Dear Developers: Somebody Please, For The Love Of God, Make A AAA Arcade Sports Game!

I don’t get it.

When I was growing up in the ’80s, there were only a few video game genres. One of the biggest, of course, was sports. Ironically, kids interested in games in those days weren’t typically interested in sports. Prior to the industry’s explosion into mainstream status, the geeks and nerds really did hold sway. Same with comic books, same with anything that went from being cherished by the outcasts to being a worldwide phenomenon.

And yet, while those who picked up a controller often didn’t play sports and in fact didn’t even watch sports, they still played sports games. All of them did. And it wasn’t only because there were limited category options. It was because such games were a blast. Who the hell didn’t play and love NBA Jam or Blades of Steel? Even the games that weren’t trying to be overtly bonkers (ala Mutant League Football) were still completely accessible.

But now that we have the technology to produce amazing simulated experiences, every last sports and racing game on the planet is a simulation or, at the bare minimum, a hybrid of some sort, like Need for Speed. What happened? Is the prevailing belief among developers that given the sheer amount of options we have today, the only people interested in sports games will be die-hard sports fans and hence, they all want simulated interactive experiences?

I really don’t believe that’s true. And this is a relatively recent occurrence, too. It didn’t really start to wane until the PS3 era; on the PS2, we had all sorts of arcade sports/racing experiences. The MLB Slugfest franchise was awesome, NBA Jam was still around, and remember the likes of Burnout, SSXATV Off-Road, and the Street titles from EA Big? That’s really just a small sampling.

But the instant Gran Turismo (which I love) showed up was the instant the simulation fascination took hold, and that entire arena of gaming would never be the same. Now we’ve reached a point where half that arena is almost completely empty. We still have small-budget digital titles; a new NBA Jam iteration showed up some years back, and last year we got the super fun Super Mega Baseball. But a AAA arcade-based sports or racing game?

Such a thing doesn’t appear to exist. WHY? The aforementioned theory is probably correct, in that developers and publishers don’t think anyone not interested in sports will buy a sports game. And the ones who are interested, they want the most realistic experience possible. But I’m not even sure THAT’S necessarily true. Not only are arcade-style games far more accessible, they also require a fraction of the time; you can just sit and play one for 20-30 minutes.

Sit-down-and-play games have fallen to the small-budget indie realm and yes, we’ve got many options. But there are many people, especially those who have lives, who are older now and have more pressing responsibilities, that welcome those 20-30 minute play sessions with something purely fun. I loathe hockey and yet, I’ll still play NHL ’94 on my SNES. I’ve played multiple seasons in Super Mega Baseball. I did absolutely everything in that NBA Jam: On Fire Edition.

At the same time, I play the big-budget stuff as well. I’m finally reaching the end of Horizon: Zero Dawn and prior to that, I played Dishonored 2, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Battlefield 1, and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. I doubt I qualify as a casual gamer, even with my limited playing time these days. And every last person I know would still love to see an arcade-style sports or racing game with a big budget, one that begged for local multiplayer (as all these games did in the old days) and kept everything light.

Tecmo Bowl, anyone? Who’s going to say no to a fully updated version of THAT? Seriously?

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