The tendency of game developers to release yearly installments of their most popular sports franchises means that their changes often seem trivial. In truth, the sports genre has been behind some of the most crucial innovations in gaming, and has demonstrated how developers can use hardware innovations for the sake of the game instead of novelty. Far from coasting, sports games have come a long way. Take for example, football games:
This year, the Madden, FIFA, and NBA 2K series all boast new physics models, injecting a sort of wild unpredictability into the game that could previously only be seen in the real world. It’s the kind of addition that will drive sports game purists nuts. Still, those who actually play and watch sports will see something much more satisfying in the seemingly chaotic nature of realistic ball and body physics, such as Madden 2013’s new “Infinity Engine”:
Sports games have gone through three basic stages in regards to their handling of statistics. In the early days, games weren’t nearly complex enough to care about each individual’s stats, instead focusing on the strength of positions. In the original Madden, a check-mark on the “QB” line meant simply that your quarterback was better than theirs. Increasingly powerful consoles led to increasingly detailed statistics, making each play as much about individual players as it was about who was holding the controller. Finally, sports games started taking advantage of always-connected consoles by updating stats as they happen.
Increased Accessibility and Complexity
The average new sports game presents a dizzying array of options. In fact, sports games now contain so many complexities that developers have been working increasingly hard to make them as easy to understand and interact with as possible. Developers use new technology (like Madden’s new Kinect voice activation and FIFA’s innovative use of the upcoming WiiU handheld tablet) to streamline the options and interactions offered to the player that have the potential to overwhelm and frustrate.