EA May Need to Abandon UFC and Refocus on Boxing Games

EA Sports CEO Andrew Wilson says that he sees a future for Fight Night, but will the gaming and sports industries allow for it to happen?

As mixed martial arts’ (MMA) popularity sweeps across television screens onto clothes, and now video games, EA Sports’s Fight Night boxing title has limped away to the corner of the ring.

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While EA Sports UFC is getting all the attention, Fight Night has not lived to take part in a new fight card since 2011.

In an interview with IGN, EA Sports CEO Andrew Wilson said that “a great portion of the core of the Fight Night team” is responsible for developing their UFC game as well.  He also was willing to go on the record about a forecast for Fight Night.

“Do I see a future for Fight Night? You know, sure,” Wilson said. “But right now, UFC is where our fighting focus is.”

Sounds promising, right?

Fan Interest is Changing

From a sports perspective, it does not seem likely. MMA’s popularization by Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has boxing down for the count. Over time, one of the world’s oldest sports became plagued by fixing and lack of instant gratification from getting knockouts on major Pay-per-view boxing matches.

The UFC is today’s answer to boxing’s age old problems. A knockout could happen within the first 30 seconds of a match, and if a fighter does not make his opponent unconscious from a crushing blow, then they will try to dismantle each other’s body through submissions until they tap out. It is rare to say a fighter either lost or drew with an opponent because judges had to score the match, which raises concerns for fight fixing.

All these elements make for a satisfying game. Anyone who plays would not necessarily have to understand strategy, but everyone will understand the satisfaction of knocking someone out cold.

There is also the consideration of boxing’s future based on three of the biggest names currently in the sport set to retire soon without any rising star having the same appeal as they do.

Floyd Mayweather Junior is planning on retiring in 2015, and legendary boxing trainer Freddie Roach announced Manny Pacquiao would have retired if he had not beaten Timothy Bradley Junior in their April rematch.

At 40-years old, Juan Manuel Marquez has all the elements set for a retirement. Marquez knocked out Pacquiao and earned seven belts in four different weight classes.

But from a video game industry perspective, it is likely that gamers could return to trading blows solely with their virtual fists.

EA Sports UFC isn’t as Tight as Fight Night

GameSpot, USA Today, and IGN all gave EA Sports UFC poor reviews. Included in their criticism of the game was a complicated fighting mechanic that was not well-balanced and felt unrealistic, especially when dealing blows.

While the new IGNITE engine captured shifting flesh, painful squints, and natural reactions to defending against a barrage of mounted punches, it failed to take into account that fewer strikes would realistically send an opponent to sleep than displayed in the video game.

The controls attest to why it is hard to take a sport like MMA and make video game controls for it, as nearly every single style of martial arts could be featured in one fight. It may have been packaged neatly on one disk, but it is difficult for gamers.

While controls are a complication for a UFC game, the evolution Fight Night controls gave options enjoyable by different styles of gamers. For those who wanted more control and a realistic experience, the game featured right analog stick motions similar to the coordinating punches.

Gamers who did not like having to synchronize a symphony of right analog stick motions could just simply use the corresponding buttons for every type of punch. While a match in the octagon could feature swinging backhands and shin kicks, there are only four types of punches thrown in the ring.

IGNITE would especially flex it’s muscles when depicting the battle wounds attained by boxers during a future Fight Night game. The smudging of cheeks, treatment of sliced skin by a cut man, and sprinkles of sweat created by punches would all create a new level of realism EA Sports UFC could not offer from primarily wide shots.

But the criticism against EA Sports UFC also creates a level of uncertainty. What critics had to say about the game could be used to either follow up with a better sequel, or refocus the development team towards making another Fight Night.

Both sports are bruised, and gamers will only find out the results as the rounds go on.


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Author
Chris_Lemus
University of South Florida radio broadcaster and newspaper correspondent. Critically consuming the mass media.