As a fan of sports video games, one of my favorite athletic simulations, but one that no longer exists, was the NCAA Basketball franchise. EA Sports, the creators of such games as FIFA, NHL, Madden, etc, cut off the production of these games after its 2010 edition, featuring Blake Griffin on the cover. After what is now 6 years of no game featuring today’s college hoops stars, I believe that there should be a comeback for NCAA Basketball video games.
Many people, myself included, greatly enjoy NBA 2K, the popular video game featuring NBA stars and their teams. However, the NBA only has 30 teams, and though they make an effort to put in extra playing options of some international teams along with classic teams of hall-of-fame players, there really isn’t a whole lot of selection and choice that goes into picking who you want to play with after playing the game for an extended period of time.
Division-1 of the NCAA has 347 basketball teams around the country, which would provide a lot more choices and variety when choosing who to play as for gamers. Even if EA Sports could only fit about half of the 347 teams onto the game without overloading data and workload, 173 teams is a whole lot more than you can play with in most other basketball games.
Each team could have real roster strengths and weaknesses, which would allow for different types of players to succeed and tinker with their own styles of playing the simulation, and a lot more variety in the high-level online play, which gets pretty monotonous in 2K.
With such high numbers of teams and schools, there is also the different traditions and stadiums that each program has. The designers could put in specific cheers, stadium arrangements, court designs, and all the other pageantries that exist within the spectacle of each team’s game day. There is also nothing like the rivalries that different college fan bases feel for certain teams, and that could also be encapsulated within the game as well, with home crowds cheering extra on big plays against teams that they are programmed to cheer harder against.
Franchise mode, a popular single-player mode in basketball games, could also be a change from the typical basketball game. Part of college sports is the recruiting, which would be a really neat aspect of trying to run a pretend organization as the coach and athletic director of your virtual school. Players would consistently have to change their rosters and strategies with the different talent they could accumulate, which would add another form of variety and uniqueness to gameplay.
College basketball games are also shorter than NBA games, which could translate into shorter online quick games between players on different consoles. One issue that many sport simulation games have is that they struggle to find the balance between a game taking too much real time and accurately portraying how a game is played at the professional level. With the possibility of having just two short halves, NCAA Basketball games could hit right in the middle, because they wouldn’t have to take so long for the real people to play, but also would not anger true fans with poor gameplay mechanics and timing.
The last reason that EA Sports, or other sports game designers should consider bringing back NCAA Basketball video games is that they could get more fan bases involved, willing to buy the game and play as their local team. Because NBA basketball teams are only in major markets, there are a lot of people who live in other areas who do not feel a real local connection to the teams. However, if they had the option to play with college teams that they might have attended or keep up with, then they have more of a stake in the action, and might be more excited to pay for the product.
I am not sure if there really is any plans to ever bring the franchise back, but we can remain hopeful that one day we can sit back on whatever game system is out and enjoy virtually controlling some of our favorite college athletes on our televisions.
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