It’s hard to fathom when you’re stuck in the middle of a blizzard (I have to make this quick before I lose power again), but pitchers and catchers are only about a month away from reporting to spring training, which means it’s just about time for another iteration of MLB The Show to hit store shelves. MLB The Show 22 was a revelation when it hit the Switch this year, and there was a lot to like about it, so much so that it defied the odds and beat out Splatoon 3 as my Game Of The Year. Still, there are always ways to improve your product every year, and there are a couple of things I’d like to see San Diego Studio do to improve The Show going forward.
- Make Diamond Dynasty modes and players available offline. This is a big one, and apparently it’s been on fan wishlists for some time now, but it’s vitally important now that the game has been ported to the Switch. As a console whose mobility is one of its biggest selling points (and with cross-save capability letting you take data from any console anywhere), you can’t expect players to have a constant network connection to your servers all the time. Sure, you can’t play ranked games without the Internet, but there are a surprising number of single-player modes (Mini Seasons, Conquests, Showdowns, even full matches against the CPU) that have no need for the information superhighway and would get along just fine without it. (There’s also the issue of losing everything you’ve earned the day they decide to turn the servers off, but that’s a problem for a lot of games these days.)
In addition to modes, I’d love to have access to the great players of the past and present in non-Diamond Dynasty modes. The biggest example of this is practice mode: If you struggle against the meta pitchers of the moment (Randy Johnson, Clayton Kershaw, etc.), it would be really nice to pull those players into practice mode and spend some time learning their arsenal, timing their pitches, and generally figuring out how to crush them.
I’m sure there are technical and/or competitive reasons for why Diamond Dynasty is set up the way it is (storage space requirements, trying to prevent players from modifying their save files, etc.), but there have to be ways to address these issues and let players take their cards on the go. The game is mobile now, and its data deserves to be too.
- Get more past greats of the game into the game. Maybe we don’t need every player who ever set foot on the diamond (but I wouldn’t object either; 99-rated Brandon Fahey for the win!), but there are some glaring holes in the game’s lineup that really need to be filled. Where’s Joe DiMaggio? Ted Williams? Sandy Koufax? Dizzy Dean? Satchel Paige? Yogi Berra? Frank Robinson? I could go on for days, and so could probably every fan in the country.
What makes these omissions so painful is seeing how often the players that are included get repeated. Remember that Shane Victorino card I wanted so badly earlier in the year? They ended up releasing three different versions of him, each one more powerful than the last because of the game’s power creep issues. Heck, they released two different 99-rated Ken Griffey Jr. cards! I love Griffey as much as the next guy, but did we really need four versions of his card, or four Randy Johnsons? With such a large pool of players to choose from, this much repetition is simply unacceptable.
I understand that including a player means getting the rights to their likeness (and thus more players means more cash spent by Sony)…but I also don’t care. You can’t tell the story of baseball without some of these players, and a game like this just feels incomplete without them.
- Do more to incentive players to stick with a game, no matter the score. The main problem I find with ranked games online is that once the opposing player gets even a sliver of a doubt that they can win a game, they disconnect and try to find another match. I’ve had opponents rage quit against me when leading, I’ve had them rage quit as early as the second inning, and I’ve had them rage quit over double plays, home runs, and a lack of hits in general. As much as I appreciate the rank boost from the win, it really ruins the online experience for me: You’ll spend 9 innings getting crushed, but you’ll be ghosted the moment you take a 1-0 lead into the fourth.
I like the carrots that the game has in place right now (you can earn some really nice cards just by playing a certain number of innings in a season), but they don’t seem to be doing the trick, so I’m starting to think we need to break out the sticks and drop 4-hour (or 8-hour, or 24-hour) bans on players who don’t complete a game, so that they can’t get right back into the mode if they leave prematurely.
Having said that, the game’s online matchmaking could really stand some improvements as well: If you’re ranked 100+ points below an opponent, why does the game pair you with them in the first place? I’d be willing to wait a little longer to find a better matchup, especially if the rage quit penalties get ramped up.
Online matches can oscillate between fun and frustrating several times in the same inning, and you’re never truly out of a game until the 27th out is recorded. I just wish the game could cajole folks into having more patience.
I’m actually on the fence about picking up MLB The Show 23: I’m not a super-competitive guy that has to be playing the latest and greatest version (and I’m not really making any content with the game…yet), and The Show 22 has been so good that I could see myself playing it for several more years. Still, I think these changes would make a great franchise even better, and I implore Sony, MLB, and San Diego Studio to make them a reality.
As for Nintendo: When is the Mario Baseball series coming back? An MLB crossover headlined by Shohei Ohtani would absolutely print money…