Ahh July, the time of year that our minds are consumed with thoughts of Bar-B-Ques, pool parties, and…football?!?! Yup that’s right, just yesterday, EA Sports released NCAA Football 2014, nearly 2 months before the actual season begins.
I can’t figure out why people get so excited for such an early release of a sports game before its real life counterpart’s season begins. I know the majority of my enjoyment in a sports video game comes from the idea of the fantasy that I’m involved somehow in that season. I imagine that my school’s football team will do well that season, and I like to play along with them in my own imagination. I like to have my starting quarterback in real life be the same as in my game. Sometimes the starter changes in the final few weeks before the season starts, meaning to get the best experience possible, I have to go in and manually make changes. So when the new college football game comes out before baseball’s all-star game is even played, it feels a little hollow to me.
The early release of sports games is nothing new, nor is it isolated to football. NBA 2K14 is scheduled to be released on October 1st of this year, 29 days before the first game is even played. At that time, most teams are still in their training camps and are finalizing their rosters., but you’re able to take those unfinished teams and start them up to your own fantasies, no matter how different the real game may turn out. Last year’s game was a great example, as they released NBA 2K13 prior to the much publicized trade of James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston. The in-game audio included commentary about how important Harden was for the future of the franchise and how important the “Big Three” (Harden, Pont Guard Russell Westbrook, and Small Forward Kevin Durant) would be in their championship run that year. If the release were pushed back only two weeks, they could have instead talked about how big of a trade that was and kept up with the times.
It seems that the most popular sports video game of all time, Madden NFL, is the only one immune to being released so early. This year it is being released on August 30th, only 1 week before the season begins. They allow all of the rosters to be trimmed down and properly organized so that they mimic the actual NFL roster as close as possible. Fans are able to buy this game and start playing it right along with their team. Madden is also the best-selling sports game of all time, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
I understand the idea of releasing games early, it builds up the anticipation and allows the ultra-dedicated to get their hands on it and practice as soon as possible. For me, It allows me to go in and buy the game used off of some kid who got a football game in July and is already bored of it. I would gladly trade a more refined product with a better game experience for getting it three weeks earlier. Maybe it’s just a sign of me getting older, but it seems like being patient can bring better things in life.