Back in May 2010, 2K Sports awarded $1 million to Wade McGilberry from Alabama for being the first player to pitch a perfect game in MLB 2K10.
Take-Two Chairman Strauss Zelnick has been telling anyone who will listen that 2K Sports is losing money with the Major League Baseball license. Keeping Zelnick’s words in mind, I was wondering if 2K Sports would bring the $1 million contest back.
2K Sports has announced the contest will return in 2011.
From an advertising standpoint, Zelnick may consider the million dollar prize cost effective. Numerous gaming sites and publications spread word of the contest and, as such, MLB 2K10. Mainstream media outlets including ESPN covered the contest and interviewed the eventual winner. He pitched a perfect virtual game the first day MLB 2K10 released.
One million dollars for a full-length interview on every major sports network and ample product placement is a lot less than prime time commercials during sporting events would cost. Other companies go to even greater length to get a movie hero to drive one of its cars or drink one of its sodas for a few seconds. One of 2K Sports’ chief rivals, EA, is well-versed in video game advertising. Games as far back as Need for Speed:Most Wanted featured in-game ads for everything from Verizon phones to Burger King Whoppers.
Zelnick has talked about the pro baseball license not being as lucrative as it once was. That is true, TV ratings back him up. Baseball is behind both the National Football League and the National Basketball Association in terms of ratings and merchandise sales. Even if baseball were still the national pastime, 2K Sports has another huge problem: Sony’s MLB The Show series has gained most of the critical acclaim in recent years. The gap between the two games is so big that The Show has been outselling MLB 2K even though The Show is only available on Sony systems.
2K Sports’ losses might not stand out at a company where everything is going well. Gamertell has reported that, at Take-Two, that’s anything but the case. Take-Two did turn a $42.6 million profit in 2010, but would still love to solve its baseball problems. If a million dollar prize can help turn MLB 2K’s fortunes around, it will be money well spent for Take-Two Interactive. MLB 2K11 releases March 8, 2011 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PS2, PC and PSP. There is a slight change in the contest, as it does not begin until April 1, 2011.