The 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), an annual conference on the state of affairs for computer and video games, is wrapping up today in Los Angeles. While E3 is mostly known for showcasing major leaps in graphics technology, inventive forms of gameplay, and completely new gaming consoles, it also comes with its fair share of pretty standard announcements. This includes almost every sports game franchise showing up with details and information about its latest upcoming iteration.
For example, at this year’s E3, the folks from EA Sports announced the latest addition to Madden NFL 13: a different physics engine – basically: the computerized system that accounts for player collisions. Former versions of the Madden NFL franchise also, of course, had physics engines, but the engine for Madden NFL 13 is new and improved.
Sports video games are the perfect background and filler for an annual conference like E3 because they also operate on yearly expectations; a new version of Madden NFL and NBA 2K and Tiger Woods PGA Golf and any other successful gaming franchise will appear in stores every year, usually around the same time. The question that the games’ producers don’t want asked is: Should they?
Certainly, there are yearly improvements in video game technologies, and sports video games benefit from these like any other game franchise might. But it’s unlikely that every single year should see an improvement so amazing that it requires a completely new version of the game.
In the past, sports games that are tied to real-life sports (i.e. the NFL or MLB) had a better rationale for a yearly release schedule, since things like rookies, trades, and player improvements could only appear in the game through new physical software. But internet-capable gaming devices have eliminated that need, as rosters are now updated daily – rather than yearly – through downloadable content.
In fact, that was the sort of monumental innovation that deserved an announcement at a major event like E3. But the minor tweaks and adjustments that many sports game franchises make to their physical products from year to year probably don’t need the fanfare – and they may not need completely new product releases either.