With the demise of EA Sports’ MVP Baseball in 2005 and 2K Sports’ MLB 2K series in 2013, Sony San Diego’s MLB The Show franchise has been the only MLB-licensed pure sim game on the market for nearly a decade. And while that’s been great for Sony and PlayStation fans, Major League Baseball has clearly wanted a broader base for the best-selling MLB game, which saw record sales last year when the pandemic shortened the season.
In a move that stunned many in the industry, it was announced recently that the first-party baseball game would not only ship for Xbox consoles, but it would also become part of the Xbox Game Pass subscription program.
PlayStation management said that the deal was out of their hands, and that MLB itself brokered the deal to bring MLB The Show 21 to Xbox this year. MLB has undoubtedly seen how multiplatform titles like FIFA and Madden NFL can do when not tethered to a single console. In fact, when Sony renewed its licensing agreement with MLB in 2019, part of the deal involved a willingness to support more platforms.
PlayStation fans might be worried that other first-party efforts like God of War or The Last of Us could end up on Xbox in the future, but that’s unlikely to occur anytime soon – even if the lines between platforms continue to blur in the games business.
Xbox Game Pass has been a bonafide hit for Microsoft, and the company continues to increase the value proposition with a variety of first-party, third-party, and indie titles hitting the service each month. Adding MLB The Show is another feather in Game Pass’ cap, and it is likely to help push the subscriber count past 18 million gamers while also giving baseball executives the added exposure they desire for the sport. There’s clearly an audience on Xbox that’s eager to swing for the fences, as MLB is second only to the NFL in viewership among Xbox Game Pass subscribers in the US, according to Interpret’s New Media Measure®. Moreover, 26% of MLB fans in the US currently own an Xbox console, with 10% subscribing to Game Pass.