I get into arguments all the time with “hardcore gamers” over the importance of sports franchise video games. “Why should I pay for the same game every year?” This is the main argument of those that don’t play sports games. That truly is a great point too. Why would one person want to keep paying for the same game over and over? But what “hardcore gamers” don’t understand is that sports gamers don’t see it as paying for the same game every year.
To me the Madden, NB2k, Fifa, Raw vs. Smackdown series are all just MMOs. Instead of thinking of them as standalone games they are more like installments. Instead of monthly fees I pay up front for the entire year. It would be about 5 bucks a month. Which now that I think about it is cheaper than World of Warcraft. With this onetime payment I am thrown into the world of the respective sport. A cast of characters that are based in reality but are larger than life are mine to control or I can create my own character. With each online battle, I unlock certain attributes to help my team or my character to “level up”. It’s a concept that every gamer can relate to and most games use.
I have been a subscriber to Madden for as long as I can remember and this year I have taken it one step further. I am currently engulfed in my first ever online franchise mode. It’s quite the experience. I am the general manager of the Detroit Lions against all the other teams in the NFL. 7 other teams are controlled by humans and the other 24 are AI. As the GM of the Lions I am in charge of roster moves for my team. I have to adjust my offensive attacks based on the abilities that I have at my disposal. The same goes for my team's defense. It evokes a lot of real time strategy throughout one game to counter the other team’s attacks. (Sound familiar?) Also in franchise mode everything can be made up to your own personal preferences. We have “drafted” teams in our league. Meaning we put all of the players into a pot and picked them until our rosters were full. This fantasy warfare adds an extra element to the game. Knowing that you are the one creating the kind of offense that may lead your team to the championship.
Much like the popular MMOs out these sports franchises have a very dedicated online community. The beautiful thing about these games is that as the gamer you know the community will last for the entire year. Instead of a game like Bulletstorm, where the community will dissipate with every release of a new FPS. I mean the NFL is in a lockout right now and as I type this there are thousands of people playing Madden on the PS3. I’m positive that these people will continue to play Madden until August 30th when the new game is released. That’s the beauty of these sports games. You get value out of these games. It also explains why these sports games are constant sellers throughout the year.
It’s so absurd that “hardcore gamers” are so quick to write off these sports franchises. With the steady profits from these games, companies are able to take financial risks. It’s easy to see this with EA. If it wasn’t for Madden and Fifa do we honestly think that EA would have ever taken on the risk of Crysis 2, Mass Effect, Dead Space, and Battlefield. I name these games because they are hits. But for every hugely successful series that was started there was a Mirror’s Edge, Brutal Legend, Freedom Fighters, and Loaded. Not to say those were awful games but no one is preordering Loaded 2: the Bigger Load. EA has been giving the ability to remain flexible and take more chance with publishing titles because of sports games. These sports MMOs are the workhorses that the game industry is built upon.
I think the real reason “hardcore gamers” hate these sports games is the same reason they hate the Wii. Because they have become casual fare. These games have become mainstream and appeal to a mass audience. Take Madden for instance. The game is used in weekend coverage of the NFL on ESPN. Yes you read that correctly. Analysts use Madden to help get their points across. The game has become an illustration tool for them to better show the watcher what one team in real life needs to accomplish to win the game. The sad thing is that these games never started out in the mainstream. They are such great games for their depth a realism they become elite over time. Much like Black Ops, if you are elite and sell to people outside of those that play your genre, you will be hated upon. It’s the same thing with the Wii. Nintendo realized that they could make a system that appealed to Mom and Dad and “hardcore gamers” hate it. How dare anyone else enjoy video games a different way besides those that play 24-7.
Over time video games have become as popular as music and movies since their inception. Because of this they also suffer from the same problems. Every time you name a game, band or movie you like there will be someone who has played a better game or listens to a better band or saw a better movie. Plus it’s probably a band, movie or game that you have never heard of. The music/movie/video game snob gets off on this supreme knowledge. Like art is an exclusive club that can only be enjoyed by a select few. Once a game is played by casual fans it becomes an outcast.
The video game industry has grown so much that there is room for every type of gamer now. Each different system appeals to a different segment of the audience. The Wii is a great system for kids to use. The 360 is great for those looking for supreme online experience. While the PS3 is great for those who want an all in one system. With more choices than ever before and the different mediums to which to play on, there is room to breathe. If one was to factor in tablets and cell phones, games are in more hands than ever before. But just because someone isn’t playing the games that your playing doesn’t mean they are less dedicated to games. Sport MMO players will often spend hours playing their game, training to get better. WOW players spend hours on their game. Since when does variety make someone a true gamer? There are people that only play Street Fighter but they sure is hell are playing it for hours on end. Is their dedication to games to be overlooked because they are only playing one game?
We all love games, we all play games. It’s that simple. But for some reason sports games (and sports gamers) have become the punching bags for the gaming community. Our dedication will always be called into question by “hardcore gamers”. Maybe I’m being silly but why should we have defend what we like all the time. If you don’t like a game don’t play it. These sports MMOs aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. If they did the whole industry would suffer for it.
Ok "hardcore gamers" you can flame on me in the comments below.
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