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Box Score: The Long Goodbye

Box Score is a weekly column that offers a look at sports games and the athletic side of the industry from the perspective of veteran reviewer and sports fan Richard Grisham.

It’s a foregone conclusion that we’ve seen the last of the MLB 2K series. A quick analysis of facts, rumors, and innuendo all lead to the undeniable truth that 2K Sports’ corporate parent Take-Two Interactive has cut the cord on their relationship with Major League Baseball.

FACT: The only sports game that shows up on Take-Two’s list of releases for fiscal 2013 is their top-selling basketball franchise, NBA 2K13.

FACT: Take-Two President Strauss Zelnick has gone on record stating (more than once) that he’s not interested in licensed properties.

INNUENDO: The last two sports games to ‘disappear’ from Take-Two’s release list, NHL 2K and College Hoops 2K, were summarily killed off. MLB 2K is facing the same fate.

RUMOR: Take-Two has lost upwards of $30 million on their ill-fated (and extremely secretive) exclusive third-party license to make MLB games.

So with all that, you can take it to the bank that MLB 2K13 will never exist. Savaged by many, enjoyed by some, and loved by few, 2K Sports’ baseball franchise walks into the sunset as a symbol of a bygone era; one that saw publishers snap up expensive exclusive sports licenses in an effort to eliminate their competition. In Take-Two’s case, it proved to be disastrous.

Of course, MLB 2K12 continues to exist and even get patched. For reasons I can’t exactly pinpoint, I’m playing it almost every day. Granted, it’s mostly the My Player mode with a created starting pitcher – a feature that leans heavily on the game’s strengths and mitigates many of the glaring issues with fielding and hitting – but I’m well into 2014 and don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. Perhaps it’s nostalgia for MLB 2K7, the last baseball game that I played a full 162-game season (sharing that honor with MVP 2005 and MicroLeague Baseball). Maybe it’s because I rarely get a chance to play a game I know will be the last of its kind, a wistful kind of experience akin to watching a band perform on a farewell tour.

Mostly, though, it’s because I just don’t want it to go away.

Not MLB 2K, that is; while I don’t have the amount of vitriol for the series that many do, there’s no denying it’s an inferior product in most ways to MLB The Show as well as its other big-time sports counterparts.

What I’m most broken up about is the loss of The BIGS, the most fun baseball game I’ve ever played.

Back in 2007 when 2K Sports was actively seeking ways to make the most of their MLB license, The BIGS rocked the sports game world. Boasting gorgeous visuals and a unique combination of action and strategy, it blew the doors off the traditional baseball sim and dramatically upped the ante on ‘arcade’ sports titles. Its follow up in 2009 was similarly spectacular, expanding the options and adding a few more weapons to the arsenal. In fact, some would say that it’s the last truly original arcade sports game.