The Sports Desk – The Year To Come

by Matthew Kato on Jan 02, 2017 at 09:00 AM

This year is going to be an interesting one for sports games. While it's no surprise that the yearly franchises will give us plenty to talk about this fall, I feel like the whole genre is at an important crossroads for a variety of reasons. Three years into the current console cycle we're no longer in the honeymoon phase, and franchises should be on the cusp of their prime period within the generation. Will we see a leap forward or a year of treading water? Here are just some of the questions I have regarding the sports games of 2017.

Falling Down the Peripheral Rabbit Hole

VR may be the future, but I don't think its install base is big enough yet to warrant developers dedicating hours and dollars to it at the expense of a good, solid non-VR experience. Notice how EA in particular hasn't jumped into VR as fast as they did with motion controls last generation? Perhaps this has made them more focused on delivering the fundamentals for their titles. If VR can solve some of its motion sickness issues and entry price, sports will be at the forefront of the experience, but I don't think we're there yet.

What Is EA Going to Do With Its PGA Golf Franchise?

Rory McIlroy PGA Tour came out in 2015 hampered by a loss of features and not a lot of courses. EA rectified this via a series of free content updates that bolstered the game, and also was an attempt to fill in the gap of the fact that the franchise didn't put out an actual game in 2016. So, what's it going to be for 2017 for the series?

Speaking of Series That Are MIA: NBA Live...

NBA Live is returning in 2017. Given the series' recent rocky history, it needs to lay down a good gameplay foundation. I'd love it if it came out with a full suite of features and all guns blazing, but this series definitely needs to take measured steps in order to avoid missing installments again.

What's the Impact of Gran Turismo Sport?

I'm excited, like many, for the coming release of GT Sport. The larger intellectual discussion is what kind of impact it will or won't have on the racing genre as a whole. Forza Horizon 3 is great, Forza Motorsport 7 should be out in 2017 also, and it will be interesting to see if Polyphony's marching to the beat of its own drum causes GT Sport to feel behind the times.

Will Nintendo Switch Impact Sports?

Previously I wrote about the Switch and sports games, outlining some of the challenges I think sports games could face on the system (based on what I know about it before its January 12 info update). Outside of that, hopefully there is enough time for developers to get their fall titles on the system.

Pro Evolution Soccer Needs Its Licenses

This is always a question for the franchise – and one that it has made headway on in the past few years. Hopefully that progress continues and we don't see clubs like Liverpool here today and gone tomorrow. Clubs like Barcelona have signed on as "premier" partners, denoting a different level of commitment and stability. Even with the ability to import kits and more via option files, the more licenses the series can get its hands on the better.

The Evolution Of EA's Story Mode & The Migration to Frostbite

FIFA did a decent job with The Journey story mode, and I hope it continues to grow, adding more team/supporter context/flavor, involve other leagues, and make your choices more relevant. Furthermore, as more EA Sports games transfer to EA DICE's Frostbite engine, this obviously opens the door to whether we'll see story modes in titles like Madden. I certainly hope so, and there is also the question of how well these series' gameplay handles the transition to the new engine.

What's Next for Games' Ultimate Team Modes?

BTW, I'm using the term "ultimate team" to refer to all the various games' fantasy collection modes even though that's an EA term. Regardless, I'm curious if we'll see new ways to present this experience to elevate it beyond getting different shades of player cards. Everyone loves ripping open packs, but what's the next evolution for these modes?

Making Room for Indies

In 2015 Rocket League took the world by storm, seemingly out of the blue. I'd love it if 2017 sees a similar phenomenon arise, giving us a new title to play that we weren't expecting and which isn't a part of our normal rotation of games. Personally, I have Old Time Hockey and The Golf Club 2 on my immediate radar, and I'm sure I'm missing plenty of other worthy titles.

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A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week.

Porsche Signs Up With iRacing
Racing site GTPlanet previously reported that Porsche's exclusive deal with EA was ending, and now it looks like the dominos are indeed falling.