back in this Era the Annual Release Model made a lot of sense as there was rapid visible progress every year. Anybody from this time who was into the game can tell you how Madden 2000 to Madden 2005 was a complete and total change top to bottom with new stops every year, each with a different and special layer of greatness. I was too young to appreciate it at the time, but I think Madden 2002 even had the Houston Texans Expansion Draft. Nowadays if you played Madden 15 with your buddy, and then played the rematch on Madden 20 can you honestly tell me that you could even notice a difference??
Of course now the annual release model itself is not the ONLY problem, it's really the companies involved, primarily EA, 2K, Sony, etc's, lack of effort on truly upgrading year-to-year. Year after year die-hard sports fans like myself check out and quit buying the games. But unfortunately it doesn't actually accomplish anything because of the billions and billions of dollars rolling in from the Ultimate Team/Dimond Dynasty/My Team Modes, so the Companies don't have to care very much about the actual hard copy and digital copy sales of the actual game when the actual business model is all the Microtransactions from the rich trust fund kids wasting their allowance on these digital purchases. Which is another problem, kids getting trapped in essentially a gambling hole and getting their families in financial trouble.
Many, many commentators on the state of sports videogames all agree that the entire industry has essentially died and needs to be reborn because of this. To be fair 2k and Sony are at least still providing feature rich Franchise Modes in NBA 2k and MLB: The Show, but for all the other sports they're screwed by EA!!
But let's get a bit more positive and try to focus back on our purpose here, if all parties involved actually wanted to make great sports games again, (apologies if that phrasing accidently made you think of Trump, haha. Frankly both political parties are full of shit.)
So would switching to the Subscription Model help??
It could help the companies develop better games if they aren't beholden to the annual release model. Yes, it's a double-edged sword because it could cause them to update the games even less if they got even lazier. But in theory if they were constantly developing and improving around the clock they could just drop updates whenever they felt like it like MMOs, which would be AWESOME!!! For example 2k's Option to start a MyLeague on your current calendar day regardless of when it is is pretty amazing and needs to become an industry standard. I'm jealous we don't have that for FIFA or Football Manager.
I'd previously made an article about a year ago chiding 2k for killing the servers for NBA 2k19 on January 1st, 2021. And frankly the Subscription Model fixes the main issue I had with this, as my issue was not being able to continue my MyCareer Mode. But with the Subscription Model, players would be encouraged to actually a real, honest play every game of your virtual players multi-decade career, career mode as they'd finally have time to do so.
So how do you feel about it my fellow sports gamers?? Personally seeing as it feels like the industry is at a compete standstill, we might as well try it and hopefully 2k and EA would get with the program. I have to admit the current rumors that 2k might get the FIFA License and that we might get a 2k Soccer Game are my current biggest hopes for a Sports Game Experience actually worth purchasing in the near future!! Aside from NCAA Football finally returning likely in July 2023, although if nothing improves unfortunately it'd just be a College-Skinned Version of the Worthless Modern Madden Titles!!