The world of sports video games was delighted when it was recently announced that the acclaimed MLB the Show baseball franchise would spread to other unannounced home consoles (but not the PC). This is great news, not only for non-PlayStation owners who wanted to get their hands on the series, but also for developers at San Diego Studios that their work is good enough to share with the rest of the game fan bases. Unfortunately, I don’t see this as a simple case of Sony, the publisher and owner of San Diego Studios, who agrees to move the franchise to other platforms.
Don’t more versions mean more money for Sony? Probably, but I imagine other obstacles. Mostly I wonder if San Diego can handle the other versions alone. If so, it either has to be expanded significantly or it has to be difficult to release up to three more versions with the staff who have it. Not a sure way to success. The studio expansion can fundamentally change the culture and values that have made the developer great in the past, while it may be a certain path to burnout and disaster if you just stay with the existing developers.
San Diego can also choose to outsource the other versions to external studios. The results could go either way. There are many developers who do great work with ports and provide seamless displays, and some who don’t. In the meantime, all of this has to be done according to the usual annual schedule (if nothing changes) – a particularly busy development schedule that is not suitable for every studio.
This expansion to new home consoles takes place during Major League Baseball and Sony, which extend the league’s license agreement with the publisher. Was this extension commissioned by the MLB, possibly due to the poor acceptance of the R.B.I. Baseball series? Did Sony have to do this to reduce development costs and license fees?
The former could mean that this isn’t necessarily a step that Sony prefers when it has its Druthers, and the latter could signal that despite the series’ general popularity, Sony and the franchise are in a relatively weak position. I’ve heard that MLB has overvalued its license in the past, which is one reason why 2K quit the sport in 2013. One could argue that this could also result in the competitor Electronic Arts not simply shooting in. Maybe even EA knows there is an upper limit on the value of the license. All of this means that switching to multiple systems could be a financial necessity.
The impact of this switch from a work and financial perspective to San Diego Studio could affect the series’ approach to microtransactions, which modes (like Diamond Dynasty) it prioritizes, and the overall quality of the series. It’s great that baseball fans can enjoy the franchise on the other home consoles. I just hope that the product itself doesn’t suffer.