I am a hockey fan. I have to be I’m Canadian.
To some of the Uninitiated that’s Ice Hockey eh.
What does this have to do with video games one might wonder? Well, it’s a tale of love and hate, of tragic lose and unabashed hope, that’s all.
See the first hockey video I ever remember played was Blades of Steel and at the time it blew my mind. It’s like that sense of awe when you see something for the first time. The first dude you murdered in an FPS, the first time you see a particle effect or got scared while playing a video game. This was the first time I could play hockey, making me a virtual hockey star.
Made by Konami and released in 1988 it was amazing the level of detail put into the game. By level of detail I mean it looked kind of like hockey and you could pick one of several teams, like Toronto or Minnesota and they had NHL teams! Even though this game didn’t carry the official NHLPA license you could totally pretend you were these NHL franchises.
The first big game that did carry official NHLPA license (yet not the League’s License so no team logos could used) was EA Sports’ NHL Series, starting with NHL91 released for the Sega Genesis. This was put out in 1991 (duh) and the level of detail was much higher, and the gameplay much more deeper. The teams had their proper colors. The players didn’t have the full names but their proper numbers so you knew who was who.
This NHL series by EA would become a staple of my video gaming experience throughout the years.
I remember going to the local corner store that rented out video games (those were the days) and making a deal with the owner so that my friends and I could chip into to buy a copy of NHL93 (or NHLPA Hockey ’93 as it was titled).
Though the next year was a major breakthrough – the release of NHL94 was the most special for the fact that it was the first NHL series game to be released for the PC. The graphics were much much better, the gameplay was bordering on realism and the icing on the cake – you could create your own player! So naturally my friends and I created ourselves and yes, we were awesome. We’d setup our own leagues, draft players, make trades, write down stats, and really got into the game.
Over the next few years the leagues died off as we went our seperate ways but almost every year I would get the latest version in the NHL series. Really it was the only hockey game series worth buying. Sure I skipped a few of the games, buying a new one each year seemed kind of ridicules, and maybe that is part of the problem.
Oh yes, there’s a problem, isn’t there always?
The last NHL game I bought and played was NHL 2009. Not because EA stopped making the NHL games, they haven’t. Not because after 2009 the games were terrible, they most likely are even better. The problem is 2009 was the last year EA released an NHL game for the PC. I don’t own a PS3 or XBox 360 and have no plans on getting one. Money is the problem, not any sort of Fanboy for PC thing.
After that EA only released for Playstation and Xbox. And why is that? Madden NFL isn’t doing PC releases, neither is the NBA. FIFA (soccer people!) still is and why? Lack of sales and piracy are the two reasons I found, and that makes sense. Yet, here’s an idea and maybe it wouldn’t have worked years ago but it certainly could work today and makes sense.
Make a base game, NHL 20xx and release it on all systems. Make online play possible across platforms, this is entirely possible. Then the next year don’t up and release a new full title called 20xx+1. Release an update (DLC), include roster changes and maybe small functionality changes, more features and charge a smaller DLC type price.
It won’t stop piracy but sales just might pick up. Build a community instead of segregating it.
On an off topic note: I’m a big fan of the Washington Capitals, like I said, I’m Canadian and born in Ontario – where I believe it’s bound by law to be a Leafs fan. I’m not a bandwagon fan either, I’ve suffered like 25 years of let downs, and this year is looking like another let down, only bigger. Sure I use to being dumped out of the playoffs, but this year with only 20 or so games remaining, we might not even make the playoffs….
Well now I’m depressed take it easy people
on twitter @mprshane