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Posted on Aug 19th 2014 at 12:00:00 AM by (noiseredux)
Posted under PC

Question: what the heck is going on with sports games? I mean, if you're a console gamer, then they're considered over-abundant to the point of being cast off as nearly disposable. Each iteration of each individual series is being released annually so that the supply is so ridiculously high that eBay sellers of console lots need warn prospective buyers "L@@K! NO SPORTS GAMES!!!!" And yet PC gamers - the so-called "master race" seem to be struggling to find recent installments at all in some cases.

It's odd though, don't you think? Sports games were certainly staples of computer systems for as far back as I can remember. Heck, the first Madden installment didn't even have a console release. And while I can't speak for anyone else, I know that my early computing years were filled with many a DOS simulation of a real world sport. With all this in mind, it's pretty surprising to see the relative lack of sports games in hi-res that we can show off on our fancy GPU's.

It's not a complete wasteland, though. So let's take a look where sports games stand today for the PC gamer, at least as far as my own taste and experience is concerned.

Basketball is one of my favorite sports, and lucky for me it's also one of the few sports still getting high profile releases on PC. Personally, I love the 2K series of basketball games. I really don't think they've had any strong competition since the first game came out on Dreamcast. And luckily 2K Games has been so kind as to continue bringing the recent installments to PC.

Currently my go-to is NBA 2K14 which has an excellent single-player campaign revolving around the career of Lebron James. Though I've heard complaints that the PC port of 2K14 is based on "last gen" versions, I've had nothing to complain about it visually, audibly or any other way. I'm also pleased to see that 2K Sports has also already announced that the PC version of 2K15 will be released the same day as its console counterparts.

Football is another story, however. And while I've become a much bigger fan in recent years, and learned to really enjoy football games, I've been bummed to see a total disregard for PC gamers in the past few years. The obvious series here is Madden - a name fairly synonymous with "football games." And as mentioned above, a series that actually has its roots in PC gaming rather than consoles. Yet, somehow over the years, it was decided that EA would no longer bring the new Madden games to PC. Why? I mean, I assume I know why. I assume it has to do with money and all. But that still seems wrong to me. Is it really possible that one of the biggest franchises in all of sports gaming has such a small following of PC gamers that it's not even worth a digital release?

The last Madden game to get a PC release was Madden 08. And this is pretty much still my go-to PC football game. It still looks really nice, and more importantly plays great. But what's even more impressive is that there's a pretty solid community that still devotes themselves to this game. Thanks to various user-generated mods, Madden 08 continually gets roster updates, visual tweaks, and even has online leagues that play through private servers and VPN. It's impressive stuff, but it's also an indication to me that there's plenty of PC gamers out there that still wanna get their Madden on. Personally I haven't delved too far into the modding yet (unless you count swapping out the MP3 folder so I could create my own alternate 2008 soundtrack). But knowing it's all there certainly leaves me with a feeling that there's plenty of fresh content to explore, even in 2014. I've also been able to convince several of my friends to pick up copies themselves so it's possible we'll delve into some multiplayer together at some point.

Hockey is in a similar boat, with EA's NHL 09 being the last iteration to find home on a PC. Much like Madden 08, NHL 09 has found itself a cult following with various mods. I've just recently downloaded a copy myself as the game is currently still easily attainable via Origin or Amazon. Though I haven't taken the time to delve into the mods yet, a quick Google search shows that the fan community has kept the roster up to date.

Baseball is another sport hurting on PC. While there are some baseball sims available on Steam, it appears that the last solid title to receive a PC port was Major League Baseball 2K12, by 2K Sports. And here's the rough part - unlike other "last PC games in the series" sports games, MLB 2K12 doesn't appear to be one that's so easy to still track down. For instance, Madden 08 and NHL 09 are both still available for download on Amazon's digital store, but MLB 2K12 is not. I can only assume that would have something to do with licensing, there is a listing for it digitally, but it's no longer available to purchase. Physical copies seem just as difficult to come by. As I type this, there are no copies available on eBay and the lowest listing via Amazon sellers for a new copy is a whopping $175!

Golf doesn't fair much better. EA's last PC release there was Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters. Like Major League 2K12, there's no legal digital download that I can find, and boxed copies will fetch a pretty penny. It's funny but golf more than any other sport strikes me as odd to be lacking on PC. Maybe it's just me, but I always sort of equated golf games with the personal computer platform. Of course this is probably just personal nostalgia speaking, as I have some fond memories of playing various golf DOS games back in the day. However, there may still be some hope. There's actually a new golf game in Early Access right now on Steam called The Golf Club. I'm not much of an Early Access guy myself, so can't speak on it from experience, but it does look somewhat promising.

The last major tennis game I've seen released on PC was Virtua Tennis 4 in 2011. And in Sega's defense, this was also the last Virtua Tennis title released to date. So perhaps if we ever seen a Virtua Tennis 5, it will also come to PC. Sega has certainly continued to support PC gaming as a platforming bringing many high profile releases to Steam and the like, as well as continuing to re-release classics ranging from arcade, Genesis, Saturn and even Dreamcast ports.

Volleyball gets no love on computers, however. In fact, I can't seem to find a single volleyball game on PC post-DOS. I guess it's true to say that volleyball isn't particularly popular on consoles as well. But if Sega really wanted to dominate the landscape, they could bring Beach Spikers to Steam, and make me a very happy gamer.

Boxing isn't a sport that I pay much attention to (Punch-Out!, aside), but it does seem to be at least somewhat represented on PC in recent years. While EA never brought their big-name Fight Night series to PC gamers, it appears that other publishers are trying to fill that gap. In fact, a new game called Real Boxing was just released on Steam in July.

And finally we get to soccer. Probably the sport have had the least interest in my entire life. In fact, the only soccer game I can remember playing would be the Kunio-kun ones for NES and Game Boy. Yet ironically, it seems that soccer remains the most currently supported sport on PC. FIFA 14 is currently available on Origin, with FIFA 15 scheduled for September release. Meanwhile, Pro Evolution Soccer is still receiving 2014 DLC on Steam. And speaking of Steam, there's even some indie soccer games being released there as well.

So while soccer and basketball fans are pretty well covered, it appears as if we'll be looking to independent developers to attempt to fill the void in current sports games that the bigger publishers have created. Here's to hoping that titles like The Golf Club and Real Boxing are indications that 2015 might be a more diverse year for sports fans with PC's.

The Golf Club screenshot courtesy HB Studios.

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I used to play Golf on our old DOS computer as a kid too. I learned how to play the sport through that game. Other than that I don't remember ever having played or even seen a friend of family member play ANY sports game on a PC.

I never really put much thought into it and just assumed that every iteration of Madden or NHL was coming out on the PC around the same time as the consoles. With the amount of people on their computers I'd find it VERY hard to believe that a lot of those games you mentioned above couldn't find a profitable sized audience.
I recently found out that my local library loans out the PC versions of the NBA 2K titles. I'll have to check it out.

I still have my old sports games such as the Front Page Sports series by Dynamix, or the great racing games from Papyrus. Great memories.

I think the reason that soccer and basketball still have games coming out on PC is because they're international sports. PC is still crazy popular in Europe for gaming, and soccer is big over there. Basketball is big in Europe as well.
I played a fair amount of DOS sports games too. Actually, I still use a line from a 90's-something version of NBA Live regularly. When you get to a loading screen it reads, "Hang on, It's load'n!" That's my go to line when waiting for something to load up.

Not that I'm into them much but there are plenty of "(insert sport) Manager (insert year)" sims around. A recent Humble Bundle forced Out of the Park Baseball 14 on me. I might actually try to manage a baseball dynasty sometime, that'll be hilarious......

You did leave out racing sports, but Addicted had your back. Papyrus was awesome, by the way.

I wanted to point out the most recent trailer for the upcoming game Project CARS. I showed a friend some still shots from this game, he didn't realize they weren't real cars until I pointed it out....twice. All footage is in-game:

The Pistons getting hammered on at home.  That seems about right.
Yeah i think of racing as driving games not sports games,
Tiger Woods migrated from a physical PC release to a browser-based game called Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online:
Sim games like OOTP, FIFA manager and others (the short-lived NFL Head Coach game comes to mind) still have a niche market but since they are not driven by graphics, they are naturally less expensive to make.

The one silver lining is the very active PC modding community. I remember helping with updated NBA Live 95 rosters for the PC back in 1997. That stuff is STILL going strong (long live the NBA Live Series Center).

Madden's absence surprises me the most. I can't believe it has been seven years for that one.

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