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Take Two secures MLB, Sega out of the "sports" game


Romier S
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Well we certainly lived in simpler times. Gamespot has a news article up detailing some vague rumors about Take Two being in negotiation with the Major League Baseball association to exclusively publish thier games. You can read the article here:

 

Take Two in talks with MLB

 

An article on the ESPN-EA deal in today's issue contained the following sentence: "In another sign of how hotly contested sports videogames are, Take-Two is currently negotiating with Major League Baseball for exclusive rights to publish a baseball game, people familiar with the matter said."

 

Regardless of EA's "intentions" when acquiring the NFL and AFL license exlusively, I've always disliked the precedent it set. In the words of Mr. Horse (for the Ren and Stimpy fans out there): "No sir, I didn't like!". Now we have Take Two supposedly taking a stab at the MLB (and according to rumor EA talking to the NBA and being shotdown). No matter how you slice it, sports gamers lose. Less competing games means less choice and less motivation and pressure for these developers to create bigger and better sports games. :(

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Well, I don't think anyone can fault Take 2 since this appears to be purely a reactive move. The original precedent is bad though. I find myself not really caring here since no company has made a baseball game good enough to pique my interests. That's a far cry from the superior product being forced out of the market.

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And much like my decision to stop purchasing EA games as well as supporting the NFL for their decision, I'll probably do the same for MLB if this goes through.

 

It's really not hard for me to do since I hate almost all sports except hockey. The games are just fun to play for me, regardless of whther or not I like the actual sport.

 

This exclusivity thing if pissing me off though. But we should have seen it coming to be honest.

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Well according to the Wallstreet Journal, part of the deal with the MLB has happened. You can read the full story here (though you will need a subscription). I have grabbed the first part of it for you. If you want to read the rest, you will need to subscribe:

 

By NICK WINGFIELD

Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

January 24, 2005; Page B4

 

In the latest turn of a contest over the future of sports videogames, Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. reached a game-software licensing agreement with the union representing Major League Baseball players, according to people familiar with the matter.

 

Under the seven-year agreement, which could be announced as early as this week, Take-Two has agreed to pay a licensing fee of between $80 million and $90 million to the Major League Baseball Players Association, for rights to begin publishing baseball videogames starting next year, the people said. A person close to the union said the group is valuing the deal closer to $150 million, including commitments by the company to market future baseball videogames.

 

Take-Two has also been negotiating with Major League Baseball for rights to use team names and other assets in a baseball videogame; the status of those talks couldn't be learned. The deal with the union, though, is a crucial precursor to any deal with the league because it allows Take-Two to use the names and likenesses of professional ballplayers in its games. A spokesman for Take-Two, New York, declined to comment.

 

The deal is a win for Take-Two in sports, a category that accounted for about $1.1 billion, or nearly a fifth, of all U.S. console-game sales last year. The company has suffered a string of blows in sports at the hands of Electronic Arts Inc., the biggest game publisher, which recently struck exclusive agreements with the National Football League and Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN sports channel.

 

Take-Two holds rights to co-publish sports titles, including football, under the ESPN name, though those rights won't be renewed because of the recent EA deals. EA agreed to pay ESPN about $850 million and advertising commitments over their 15-year deal, while EA signed a five-year deal valued at more than $300 million with the NFL and the football players association, people familiar with the pacts said.

 

REST OF STORY IN FULL ARTICLE

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Just to muddy the waters a little, and because the quote from the article above doesn't make it clear, this is a deal with the player's union for the rights to player names + likeness, and this is the fun part, it's third party exclusive only. Microsoft, Sony & Nintendo are still able to make a deal with the union (if they haven't already) to use the names. EA, Midway, Activision or whoever else, can not.

 

So effectively this is a deal done purely to spite EA :)

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The team/stadum names are still up for grabs apparently. If Take Two can secure those as well, then it looks as though World Series Baseball/MLB/Sega Baseball will be the primary baseball game around. Unless of course, Microsoft/Sony/Nintendo decide to step up to bat. However, MS is all but out of the sports game. Sony's baseball games have been less than desireable and I doubt Nintendo will even bother with it. I hold the same amount of dislike for this deal as I do for the EA/NFL deal. Take Two is answering back to an overall shitty strategy but it doesn't make it any better IMHO. MVP was a damned fine game last year and it looks like this years iteration will be the last for quite some time.

 

What do we have to look forward to next in the arena of Sports? The NBA gave EA the big N-O. Will Take Two try to cut a deal and attempt to secure the NBA as well? Though they can't even sort out thier problems enough to get a game of hockey going, the NHL is also another key license. What of Football/Soccer?

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This potential deal could be even worse than the NFL deal...considering the fact that the last ESPN baseball game (2004) was clearly inferior to EA's MVP baseball.

 

One other thought...what's to stop Microsoft or Sony from hiring EA & the developer of the MVP Baseball series and releasing a new MVP baseball game as a 1st party title?

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Bad News Baseball pretty much pwned every baseball game ever made and it didn't have real players. The pink umpire bunnies and little cinemas for close plays were really ahead of their time.

 

Sega's game this year is looking pretty sick, but I'm withholding judgement since the last baseball game I bought from them didn't allow you to control your fielders. Hopefully this year's game will be as good as WSB on the Saturn was.

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Well it's happened....

 

Sega sells off Visual Concepts

 

Today, it appears the publisher has chosen to do just that. Following this morning's announcement that Take-Two had secured exclusive third-party publishing rights from the Major League Baseball Players' Association, Sega confirmed to GameSpot that it is selling Visual Concepts to Take-Two.

 

According to sources, Sega parted with the critically esteemed developer of ESPN NFL 2K5 and ESPN NBA 2K5 for just $24 million. That very low-sounding price is likely due to Electronic Arts' impending monopoly of NFL game rights and its 15-year exclusivity deal with ESPN, whose high-profile brand name will no longer give Visual Concepts' games instant recognition.

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Not unexpected. So that's Sega out of the mainstream sports market.

 

ALL of this is just so bad. Imagine if this scales up, and Sony gets the patent on "console-style videogames." Or Microsoft gets a patent for "online" games.

 

What do patents have to do with exclusive licences??

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What do patents have to do with exclusive licences??

 

Gaining exclusive licenses are like gaining patent rights because they "exclude" the competition.

 

The sentiment of course being that choice and competition are good, and these deals will inevitably dismantle competition, thus eliminating consumer choices. I can't really say how this will affect the industry over the next five years. Maybe IGN will be posting their last article about the "Top Ten Things That Caused the Videogame Crash of 2010."

 

5. Company consolidation (Microsoft, Sony, and EA are the only game companies now)

4. Sequels (GTA 7 and Halo 5 oversaturated the market)

3. 3 year console cycles (PS4 and Xbox 3 were released in 2008)

2. Game price increases ($70 RSRP)

1. Exclusive Licenses (EA purchased all existing licenses for everything.)

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Take Two has gone ahead and launched a new publishing label called "2K Games" along with it's sports subsidiary "2K Sports". Gamespot posted the news article with a listing of the development houses that are part of the new label. Take a look here:

 

Take Two creates new label

 

2K Games will incorporate Take-Two's internally owned development studios Visual Concepts, Kush Games, Indie Built, Venom Games, PopTop Software, and Frog City Software, as well as the team at Take-Two Licensing," the company revealed this morning.

 

Some of the titles that will now come from the new label are Close Combat: First to Fight, Close Combat: Red Phoenix, Stronghold 2, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

 

"The team at 2K Games is rapidly building a sweeping lineup of high-profile licensed and proprietary titles," said Paul Eibeler, president of Take-Two.

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I like how Take 2 did. Letting the 1st Party developers still have the access to the license and telling EA to go fuck themselves.

 

Putting it that way makes it sound like Take 2 generously allowed 1st party developers that freedom. More likely is a scenario one where Take 2 didn't have the pocketbook to buy the truely exclusive deal.

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Well EA isn't exactly keeping quiet on the issue as they called Take Two's purchase of the license "Stupid Money" and seriously downplayed the importance of thier baseball titles in general. You can read the full story here:

 

EA called Take Two exclusive deal "Stupid money"

 

Electronic Arts (ERTS), on the other hand, was a bit cooler, even icy, in its reaction. Electronic Arts vice president of corporate communications Jeff Brown said the deal is one his company wouldn't have made. "As far as we're concerned, this looks like stupid money," he said. "They are paying an exclusive price for a nonexclusive agreement." But, Brown added, "[this] proves that there is still competition in sports games." A genre, Brown said, "we [at EA] take real serious."

 

Downplaying the deal, Brown contextualized, placing sports in EA's larger strategy. "Let's start with the fact that baseball is a very small part of our business," he said, adding that it is, "smaller than football, basketball, and soccer. It is also smaller than NASCAR, PGA Tour, and typically would be smaller than hockey. It is not a big piece of our business."
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