It has been awhile since Duke Basketball, along with every other team in the nation, has been represented in a video game. It is time to change that.
Earlier this week, I decided to give my copy of College Hoops 2k8 a go. ‘CHoops’, as most people refer to it, was the last good college basketball game to come out, with EA Sports’ NCAA Basketball series crashing and burning all the way to a disappointing end in 2010.
CHoops had always been one of my favorite sports game, and one of the few games that I found myself capable of revisiting every year. If you tried to get me to play a football or baseball game from 2008 or prior, I’d probably laugh at you (with the exceptions being Ken Griffey Jr Slugfest, MVP Baseball 2005 and Tecmo Bowl). Sports games have made such impressive leaps and bounds over the past few years that games only three or four years old feel completely outdated most of the time.
This was never a problem with CHoops. Maybe the graphics were a little subpar and maybe the players didn’t move as realistically as possible, and we all know the game has its fair share of glitches, but the gameplay was always enjoyable and ‘Legacy Mode’ (essentially a coaching career mode) was as deep of an experience as you could find in a video game. Regardless of how much better basketball games have become, CHoops never felt stale to me.
Then I popped it in my Xbox 360 earlier this week.
It still isn’t, by any means, a bad game. I still enjoyed it enough to where I managed to knock out about half a season’s worth of games over the course of my Spring Break. It was, however, starting to show its age. Players looked a little more robotic, tiresome gameplay animations piled up and the game didn’t have the same smooth feeling that I remembered. As much as I hate to say it, the game is starting to get a little outdated.
Worst of all, 2K Sports shut down their online servers for CHoops back in November 2012, essentially killing one of the main factors in the series lasting appeal – the online community, complete with pages upon endless pages of roster sharing. Did you want to download a roster and play with Duke’s championship team from the 2009-10 season? Yeah, they had that. Did you want to try and make something of the miserable 2006-07 team? They had that, as well. Perhaps you got particularly moody after watching the Fab Five documentary, along with all their kind words about Duke, and wanted to crush them in an exhibition game. Yeah, you could’ve done that too.
Every roster you could imagine: gone.
If you were one of the few who loved EA Sports’ college basketball series, then you probably know their servers were shut down back in 2011. Basically, college basketball is dead to the world of video game developers. Why is this? Why did a market that had two strong competitors just a few years ago suddenly disappear from the face of the Earth?
Over at Kotaku, they highlight one of the prime reasons for the lifelessness of college basketball in the current video game world:
College basketball has long been a problematic license for sports publishers. Though the NCAA has a billion-dollar television contract for its championship tournament and summons millions of viewers in North America in March, titles under its license released in November, typically at the end of the simulation sports publishing cycle, and were cannibalized by the professional basketball games. College sports simulations also face the threat of litigation; a lawsuit currently in U.S. federal court claims the NCAA and its licensed games publishers—i.e. EA Sports—unlawfully used actual amateur players’ likenesses.
This is the same problem that has plagued the NCAA Football series, to the point where they’ve started to make parts of rosters fare more inaccurate than they did in the past. The only solution I can think of would be creating entirely inaccurate rosters. Yes, make the elite teams elite and the crappy teams crappy, but give them entirely fake players with fake names and fake playing styles. Then, make sure you include a roster sharing service on your server. The gaming community and its ever-expanding massiveness should have more than a few souls willing to take the time to create absurdly accurate rosters (just look at what is done in the NCAA football series, MLB The Show series or CHoops 2k8, where people still create rosters that can be transferred via flash drive).
Given how massive of a market NCAA Basketball has become, I’m certain the market would be there for a video game, especially if 2K Sports and their high reputation with basketball games came forward and were willing to pay for the license.
It is far too late for anyone to pump out a college basketball edition for for the upcoming year, unless they were willing to wait until around March Madness to release the game, but I certainly hope to see one in late 2014. Just search any NBA 2K12/2K13 college basketball mod on Youtube and you’ll see why I’m so eager for this game to be made.
A guy can dream.
What do you think? Do you want to see college basketball make a comeback in the video game scene?