There Will Be Baseball On The Xbox 360, Major League Baseball 2K13 Returns

2K Sports surprised everyone with its announcement this morning that MLB 2K13 will release this year on Xbox 360. Pitcher David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays is the cover star. The game will be on shelves March 5.

2K Sports’ MLB 2K series, long a money-loser and critical underperformer, was widely expected to be retired after 2K Sports’ semi-exclusive pact with Major League Baseball expired at the end of this year. In a statement, Jason Argent, the 2K Sports vice president of marketing, thanked “our league partners for their support in helping us reach an agreement to bring back MLB 2K.”

The language suggests that the deal was renewed at terms much more favourable to 2K Sports, and likely not under any kind of exclusive arrangement. 2K Sports, since 2006, had been the only third-party publisher of Major League Baseball video games — a deal that allowed for Sony to publish its own title, MLB the Show, plus a PC management simulation published by Sega.

The news release said MLB 2K13 would be published on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Previous editions were published for every platform imaginable, from PC to the Nintendo DS and Wii.

The game will be developed by in-house studio Visual Concepts of Novato, California, responsible for MLB 2K9 to present.

Strauss Zelnick, the chief executive of 2K Sports parent Take-Two Interactive, had long called the deal a money-loser, and for years it was widely speculated that 2K Sports’ MLB line of products resulted in a $US30 million annual loss, which was overcome by the immense profitability of its popular and award-winning NBA 2K series.

In May, a Take-Two quarterly earnings report to investors did not show any Major League Baseball title releasing for 2013 in its traditional March window. Advice to investors at the time also said the company would be avoiding, by 50 per cent, the losses associated with the game, strongly indicating that it was closing down the series.

“Our legacy Major League Baseball agreement will sunset in fiscal 2013. MLB 2K12 is our last offering under that agreement,” a Take-Two spokesman said at the time.. Until today’s news, it was the only comment on Major League Baseball 2K‘s fate. Every analyst and publication covering the product said it would be junked.

But Major League Baseball appeared to come to the realisation that it would have zero presence on North America’s dominant console without a new deal with 2K Sports. EA Sports, whose popular MVP Baseball series was closed down in 2005 by the league’s deal with 2K, showed no desire to return to baseball publishing.

In June, the label took over the exclusive licence the UFC mixed-martial arts series had with beleaguered publisher THQ. At the time, EA Sports boss Andrew Wilson said the company’s sole new project for consoles in 2013 would be its MMA game.

No one has developed a simulation quality baseball video game on this console generation other than 2K Sports and Sony. The timing of 2K’s exclusive deal with MLB, which apparently ended on Dec. 31, left practically no window long enough for any other publisher with the requisite development muscle to get a product ready for release in 2013.

Other developments pointed to MLB 2K‘s retirement, not the least of which was 2K Sports’ total silence on any new baseball product during December, which is traditionally when cover stars and new features are announced. The title suffered from poor post release support as well, and though its roster was updated through to the end of the postseason, the game received only one title update, three months after release.

No new features of MLB 2K were mentioned in the release. The product’s “Million Dollar Challenge”, a very successful promotion until it broke down last year amid accusations of cheating, also returns. The “Million Dollar Challenge” is a contest predicated on throwing a perfect game within the MLB 2K series, and has been held annually since 2010.

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