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Did the MLB Remove Online Franchise from The Show?

In negotiating an exclusivity deal with Major League Baseball, it is to be expected that Sony San Diego Studio and Sony ceded some creative control. Their flagship title MLB The Show must be developed in line with the overall image, mission, and message of Major League Baseball, Major League Baseball Player’s Association, and MLB Advanced Media.

Was Sony San Diego influenced by MLB and MLB Advanced Media to remove the Online Franchise Mode in favor of dedicating resources and servers to Diamond Dynasty?

Profit Incentives

All vested parties stand to gain financially from the game sales of MLB The Show. If strategically cutting Online Franchise was economically viable, Sony San Diego, MLB, and MLB A.M. will have made the decision in the best interests of the bottom line and fan’s interests — a true balancing act.

In determining what occurred two years ago when Online Franchise Mode was removed from the game, it is useful to analyze the comments articulated out of MLB Advanced Media’s C-suite.

At a tech conference on Feb. 13th, 2018 in Brooklyn, New York, MLB AM’s VP Jamie Leece emphasized MLB’s interest in entering into eSports. Leece intimated the importance of entering the eSports market efficiently for return on investment.

“There are very few esports activations that are profitable as an activation,” Leece said. “The products behind them can profit. The organizations that are around esports can profit. But the actual contests themselves are still trying to find a way to not be more than the marketing budget. So that’s something that I think as a league or an IP holder or as a licensing partner, that’s the thing you have to solve to make sure that you’re not just one, doing it wrong, or two, throwing good money after bad.”

Any words jump out at you? The word “profit” was mentioned three times in three sentences. The executives in C-Suites that shape the narrative around the future of eSports for MLB speak one language: user (fans) growth & profit margins.

What is more telling is that Leece and MLB A.M. may view themselves as IP holders first, and licensing partner second. What this thought process reveals is that Leece may view MLB The Show not only as an officially licensed product but in some regards, an extension of MLB’s IP. And he is right.

MLB and MLB A.M. wish to maximize value and continue to find ways to grow their name, brand, and the value of their IP. ESports will be a mechanism for them to do so. MLB must be working closely on the direction of the game, and an ESports framework. This includes the development of game modes that align with the overall ESports mission of profit, ownership, and fan growth. Unfortunately, Online Dynasty is not amenable to the PVP space.

Why Diamond Dynasty?

In one of our features from February, we discussed Sony San Diego’s focus on improving competitive online play and Diamond Dynasty. The development team repeatedly emphasized its goals to correct game exploits and glitches. Addressing these issues gears the game up for the competitive eSports space.

“Our major focus was 2-player online, competitive baseball games…We spent hours and hours in the motion-capture studio writing new logic. It’s important to watch head-to-head games. I’m happy to say we addressed every single issue,” commented Chris Gill, Gameplay Director on MLB The Show 19 during a Twitch broadcast on Sony San Diego’s Twitch channel in February.

Now let’s view these comments next to the Commission of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred just a few weeks later.

“Strategically, we see esports has kind of been a weak spot for us,” he said. “It is a real priority for us going forward. It is tough to say more than this but I’m pretty confident that in 2019 we will have a nice announcement in that space in terms of platform-based games.”

MLB & MLB A.M. are profit driven, looking to maximize IP value and further develop platforms to compete in the eSports space. Sony San Diego is both profit and fan-interest driven to provide an experience to grow the game’s interest and sales.

Online Franchise mode is not a PVP, Head-2-Head intensive format when compared with Diamond Dynasty. In fact, one could argue that Diamond Dynasty is a PVP version of Online Franchise — managing currency in the form of stubbs equates to a salary cap.

R.B.I. Baseball Factor

MLB Advanced Media develops its own game available on a variety of platforms: R.B.I. Baseball. This title serves a niche market for Xbox users and other platforms for gamers who do not have access to the PlayStation exclusive MLB The Show.

Did MLB and MLB A.M. influence the decision to remove Online Franchise from MLB The Show with this interest in mind? Again, more language from MLB A.M.’s VP Jamie Leece is informative.

“There’s been owners, there’s been players (having already participated), and obviously there’s a lot of competition that goes on right now with our various licensed games that we have. So it’s about finding the right entry point.”

Removing Online Franchise from MLB The Show opens an opportunity for R.B.I. Baseball to produce its own Online Franchise Mode in the future to differentiate itself from its competition; competition that Leece squarely hits in the quote above.

March 2019

Doubling down on Diamond Dynasty makes sense for entry into eSports for all interested parties. Removing Online Franchise frees up resources to do so while creating demand for the mode for MLB’s in-house title in the future.

The success of MLB The Show 19 this month will determine how soon an ESports entry occurs. Until then, we are the beta testers for the powers that be.



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Writer, Jurisprudence Doctorate, Sports Gamer, and “Technologist.”