Welcome to a new era, gamers.
2020 will go down for a variety of historic reasons, topped by the long-lasting effects of COVID-19. But, in a year with so many negatives to focus on, there were still positives that served as a bright light towards the end of the year.
Two of those positives came in November of 2020, when the next-gen era of gaming truly began with the releases of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
Consoles flew off the (virtual) shelves in the weeks leading up to and following each company’s respective releases, and gamers shifted their focus to something fun to end the year on a high note.
While users explored the new games that came out on the release date of each consoles, some wondered what would come next and captivate their attention.
Specifically, sports fans thought about the endless possibilities that come with fresh consoles and new game engines, which were evident by the shiny graphics that accompanied the release of NBA 2K21.
As developers like EA Sports and 2K work on tweaking their current franchises for these new consoles, we decided to take a look at a few ideas that they could consider if they want to truly be “game-changing” in the next-gen era.
- NFL 2K Playgrounds
Fans’ hopes for a revived NFL 2K franchise were squandered for the time being in 2020, but that doesn’t mean 2K’s future is completely lost just yet.
In May of 2020, the NFL and EA Sports announced an extension of the latter’s exclusive rights deal for simulation games, paving the way for the Madden NFL franchise to live on as a lone wolf for years to come.
The news was a disappointment for some gamers, specifically because of an announcement a few months prior that will allow 2K to make NFL games in the future in a “non-simulation” format.
So, with simulation games seemingly off the table, what kind of NFL game can fans expect to see from 2K in the coming years? Players don’t have to look very far, and may have even seen the future release in a different fashion already.
Over the last few years, the 2K team has released two separate Backyard Sports-esque titles, each named NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 and WWE 2K Battlegrounds. While the “Playgrounds” and “Battlegrounds” names make the games seem different, they’re the same idea in each sports’ respective venues.
The releases each feature arcade-style, child-like versions of household names across the NBA and WWE, and truly live up to the non-simulation genre with a variety of animations, power-ups, and interactive arenas to make things interesting.
With simulation-style football games off the table for the near future, gamers can surely expect to see a football variety of 2K’s new venture, likely entitled NFL 2K Playgrounds, on next-gen consoles at some point in the coming years.
- NBA Street
In an opposite scenario as the NFL’s gaming scene, 2K developers actually saw themselves in sole control of simulation games as it relates to the NBA in 2020.
Rightfully so, considering the extreme effort and attention to detail that the NBA 2K team has put into their sole simulation-based sports franchise over the last decade, and the fact that the EA Sports team has spread itself thin with its NFL, NHL and FIFA franchises.
The dominance that 2K showed with its NBA games likely played a factor in the EA Sports team punting on its 2020 installment of its NBA Live franchise, which instead has its “sights set on creating something fresh for the next generation of players and platforms.”
“We know we need to earn our future every step of the way, so we’re taking time to get it right for our players,” the EA Sports team wrote in a statement in 2019.
What could that “something fresh” mean? Likely a retooled simulation game for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, but many fans have their own sights set on something else: a rebooted version of NBA Street.
EA Sports’ Street games were fan favorites in the early 2000s on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360, with its NBA version allowing fans to play with legends and current stars on pavement, in a high-school gym, and more.
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That “park”-style presentation has evolved into online game modes for NBA 2K games, and even Madden NFL 21, but has not been fully committed to as a standalone game outside of the aforementioned Playgrounds format from 2K.
If EA Sports wants to take the gaming world by storm in the next-gen era, a rebooted NBA Street would surely catch fans off-guard and generate some serious excitement.
- A rebooted WWE franchise with GM Mode
Following in EA Sports’ footsteps, the WWE 2K team decided to hold off on releasing the latest installment of its simulation-style WWE franchise in 2020.
Instead, the 2K team did what many hope EA Sports developers will do, and released a non-simulation format with WWE 2K Battlegrounds ahead of the debut of either next-gen console.
The game wasn’t built with the next-gen consoles in mind, but rather as an alternative to tide wrestling fans over as the developers determine their next steps for a rebooted WWE franchise on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
So, how can the 2K team get this back on track for its wrestling franchise? For one, they could go in a completely-new direction, specifically with a revived “GM Mode” that fans have been clamoring for over the last decade.
The GM mode, which allowed fans to take over as general manager of either the Raw, SmackDown or ECW brands, was both a staple and a fan-favorite in Yuke’s and THQ’s SmackDown! vs. Raw series in the mid-to-late 2000s.
Over the last few years, however, developers have rolled with a Universe Mode, which features more computer-generated storylines complete with detailed animations and run-ins.
If the 2K team wants to move in a new direction in next-gen, they could either morph the mode into a combination of Universe Mode and GM Mode, simply ditch Universe Mode in favor of GM Mode, or roll with each to please everyone.
No matter what, the WWE 2K franchise will need to be something special to catch wrestling fans’ attentions on next-gen consoles, so gamers can expect (and hope) to see a new-look installment whenever it debuts on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
- An arcade-style NHL game
EA Sports’ NHL franchise hasn’t been able to generate the same hype as its NFL and FIFA counterparts in recent years, with the Ultimate Team game modes in Madden NFL 21 and FIFA 21 turning into monster moneymakers and major focus points for the juggernaut of a company.
While the company likely won’t be taking the same approach as it did when it took a year off from its NBA Live franchise, it would behoove them to try something new as they work on this new era of next-gen games.
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What could that be? It will likely turn into the creation of a new game mode, but maybe it leads to the birth of a non-simulation style game, a la 3 on 3 NHL Arcade.
Initially released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2009, 3 on 3 NHL Arcade was a wild, uber-entertaining alternative for fans who wanted a break from the more-realistic games that EA Sports focuses on.
With the recent focus on 3-on-3 hockey in real life due to a change in overtime rules, and the general excitement that those overtime periods provide, it may be a good idea to dust off a classic with some updated graphics and players for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.