MLB 2K’s death at 2K Sports was a long and excruciating one. The games hadn’t been good for years. There was such a gap in quality between the MLB 2K games and PlayStation 3 exclusive The Show, thousands of baseball fans bought a PS3 just for that game. Take-Two Interactive Chairman Strauss Zelnick openly announced his company was losing millions annually on the game.
Take-Two did come up with a great PR move. It started holding an annual contest awarding $1 million to the first player to throw a perfect game. This was the center of a marketing campaign that took the focus off how mediocre the MLB 2K games were.
Even with the ability for players to upload their perfect games through 2K’s servers, there were complaints about the process. 2K’s online play is notoriously hit-and-miss, so those were valid complaints. In 2012, 2K decided it would take eight perfect game winners and have them play a tourney for the $1 million. Though it was common knowledge this was baseball’s swan song at 2K Sports, giving away money presented the opportunity to go out on a high note.
This squad gets things right at about the same rate as the Chicago Cubs do. Players found a loophole in the contest’s scoring system. Pitching a perfect game against a stronger team earned players more points. Using a weaker pitcher earned points too. There was nothing that prevented players from altering the opposing lineup, though. Once word of this exploit leaked out, a surprisingly large number of players were no hitting the game’s best teams. William Haff, one of the eight players who qualified for the $1 million tournament admitted to cheating in text messages.
Haff also said other players in the tourney did the same, but later rescinded both those comments and his own admission. 2K Sports was ready to usher MLB 2K, its estimated $30 million annual loss to the company and all its bad publicity out the door. It released a one-sentence statement that the contest was fair and declined further comment. This electronic version of the Black Sox Scandal wasn’t just the end of baseball at 2K Sports. It’s likely the last baseball experience many players will have on the Xbox 360. 2K Sports let its baseball license expire as expected. No other publisher has announced plans for a baseball game on the console.