Tonight, baseball fans across the globe will tune in as the World Series gets underway. The Houston Astros return to the Fall Classic for the fourth time since 2017 looking to secure another championship. Their matchup will be the hot as can be Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies made their first playoff appearance in 11 years this year as they snuck in as the second Wild Card team and rode that momentum all the way to an NL Pennant. This matchup is sure to give us an all-time great series.
It is likely that many fans will also take this matchup into the virtual world. Many will turn on their copy of MLB The Show 22 and play a few games of this year’s World Series. I mean, it is simple to do. Plus, the amount of roster and attribute updates the game has received throughout the year means the rosters will be exactly how they are currently going into tonight’s game.
This wasn’t always the case for sports fans though. Of course, now regular roster updates throughout a game’s life cycle are a common, albeit a recent feature of just about every major sports title. Before this practice became commonplace, fans really had no way to update their rosters outside of doing it themselves. This was especially true if, like me, you lived in an area without great internet connection.
Call to the Bullpen
There was one notable time when a game put out a mid-season updated version of the game. In October 2005, 2K Sports released MLB 2K5 World Series Edition. This was an updated version of MLB 2K5 which released to positive reviews the February prior. The game was developed by Visual Concepts alongside Kush Games. Visual Concepts founder, Greg Thomas, served as Executive Producer on the game.
With the Fall Classic getting underway this evening, I decided to look back at this game. The game only does a great job of hitting the nostalgia and getting me in the mood to watch some baseball. It also is a piece of sports gaming history. You will never see another game like this again.
Let’s start with what probably turned many gamers off from purchasing the World Series edition back in 2005, the price. The World Series edition retailed for more at release than MLB 2K5 did a few months earlier. This means if you had bought MLB 2K5 at release, not only would you have to buy the game a second time to get the updated version, but you would pay more than you did the first time!
Deal or No Deal?
While I don’t have any other examples of sports games using this business model for a game, there are a couple of examples of other video games doing this recently. Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding released on the PS4 in November 2019. In 2021, a director’s cut version was released for PS5 and PC. This version cost $40 for new players, but only $10 for those that already owned the base version of the game. Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima released on PS4 July 2020 for $60, then the director’s cut released on PS5 just over a year later as a $70 full-priced game for new players and a $30 upgrade for those that already owned the base game.
The point being, the way MLB 2K5 World Series Edition released is not something we have never seen before or since. However, the two examples listed above were new versions of the game developed for a new generation of consoles. These versions came with a host of visual and gameplay updates as well. MLB 2K5 World Series Edition released less than eight months after MLB 2K5, and only six months before MLB 2K6 would release. With this sort of a turnaround between previous and upcoming entries in the series, MLB 2K5 World Series Edition needed to provide ample value to get consumers on board.
The first bonus that MLB 2K5 World Series Edition brought to the table was updated rosters. While there hadn’t been many notable trades during the season, a few big-name rookies had burst onto the scene. Oakland A’s CP Huston Street won AL ROTY after totaling 23 saves on a 1.72 ERA in 78.1 IP. Yankees 2B Robinson Cano was the runner-up for the award after hitting .297/.320/.458 in 132 games. Meanwhile, in the NL, Phillies 1B Ryan Howard won ROTY with 22 HRs in only 88 games played.
MLB 2K5 World Series Edition gave players updated ratings based on how they performed that season. This means rookies like Street and Howard would now play like the future stars that they were. Also, all of the trades and roster transactions that took place during the season were reflected in the new rosters.
Along with the new rosters, MLB 2K5 World Series Edition had two new game modes that were not available in the original game. The first is the Greatest World Series Moments mode. This mode drops players into some of the biggest moments in World Series history as they try to either recreate or rewrite these moments. Examples of these moments include the 1986 Mets and the 2004 Red Sox.
The other new mode is the Pennant Fever mode. This mode lets players pick up the 2005 season with about 20 games to go. All stats and standings are accurate to how they were at that time in the season. Players can choose to either go with a team that is guaranteed to make the playoffs and try to gear up for a World Series run or control a team who is a few games back and needs to get it together just to make it to October.
Both modes offer tons of replay value to players. At the time, it was a good way to hold players over until the next game in the series arrived in a few months. Even now though these modes are tons of fun and give a nostalgic look at the crazy 2005 MLB season.
There was one more bonus that MLB 2K5 World Series Edition offered to players. A bonus DVD was included that had highlights from the World Series moments featured in the game. Players could view how things actually went down in these moments before trying to recreate them in-game. I always like it when sports games include highlights or videos from the actual sport, which has become increasingly rare in more modern titles.
Overall, MLB 2K5 World Series Edition is one of the most unique sports game releases in history. It is unlikely that we will ever see another game like this. Modern technology and the ability to patch in new rosters and modes make releasing a whole new game and charging full price for it very unnecessary. However, this game remains a piece of gaming history. It serves as a stepping stone between the era where games never got updated after release, and the live service era of gaming we currently live in. If you can get your hands on a copy of it, I recommend giving it a shot. If nothing else, it may help you appreciate how far gaming has come in almost two decades since.
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