Sports games occupy a fairly specific category unto themselves, but if anything they seem to be enjoying renewed popularity. This isn’t because of any major new game or innovation, but rather because these games fit fairly naturally into the ever-expanding world of eSports. In some cases, professional sports franchises are even participating directly in the growth of sports-related eSports leagues.
The question we’re asking here though, is whether sports video games on their own are still getting better – or rather, how they could. Anyone who’s regularly played a FIFA, Madden, or NBA2k game – or even an MLB or NHL game for that matter – is familiar with what’s become a very gradual, incremental mode of progress.
Long known for excellent graphics, increasingly accurate physics, and immersive game modes, these titles are very successful, but also give off the impression that they can’t do a whole lot more to improve. That is, aside from incremental upgrades in quality, it doesn’t feel as if major sports video games can do much more to simulate real sports or enrich the fan experience.
Giving it some thought however, a few interesting possibilities do come to mind.
It’s at least mildly surprising that VR and sports haven’t intersected more already. However, there are some VR sports experiences of note, and one or two of them speak to how virtual experiences could conceivably be worked into larger games.
Take basketball for instance. The idea of playing an entire game in, say, NBA2k VR, sounds exhausting, complicated, and frankly implausible. However, the idea of playing the game ordinarily and switching to VR only for, say, free throws, is intriguing. The same could be said for penalty kicks in a FIFA game.
To this point, most of the league customization that’s available in sports video games is very simple. You can choose how many games to play, for instance, or how to organize the playoffs. Further creative control over league arrangement feels like a genuine step forward though.
Create-a-player has been around for decades in sports games, but to allow full customization of a league would be unprecedented. Taking the idea all the way, players could set a number of teams, create the teams and their uniforms, customize their stadiums, and then arrange a league and season structure in its entirety.
As of now, fantasy sports is a massive business, but one confined to a handful of platforms. ESPN and Yahoo, for instance, handle the bulk of ordinary fantasy leagues, and there are a handful of companies at the very top of the daily fantasy industry – namely, DraftKings and FanDuel.
These platforms all work well and are easy to manage, but there’s also something to be said for keeping all of people’s sports games in one place. So, just imagine if someone’s Madden video game had a partnership with DraftKings, for instance, and a daily fantasy lineup could be set right there in the game.
This is a bolder idea and one that’s very unlikely to ever happen. However, imagine if the major sports gaming companies actually linked up to form partnerships, such that you could effectively own and manage teams across leagues. It would effectively be the same as just playing the different games on your own.
However, there could be some added lifestyle wrinkles. For instance, as an NBA “owner” you could earn a substantial personal payday for winning a championship – and then put your money to use in your MLB game, in a sport that has no salary cap and thus allows owners to spend freely. It’s a complex and, again, unlikely idea, but it would absolutely appeal to a lot of serious sports fans.