Since the death of 2K’s MLB 2k series in 2013, Sony’s MLB The Show has been the only line of baseball sims officially licensed by Major League Baseball. Subsequently, anybody wanting to play “real” baseball with their favorite team has had to buy a PlayStation-branded console to do it on, but that will all change in as few as two years — MLB and Sony Interactive Entertainment today announced a new deal to bring MLB The Show to “additional console platforms beyond PlayStation® platforms as early as 2021.”
By 2021, both the PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Project Skarlett will be out in the wild, plus whatever Nintendo might be up to by then. Microsoft and Nintendo both retweeted the announcement, but considering the “as early as 2021” qualifier in the press release, I wouldn’t hold my breath for MLB The Show 20 to show up (sorry) on Xbox Games Pass next March.
For as big of a deal as this announcement is, that’s kinda all there is to it. No one else is stepping up to the plate (sorry!!) to develop simulation baseball games, so in lieu of actual competition in that space, at least Sony’s monopoly will be available to a wider audience. Which isn’t to say that these games aren’t good — I’ve never played one, full disclosure — I just think there’s something to be said for good ol’ fashioned competition in the world of competitive sports.
Still, The Show potentially coming to Microsoft and/or Nintendo consoles in the near future is pretty wild. It marks the first time (to my knowledge) that a game published and developed by a console manufacturer will be simultaneously released on other consoles. Microsoft has allowed Minecraft on everything, but that was more to maintain the status quo after it purchased Mojang in 2014. Similarly, it’s not uncommon for Xbox “exclusive” games and their PC ports to launch on the same day, but again, Microsoft owns Windows — there’s a big difference between that and, say, Microsoft porting Gears 5 to the PlayStation 4.
This probably has a lot more to do with the MLB wanting more money from its licensing agreement than it does with some kind of brand relaxation on Sony’s part — I wouldn’t infer this to mean that Bloodborne et al. may soon appear on Steam or something. It’s not not possible, but Sony’s commanding lead in console sales makes it pretty unlikely. It’ll be interesting to see how how well an Xbox game developed by a PlayStation studio runs, and whether SIE San Diego ends up contracting some kind of outside assistance with more (read: any) experience creating games on other platforms.
And by 2021, who even knows what the console landscape will look like. That’s so far in the future that Apple Arcade might somehow be the dominant platform by then. Mitsubishi may have entered and exited the video game hardware business by 2021. By then we’ll all be subjects of Imperator Musk’s Mars Commonwealth Supremacy and the unstoppable Flayers of Lightning House XIV; will MLB licensing contracts even matter in 2021?