Namco’s R.B.I. Baseball took the video game world by storm in 1988 when it launched in the States on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was one of the first sports games to include real MLB players, including superstars like Don Mattingly, Andre Dawson, Roger Clemens and Dale Murphy. The game went on to spawn sequels across multiple platforms before retiring.
Although the original included cities that featured MLB teams, but not the actual MLB license, Major League Baseball (through its MLBAM development group) is reviving the classic franchise. The new game, R.B.I Baseball 14, will feature all 30 MLB clubs as well as 480 active players. Fans of the original will remember that R.B.I. never featured the complete roster, but focused on the starting nine, four pitchers as well as some bench players. That means not every single MLB player will be featured in this game.
The game is slated to launch in April on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS devices and Android smartphones and tablets with a separate launch on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One later. Despite ESPN reporter Darren Rovell announcing an April 10 launch, MLB said the exact launch date has yet to be determined. The game needs to be approved by Sony and Microsoft before it can be locked in for the current gen and next-gen launches.
According to Jamie Leece, vice president of gaming at MLBAM, the new gameplay will remain true to the roots of the brand, but also to the genre of the time period.
“The game, which features modern stylized graphics, will offer a fun, accessible and fast gameplay experience,” said Leece, who heads up a development team of 40 on this title. “You can play a full game in less than 20 minutes. User controls will be true to the genre of that time, so two buttons will manage almost all of gameplay. Almost undoubtedly, you’ll utilize all four pitchers in every game you play, because that was the gameplay experience of that generation.”
In addition to making mobile and now console baseball video games, MLBAM collects data from every pitch of every game. The team has tens of thousands of data points from pitching, hitting and fielding. The developer will use that data to heavily influence the types of pitches thrown, including the speed and control of each pitcher, and also the differentiation between a contact hitter versus a power hitter. Leece said the game explores great detail in understanding the performance of the player and the trends of his or her actual on-field performance.
The new game will allow players to embark on a full 162 game regular season complete with playoffs (using today’s playoff format). There will also be quarter season and half season options with full playoffs. Players can choose from three jerseys during the season, including home, away and alternate.
Leece said there will be Team Challenges during the season, like trying to hit three runs in a single game, hitting a gland slam with a pitcher or pitching a perfect inning that will unlock a fourth jersey. These special jerseys will include retro uniforms like the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Big Red Machine, the Montreal Expos and the “We Are Family” Pirates. These will be performance-based unlockables not available via micro-transactions.
There will also be Exhibition gameplay as well as Postseason Only gameplay for those who want to jump in and play ball.
MLBAM already established itself as a major player in the video game space, having launched MLB Home Run Derby, MLB Franchise MVP and MLB Ballpark Empire. MLB is taking the same approach with the console game space, bringing in veteran developers to create this new R.B.I Baseball 14 game.
With 2K Sports now out of baseball, fans of America’s national pastime will now have two very different game experiences this spring. Sony’s MLB 14: The Show is taking its simulation approach, while MLBAM is going retro arcade with R.B.I. Baseball 14.
“Underneath the hood of R.B.I. Baseball 14 lies a very strategic and deep baseball game that will test the skills of all players,” said Leece. “You will not be able to put it down.”