The third of three sports titles releasing on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 at launch arrived on shelves today—NBA 2K14—but if reviews and sales figures for its peers are any indication, fans appear to be waiting for the next console generation before they buy the sports titles closing out this one. If at all.
When they launched, both Madden NFL 25 and FIFA 14 sent out sunny-side up news releases touting huge debut weeks, and relative to other packaged goods coming out the same day, yes, both were the big sellers. But Madden NFL 25 also was down 37 percent—1.6 million copies in whole numbers—compared to the series' launch week sales last year, and early numbers on FIFA 14 out of the UK show it fell off 24 percent, while still taking down Grand Theft Auto V in that market. (To be fair, Madden still ended up the biggest seller in North America for August, despite releasing on the last Tuesday of the month.)
This is a problem peculiar to sports titles. While other games, such as Titanfall or Watch Dogs, will release on both hardware generations, it's not like there's a previous-year's edition of either out there offering the same fundamental gameplay that people can hang on to until the new machine lands. If reviews are any indication, Madden NFL 25, FIFA 14 and NBA 2K14 have done remarkably little to distinguish themselves from past efforts, and the first two are paying for it with Metacritic scores among their lowest on this console generation. It's too early to tell on NBA 2K14.
FIFA's sales dip—again, that figure is for the UK—may also be attributable to the fact the game is free with an Xbox One preorder in Europe. In the States, Electronic Arts has aggressively touted trade-in programs guaranteeing you can bring back a current gen copy of Madden NFL 25 or FIFA 14 and get $50 toward the purchase of either series on PS4 or Xbox One. NBA 2K14 has a similar program on the Xbox One through Amazon.
But NBA 2K14 is in a worse spot than the other two. The NFL is in its fifth week, Europe's major domestic football leagues are under way, and a sport in season definitely motivates video gaming fans to pick up the latest title. The NBA's preseason begins Saturday. The regular season commences Oct. 29. About two weeks later the PlayStation 4 launches. That's a short wait for more casually interested fans, and the NBA's regular season, especially, has a problem with relevance to the layman's sports discussion until the Christmas Day games, if not later.
These three sports video games have sent a message that whatever's coming on the next generation won't be some port. It'll be distinct, if not better, and that's great. But they've published stand-pat current generation releases. These don't appear to be tiding over gamers until the new consoles arrive. Maybe they were meant to tide over the publishers.