For the first time in franchise history, “MLB The Show” is now available on an Xbox console.
The annual baseball franchise has been a cornerstone of PlayStation hardware since 2006, when it debuted on the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable. After publisher Take-Two purchased the third party rights to the Major League Baseball franchise (often reported to be in direct response to EA’s purchase of the exclusive NFL rights for its “Madden” series), “MLB 2K” became the only baseball game in town for the Xbox ecosystem. That run of mediocre to straight up bad games came to an end with “MLB 2K13,” which was one of the worst baseball games ever created. For the last seven years, the only way to play an authentic baseball game was on PlayStation hardware.
“The Show” has consistently been one of the best sports titles available each year across any sport. So Xbox owners were often on the outside looking in — in more ways than one. But that changed two years ago, when the MLB announced that its only baseball game would finally appear on Xbox hardware in 2021. Flash forward to today, and here we are. Xbox owners can play “MLB The Show 21” — and for free, if they subscribe to Xbox Game Pass. That last bit came as a surprise to many when it was announced last month.
In order for “The Show” to appear on Xbox hardware, the MLB had to publish the title. Sony San Diego, the longtime developer behind the baseball franchise, still handled development duties for the Xbox version, but Sony refused to publish the title. It kind of makes sense. Why would Sony publish a title for a competitor’s platform? Microsoft has continued to publish “Minecraft” titles across Nintendo and Sony hardware, and other smaller titles Microsoft-published titles have ended up on Nintendo hardware. But Sony has never done such a thing before, and shows no intentions of starting any time soon.
So the idea of “MLB The Show” on the Xbox, published by the MLB, wasn’t too far fetched. What was crazy was the idea that Xbox Game Pass subscribers would get the game day-and-date at launch for free. Once the initial shock of such a title launching on the subscription service wore off, it really makes sense, especially considering the MLB is behind it all.
Think about it, Major League Baseball wants as many customers to purchase and play the game as possible. Publishing it on the Xbox One and Xbox Series S/X was an easy decision. A player base of at least 50 million new customers just opened. But some of them might be hesitant to jump on a baseball game they’ve never played before, especially after the dismal run of “MLB 2K.” If such a game was playable for free, it would direct even more eyes to the new product, perhaps creating the foundation for a player base in the coming years on the new hardware. It was a brilliant move and fans were excited — at least fans on Xbox hardware.
There’s a growing rumble among PlayStation hardware owners who are disgruntled — to say the least — that Xbox owners get the latest “MLB The Show” for what amounts to free, while they’re forced to pay $70 for the new game. Let this be a cautionary tale against platform hardware loyalty.
The point these disgruntled fans are making is that Sony should offer the game free for their hardware, or at least offer some sort of discount. From a pure consumerism point of view, it makes sense. Why should Sony hardware owners have to pay for a title that Xbox hardware owners get for free? The irony is that Sony has been in the game of purchasing exclusive content for titles for the last decade — essentially paying publishers and developers to keep content away from Xbox players, while still charging the same price for it.
A more realistic view would point out that Sony doesn’t have anything resembling a Game Pass service. Jim Ryan, head of Sony Interactive Entertainment, has even gone on record to say the company has no interest in creating a similar service. “MLB The Show” has also been a major title on PlayStation hardware for 15 years, and this is the first time it’s coming to the Xbox. The MLB needs to do all that it can to build that fan base on new hardware, and this is the most efficient way to do it. From a business perspective, it totally makes sense.
There’s no argument to be made about what’s “fair” about “MLB The Show” coming to the Xbox. But it’s good to see Microsoft’s hardware finally receive a quality baseball title for the first time in years. And in the end, that’s good for everyone.
Josh Rouse lives in Lawton and writes a weekly gaming column for The Lawton Constitution.