Sports games have always been a major part of the game industry. Whether it be the early releases from the Atari 2600 days, often listed simply as “Soccer” or “Football”, or the massively popular Madden and FIFA series, there has always been a representation for a wide variety of sports throughout gaming history.
One sport, in particular, has always had a fairly good relationship with video games; Boxing. Whether it has been a more cartoonish series, like Punch Out or the cult classic Ready 2 Rumble Boxing or the more realistic Fight Night games, boxing has always had a place on multiple platforms throughout the years.
So that brings up a very interesting question. Nearly 6 years into the current generation of consoles, why have there not been any new boxing games?
The Last Major Release
The last major release of a boxing game was Fight Night Champions back in 2011. The first, and so far only, EA sports game to have an M rating, Champions received almost universal praise for both its presentation and gameplay mechanics. Unfortunately, the game ended up selling less than the last two previous releases in the series, Round 3 and Round 4.
Since then, there haven’t really been any major releases of boxing games. In fact, the only boxing games I could personally find that had been released since Champions were Hajime no Ippo: The Fighting, a Japanese exclusive released on the PS3 in 2014, based on the popular manga and anime series, and an indie game called Beast Boxing Turbo released in late 2013.
There are a variety of possible reasons as to why there hasn’t been a new release, but it comes down to a lack of interest as well as a lack of sales potential. Both of these can be the death of any franchise, but for sports games, in particular, it can completely derail them.
One thing that contributes to the decline of the genre is the simple fact that compared to games like FIFA and Madden, boxing games have been diminishing in sales while the others have increased. For example, Champions sold roughly 1.91 million copies on the Xbox 360 and PS3. In contrast, Madden12 sold 4.97 million copies, and FIFA 12 sold 10.83 million.
Let’s compare this to the beginning of the 7th console generation, with the release of Round 3 and Madden 07 back in 2006. Between the PS2, PS3, Xbox, and Xbox 360, Fight Night sold roughly 5.03 million copies in comparison to Madden NFL 07’s 7.84 million. While it was still behind in sales, it wasn’t close to the same degree. It should also be mentioned that FIFA Soccer 07 sold 4.93 million copies, but it did not have a PS3 release.
Another issue to worry about when making these games is the multiple licensing fees that have to be paid. While the games have never lost money, they have never been the major smash hits that EA and other major publishers have become seemingly obsessed with. As such, the cost of licensing music and individual athletes, especially if they want a large roster, can have a significant effect on the games bottom line. This is one of the big reasons why Floyd Mayweather has never been in one of the Fight Night games, despite his notoriety
Another big issue is boxing having significantly dropped in popularity in the last couple of decades. This has been attributed to several reasons, ranging from lack of coverage and proper promotion, as well as the rise of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and MMA as a whole. The shifting of boxing to cable from network television in the 80’s has also been brought up as an issue.
Boxing also seems to lack a strong list of modern stars. With the exception of the aforementioned Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, not many other modern boxers come up in the minds of people who don’t follow the sport closely. Even the Klitsckho brothers, who dominated the heavyweight division for over a decade, aren’t well known outside of boxing. While controversial, figures like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson brought a lot of attention to the sport that just isn’t there anymore.
What’s in the Future
While things do seem grim at the moment, there is hope for boxing fans desiring a new game for the current gen. While EA has not announced any plans to develop a new installment in the Fight Night series, other developers, especially in the realm of Virtual Reality, have been stepping up to fill the gap.
Two of the most noticeable cases are that of developer Survios, who are currently working on a VR game based off the movie Creed, the blockbuster spin-off of the Rocky series of movies. Floyd Mayweather has also expressed interest in creating a new boxing game. Even boxing legend Mike Tyson, who starred in the titular Mike Tyson’s Punch Out back in 1987, appears to be involved in the development of a self-titled game.
Fan interest has also been on the rise in recent years, with many noticing the severe drought of boxing games in the last six years or so. Some fans have even started a petition over on change.org to try and get EA to develop a sequel to Champions. This, as well as high profile events like the Mayweather McGregor fight, have shown a clear increase in interest in the sport.
My question is, what do you, the reader think? Have you wanted a new boxing game? Is there potential for a revival of the genre? Or is this just a quick flash in the pan that won’t go anywhere. Only time will really tell, but I for one am hopeful that we will see the return of the boxing game.