Quick Question: Where Did All The Over-The-Top Sports Games Go?
As gamers, we really do live in a wonderful age. Gaming is becoming more and more mainstream, accepted, and referenced everywhere from late-night talk shows via Conan's Clueless Gamer segments to commercials for basketball games.
This brings up an important question. If games like NBA Jam and NFL Blitz are so ingrained into our culture that Yahoo Sports is comfortable making a highlight video referencing them, why haven't there been any new installments of these games on console?
For that matter, where have the rest of the over-the-top sports games gone?
Last Seen In The Early 2010s...
Though there is a mobile game, the last we have seen of NBA Jam on consoles was 2010's NBA Jam: On Fire Edition for the XBOX 360, Wii, and PlayStation 3. The last we have seen of the SSX series was also on last-generation consoles, releasing 4 years ago. 2012 also saw an updated version of NFL Blitz hitting consoles as a downloadable title.
Each and every one of these games released to critical acclaim and commercial success, with SSX's 2012 release topping the charts in the UK the month of its release. There was a demand for these types of games, with high-flying arcade action. IGN said that SSX was "The video game this generation has been missing", and, well, they were wrong. The late 2000s and early 2010s saw a great number of these types of extreme or arcade-style sports games, from the skate series to the NBA and FIFA Street games to the aforementioned resurgence of NBA Jam and NFL Blitz.
Again, these games all released to positive sales numbers. The audience was there, and they were proving that fact with their wallets.
A Generation of Silence
We are currently on the brink of the announcement of the next generation of gaming. Nintendo's NX is coming in 2017, with Sony and Microsoft each likely to follow closely behind.
The only major arcade-style sports game that has been released in this current generation of gaming was Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5. And, well, we don't talk about that one.
The core gameplay in these over-the-top games is a very unique type of fun, one that has been missing in this generation of gaming.
Despite its failure though, one need only look at the hype generated before the game's release to realize that gamers are chomping at the bit for new games like this. We wanted the game to be good. We rooted for it. And, to be completely frank, that's rare for a triple-A title these days. You can even see it in our review of the game, that despite all its flaws, there's something in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5. The core gameplay in these over-the-top games is a very unique type of fun, one that has been missing in this generation of gaming.
And for many, that's why THPS5 was such a slap in the face. All the game had to do was work and it'd at least be a fun return to this fantastical over the top world of arcade sports action. Unfortunately, they couldn't even get that far.
So, Is There Any Hope Left?
One would think that in this day and age of endless rehashes, sequels, and studios relying only on successful franchises to move copies and make money, that a new SSX, a new NBA Jam, or a new FIFA Street would be a no-brainer.
After all, the costs of making video games has become astronomically high, so a sure bet like this, especially when a triple-A company would essentially be able to corner the market given the complete lack of other similar games currently on the market... it just makes sense.
The game's only competition would be coming from the indie scene, with games like OlliOlli helping gamers to scratch that Tony Hawk itch, but even then, an indie studio could not hope to compete with a fully fledged arcade sports game featuring athlete likenesses and high production value.
But short of staking hopes on a surprise announcement at E3, there's no concrete reason to expect a game like this anytime soon.
That said, if the pundits are right, the future of gaming is in virtual reality, and there would be no better way to experience the high flying and high impact action of these games than from a first person perspective. Sure, it's a pipe dream, but that's what these games are all about, right?