A sports game
is a computer
or video game
that simulates the playing of traditional sports
Most sports have been recreated with a game, including baseball, association football, American football, boxing, wrestling, cricket, golf, basketball, ice hockey, tennis, bowling, rugby, hunting, fishing.
Some games emphasize actually playing the sport (such as the Madden NFL series), while others emphasize the strategy behind the sport (such as Championship Manager). Others satirize the sport for comic effect (such as Arch Rivals). This genre has been popular throughout the history of video games and is competitive, just like real-world sports.
A number of games series feature the names and characteristics of real teams and players, and are updated annually to reflect real-world changes.
The genre is not to be confused with electronic sports, which is used to describe computer and video games which are played as competitive sports.
Beginnings of sports games
One of the first video games in history, Tennis for Two (1958), was a sports game.
Computer games prior to the late 1970s were primarily played on university mainframe computers under timesharing systems that supported multiple computer terminals on school campuses. The two dominant systems were the Digital Equipment PDP-10 and the Control Data Corp. PLATO System. These systems displayed no graphics, only text. In the early 1970s they printed the text on teletype machines and line printers, but by the mid-seventies the text printed on single-color CRT screens.
Highlights of this era in sports games include:
In the late 1970s arcade games began to appear, and sports were a popular genre. Highlights of this era include:
Between 1980 and 1984 Atari
waged a series of high-stakes TV advertising campaigns promoting their respective systems during the first round of console wars
. Atari normally prevailed in arcade games
and had a deeper installed base due to its lower price, while Mattel's Intellivision touted its visually superior sports games. Sports writer George Plimpton
was featured in the Intellivision ads, which showed the parallel games side by side. Both Atari and Mattel fielded at least one game for baseball, American football, hockey, basketball, auto racing and association football.
In 1982, the first association football management simulation appeared, the ZX Spectrum's Football Manager. In 1983 EA produced their first sports game Dr. J and Larry Bird Go One on One by Eric Hammond, which was also the first licensed sports game based on the names and likenesses of famous athletes. The game was a major hit.
In 1983 Mattel released Intellivision World Series Baseball by Don Daglow and Eddie Dombrower, the first game to use multiple camera angles to show the action. Games prior to this displayed the entire field on screen, or scrolled across static top-down fields to show the action. IWSB mimicked television baseball coverage by showing the batter from a modified "center field" camera, showing baserunners in corner insets, and showing defensive plays from a camera behind home plate. It was also the first sports game to introduce players with spoken words (as opposed to text) using the Mattel Intellivoice module. It received limited distribution due to the video game crash of 1983, and today is one of the most rare and expensive Intellivision cartridges on the collectibles market.
In 1984 game designer Scott Orr founded GameStar, a game publisher specializing in Commodore 64 sports games, and served as lead designer. GameStar was the most successful sports game company of its era, and Orr sold the company to Activision in 1986. The company's titles included:
In 1988 EA released Earl Weaver Baseball by Don Daglow and Eddie Dombrower, which for the first time combined a highly accurate sim game with a high quality graphical action-style game. This was also the first game in which an actual baseball manager provided the computer AI. In 1996 Computer Gaming World named 'EWB to the #25 position on its list of the Best 150 Games of All Time, the second highest ranking for any sports game in that 1981–1996 period (after FPS Sports Football).
In 1989, Anco published Kick Off; it was immediately considered the pioneer of computer association football games due to its many original features.
The Creation of EA Sports -- In 1989 EA producer Richard Hilleman hired Gamestar's Scott Orr to re-design John Madden Football, then a disappointing Apple II American football game, for the fast-growing Sega Genesis. Orr and Hilleman together developed the game that is still recognized today as Madden Football, the best-selling title in the history of games in North America. They focused on producing a head-to-head two-player game with an intuitive interface and responsive controls. When the game shipped it immediately became a major hit.
Orr joined EA full-time in 1991 after the success of Madden on the Genesis, and began a ten-year period of his career when he personally supervised the production of Madden Football. During this time Hilleman, Orr and their EA teams also created the following EA Sports hits, each of which was updated annually:
Sensible Software's Sensible Soccer (1992) still retains a cult following today. The 16-bit era also saw the launch of many of the EA Sports sports franchises, including the FIFA, NHL, NBA Live and Madden NFL series.
32-bit / 64-bit systems
The arrival of Sony's PlayStation and 3D graphics cards on the PC enabled sports games to make the leap into 3D. Actua Soccer was the first soccer game to make use of a 3D engine.
- In 1995 Sierra released FPS Sports Football. The next year Computer Gaming World named it to the #12 position on its list of the Best 150 Games of All Time, the highest ranking for any sports game in that 1981–1996 period.
Comodore Amiga Cinemaware TV Sports Basketball 1990
In the beginning of the 21 century extreme sports entered into the mainstream with games like Tony Hawk Pro Skater, SSX and Supreme Snowboarding which popularized sport games like skateboarding, snowboarding and trickbikes.
Sports gaming becomes big business
On 13 December 2004
, Electronic Arts
began a string of deals that granted exclusive rights to several prominent sports organizations, starting with the NFL
. This was quickly followed with two deals in January securing rights to the AFL
licenses. This was a particularly hard blow to Sega
, the previous holder of the ESPN license, who had already been affected by EA's NFL deal. As the market for football brands was being quickly taken by EA, Take-Two Interactive
responded by contacting the Major League Baseball Players Association
and signing a deal that granted exclusive third-party major-league baseball rights; a deal not as restrictive, as first-party projects were still allowed. The NBA
was then approached by several developers, but declined to enter into an exclusivity agreement, instead granting long-term licenses to Electronic Arts
, Take-Two Interactive
, Midway Games
, and Atari
. In April, EA furthered its hold on football licensing by securing rights to all NCAA
Types of sports games
Sports games have traditionally been very popular arcade games
. The competitive nature of sports lends itself well to the arcades where the main objective is usually to obtain a high score
. The arcade style of play is generally more unrealistic and focuses on a quicker gameplay experience. Examples of this include the NFL Blitz and NBA Jam series.
In comparison to arcade sports games, the simulation style of play is a usually a more realistic rendition of the real-life sport it emulates. Examples include the Madden NFL series and the NBA 2k series.
Sports management games put players into the role of team manager
. Whereas fantasy games are often played online against other players, management games usually pit the player against AI
controlled teams. Players are expected to handle strategy, tactics, transfers, and financial issues. Examples include Football Manager
, Front Office Football
, NFL Head Coach 09
, MLB Front Office Manager
, Out of the Park Baseball
A fantasy sport
is a game
where fantasy owners build a team that competes against other fantasy owners based on the statistics
generated by individual players or teams of a professional sport
. Fantasy can also refer to fictional sports, see The fantasy element
Sports role-playing games are games which combines RPG elements into any sports genre. Level-5
's association football RPG game, Inazuma Eleven, is one of the many sports RPG's that define the sub-genre. Namco's racing RPG game, Final Lap Twin
, is another game which defines the sub-genre. Camelot's
Game Boy Color versions of games such as Mario Golf
and Mario Tennis
also have RPG elements in their single player modes. Smash Court Tennis 3 for PSP and Xbox 360 contains very deep RPG elements such as leveling up abilities and purchasing and unlocking new shots and skills. Cal Ripken's Real Baseball
, formerly Ultimate Baseball Online
, is a rare example of a sports MMORPG
Games and televised sports
More and more, video sports games are starting to look and act like their TV counterparts. Additionally, televised sports, namely American football, have added Madden-style cameras to their coverage, further blurring the line between fantasy and reality. Sports commentators will often play a game of Madden Football before a big game (such as the Super Bowl), to help gain insight on the outcome.
There is also the "Madden curse".
Sports games today
The sports genre is currently dominated by EA Sports
and 2K Sports
, who hold licenses to produce games based on official leagues. EA's franchises include the FIFA series
, the NBA Live
series, the Madden Football
series, the NASCAR
series and Tiger Woods
series. All of these games feature real leagues, competitions and players. These games continue to sell well today despite many of the product lines being over a decade old, and receive, for the most part, consistently good reviews. EA Games' Need for Speed series
continues to be one of the best-selling in the racing genre, although it is not based on a license.
With EA Sports' domination, the market has become very difficult to enter; competing games in any of the above genres, with the exception of racing games, tend to be unsuccessful. This has led to a sharp drop in sports-themed titles over recent years. One of the most notable exceptions is Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer series, which is often hailed as an alternative to the FIFA series, but does not contain as many licensed teams, players, kits, or competitions. Racing games, due to the variation that the sport can offer in terms of tracks, cars and styles, offer more room for competition and the selection of games on offer has been considerably greater. Sports management games, while not as popular as they used to be, live on through small and independent software development houses. Management titles today have transitioned to the very popular fantasy sports leagues, which are available through many websites such as Yahoo.
Nintendo has been able to make an impact upon the sports market by producing several Mario-themed titles, such as Super Mario Strikers and Mario Tennis. These titles sell respectfully, but are only available on Nintendo's video game consoles, the GameCube, Nintendo 64, and Wii; in 2006, they launched Wii Sports for Wii, which uses the Wii Remote to simulate movement.
The fantasy element
Some sports games are based on fictional sports, usually of a fantasy
or science fiction
nature. One of the most notable examples of this is the Speedball
series; Speedball 2
was a huge success, particularly on the Commodore Amiga. Bearing some similarities to team handball
, the game introduces a number of futuristic gadgets that affect the gameplay immensely. Brutality is permitted; it is considered legal and acceptable to bash opponents with a metal ball. A number of sports have received the sci-fi treatment over the years, most frequently in the racing genre. F-Zero
popularized the futuristic racing genre, and was followed by a number of sequels.
A number of games introduce fantasy elements to existing sports, subtle or otherwise, to add comedic effect to a game, such as Brutal Sports Football, released by Millennium in 1992. Like Speedball, the game was inspired by American football, but placed a larger focus on injuring, maiming, and even killing opponents. It is possible to win a match by simply decapitating the entire opposing team.
In some titles contained within this extended genre, the fantasy element is less prominent, particularly in titles such as Ready 2 Rumble and Outlaw Golf — games that, while strategically true to the sport, introduce comedy elements that would not realistically be seen in a serious simulation. For example, in Outlaw Golf, the choice of characters includes a stripper, a rapper, a Latin American Casanova-style figure and a mad scientist. Golf balls leave trails of smoke and fire when hit hard and the game features an over-enthusiastic and sarcastic commentator.
Notable sports games by type
- * NFL – Madden NFL series
- * NCAA – NCAA Football series
- * Other - NFL Street series
Association Football – FIFA Series, Pro Evolution Soccer series, Football Manager series
Baseball – MLB: The Show series, MLB 2K Series
- *NBA – NBA Live series, NBA 2K series
- *NCAA – NCAA March Madness series
- *Other – NBA Street series, NBA Ballers series
Cricket – Brian Lara Cricket series, EA Cricket series
Ice Hockey – NHL series, NHL 2K series
Rugby Union – EA Rugby series
– Fight Night series
, Don King Presents: Prizefighter
'Mixed Martial Arts – UFC 2009 Undisputed''
Wrestling – WWE SmackDown vs. Raw series
– Super Dynamix Badminton
, Deca Sports
Table Tennis – Pong, Konami's Ping Pong, Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis
Tennis – Virtua Tennis, Top Spin Tennis, Tennis Arena, Wii Sports
- *NASCAR – NASCAR video games (Lists games from multiple publishers)
- *Motorcycle racing – Moto Racer
- *Motocross – Motocross Madness, Motocross, Racing Destruction Set, Excitebike, Nitrobike
- *ATV Racing – ATV Offroad Fury
- *Boat racing – Hydro Thunder
- *Jet-ski Racing – Wave Race, Wave Race 64, Wave Race: Blue Storm
- *Aircraft racing – Gee Bee Air Rally
- *Aerobatics – AeroWings
Horse Racing – Quarterpole, Sport of Kings (a.k.a. Omni-play Horse Racing), G1 Jockey 3, Track King - Track King
- *BMX (biking) – Dave Mirra's BMX Biking, Mat Hoffman Pro BMX, BMX XXX
- *Unicycle racing – Uniracers
- *1994 Winter Olympics – Winter Olympics: Lillehammer 94 (Downhill, Giant Slalom, Super G, Slalom, Bobsled, Luge, Freestyle moguls, Ski jumping, Biathlon, Short track)
- *1998 Winter Olympics – Nagano Winter Olympics '98 (skating, skiing, luge, bobsleigh, slalom, curling, halfpipe, snowboarding)
- *2002 Winter Olympics – Salt Lake 2002 (Alpine Skiing Downhill, Alpine Skiing Slalom, Freestyle Skiing Aerials, Ski Jump K120 Individual, Two-man Bobsleigh, Snowboard Parallel Giant Slalom)
- *2006 Winter Olympics – Torino 2006 (luge, bobsleigh, biathlon, speed skating, ski jumping, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, Nordic combined)
- *Other – Winter Games, The Games: Winter Challenge
- *1992 Summer Olympics – Olympic Gold (100 m, Hammer throw, Archery, 110 m hurdles, Pole vault, 200 m freestyle swimming, 3 m springboard diving)
- *1996 Summer Olympics – Olympic Summer Games (100 m sprint, 110 m hurdles, Pole vault, High jump, Long Jump, Triple Jump, Javelin, Discus, Archery, Skeet), Olympic Games: Atlanta 1996, (100 meters, 400 meters, 100M crawl, Javelin, Hammer, Discus, Long Jump, Triple Jump, High Jump, Pole Vault, Fencing, Rapid Fire Pistol, Weight Lifting, Archery, Skeet Shooting)
- *2000 Summer Olympics – Sydney 2000 (100 m sprint, 110 m hurdles, Javelin, Hammer, Triple Jump, High Jump, Skeet shooting, Super Heavyweight Weight Lifting, 100 m Freestyle Swimming, 10 m Platform Diving, Chase Cycling, Kayak K1 Slalom)
- *2004 Summer Olympics – Athens 2004 (100 metres sprint, 200 metres sprint, 400 metres sprint, 800 metres middle distance, 1500 metres middle distance, 100 metres hurdles, 110 metres hurdles, Long jump, triple jump, high jump, pole vault, Discus throw, javelin throw, shot put, 100 metres breaststroke, freestyle, backstroke, butterfly, Floor exercise, still rings, vault, Show jumping, +105 kg. clean and jerk, 70 m individual archery, Skeet shooting)
- *2008 Summer Olympics – Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games
- *Other – World Class Track Meet, Hyper Sports, Hyper Athlete, Summer Games
Miscellaneous Events –
- California Games (Halfpipe, Footbag, Surfing, Roller Skating, BMX, Flying Disc)
- California Games 2 (Hang gliding, Jet ski, Snowboarding, Bodyboarding, Skateboarding)
- Coleco Telstar Marksman (Skeet, Target, Tennis, Hockey, Handball, Jai alai)
- Crash 'n the Boys: Street Challenge (400 metres hurdles, Hammer throw, Swimming, Roof Top Jumping, Fighting Scene)
– Virtual Pool
, Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker
, Pool Challenge
Bowling – King Pin, 10th Frame Bowling, PBA Bowling, Brunswick Circuit Pro Bowling, Bowling Evolution, Wii Sports
Darts – World Darts, Bully's Sporting Darts
Fishing – Sega Bass Fishing, Gone Fishin', BassTour, BassDuel, Reel Fish'n,Trophy Bass
Golf – Nintendo Golf, World Tour Golf, Links 386 Golf, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Golden Tee, Outlaw Golf, Hot Shots Golf, Shot-Online, Wii Sports, Mario Golf
Hunting – Duck Hunt, Ultimate Duck Hunting, Big Buck Hunter, Safari Hunt, Deer Hunter, Cabela's Big Game Hunter
Paintball – Ultimate Paintball, Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball MAX'D
Skeet/Trap Shooting – Trap Shooting, Duck Hunt, Clay Pigeon
– Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
, Skate or Die!
Skiing/Snowboarding – SSX, Amped, Ski or Die, Massive Snowboarding, SSX Blur, 1080 Snowboarding, 1080 Avalanche
Surfing – Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer, Surf Ninjas
Wakeboarding – Wakeboarding Unleashed featuring Shaun Murray
, World Series of Poker