Tough call

MLB The Show 21 Game Pass reactions reveal a big PlayStation problem

Reactions to the Inverse story published this week are dredging up old questions and igniting new conversations.

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Reactions to Inverse reporting this week on MLB The Show 21 heading to Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service instead of being a Sony PlayStation exclusive brought up old questions about the rivalry between Microsoft and Sony, and even older questions about Major League Baseball’s campaign to revive interest in a sport with an aging, increasingly homogenous fanbase.

Our report included a comment from a PlayStation representative that puts it plainly:

“As part of the goal for this year’s game, MLB decided to bring the franchise to more players and baseball fans. This decision provides a unique opportunity to further establish MLB The Show as the premier brand for baseball video games.”

This MLB decision likely didn’t go down well during corporate Zoom meetings at Sony, which up until this year was privileged to sell copies of the annual baseball franchise exclusively to PlayStation gamers at $60 or $70 each. In comparison, a subscription to Xbox Game Pass costs either $10 or $15 a month.

The MLB didn’t respond to Inverse’s request for more comment on its decision, but it’s been oft-reported over the years that baseball fans are getting grayer while a younger generation looks elsewhere for entertainment. Having MLB The Show available to PlayStation and Xbox players (and for a deep discount on Xbox) is only going to increase MLB’s chances of getting more fresh-faced fans interested in the sport via the video game.

The issue, according to the commentary below, may very well present a big problem for PlayStation. For gamers who are franchise-loyal — and who may even choose to purchase one console brand over another based on exclusive titles like The Show — now have a choice. And if you’re in business, consumer choice is a bad thing if it means customers can choose not to buy your product.

Around the web, our collegial counterparts found our reporting newsworthy — and ripe for comment. Here are a few excerpts that continue the conversation in new and interesting ways (click the link to read the full article):

Forbes found the confirmation it was MLB’s call “obvious” but none the less illuminating:

MLB The Show is indeed “the” triple A baseball game, which is why it’s always been a bit odd that it’s been Sony exclusive. So I’m not shocked that MLB looked at the likes of Madden and FIFA and wanted to open it up to more platforms. But the Xbox Game Pass deal, likely a big check for the MLB, is a bit of a stick in the eye to Sony, whose first party developer San Diego Studios made the game. Read the full article. smartly observes that the tactic has been successful with other games:

It's not common to see a PlayStation first-party game appear on other platforms, but the tactic has been successful in the past for its rivals. Microsoft's Minecraft, for instance, is one of the most popular third-party games on Nintendo Switch. Read the full article.

Game Informer speculates the call was made by the MLB because of other baseball games eating up market share on Xbox, which, yeah, might be the case:'s entirely plausible that MLB looked over at Xbox (and potentially other platforms in the future) and saw a landscape that featured series like R.B.I Baseball and Super Mega Baseball and thought it would make more sense to bring the top Major League Baseball franchise to the those consoles rather than allowing MLB The Show to remain an exclusive title. Read the full article.

GameSpot connects the dots about audience with one stat that sort of says it all:

Xbox Game Pass had 18 million subscribers by Microsoft's latest count, and launching MLB The Show on Xbox opens up the game to a much larger audience than PlayStation alone. Read the full article.

PlayStation Universe (a fan site unaffiliated with Sony) characterized the news as shocking that the game was going to be much cheaper on Xbox via its Game Pass subscription service:

This news shocked PlayStation fans around the world, especially as long-time players of the show are now being asked to buy the game for anywhere between $60 – $85 depending on which edition you buy. Read the full article.

Video Games Chronicle puts the comments in our story into perspective, noting that Sony officials have gone on record as saying they do not want to put new-release games immediately into a subscription service, opting instead to sell individual copies:

Sony was already urged to adopt a multiplatform release strategy for The Show, as part of the multi-year extension to its MLB licensing deal signed in 2019.
The MLB: The Show series of baseball games started in 2006 and has always been exclusive to PlayStation platforms, going back to the original game on PS2 and PSP. The 2021 edition marks the first time Sony is bringing the game to a non-PlayStation system.
“We have had this conversation before — we are not going to go down the road of putting new releases titles into a subscription model,” he said.
“These games cost many millions of dollars, well over $100 million, to develop. We just don’t see that as sustainable.”
The Show 21’s addition to Game Pass is significant because of PlayStation’s previous comments about subscription models for new games.
Speaking to in September last year, SIE president Jim Ryan claimed a subscription-type model would be unsustainable for PlayStation Studios, because it often sees its game budgets grow to “well over $100 million.” Read the full article.

Outside the dot coms, Twitter is also peppered with takes about the revelation in our story. Below are a few:

“And there it is folks. Stop pretending Sony wanted the Game Pass deal to happen. They didn’t. They just don’t have a say. MLB don’t care about Sony’s feelings.”

“Drop the franchise.”

A “no shit moment.”


Should Sony make its own baseball franchise?

Be sure to follow Tomas Franzese, the author of this story, on Twitter.

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