Could ‘Lost’ Video Game Sell Boxing to a New Generation
By: Kevin Dyson
Right, first thing is first. This is about a video game and, as such, will probably get dismissed.
But humour me, as I want to explain how something that may be seen as niche can impact the way our sport is seen and supported by the general public.
With that out of the way, let us talk about the saga of Fight Night Champion 2.
Between 1999 and 2011, gamers enjoyed a series of 10 boxing games, five under the Knockout Kings moniker and a further five in the Fight Night series.
For a great part of this run, the fighters that historically attracts the most casual fans, the heavyweight division, was at its lowest ebb, thanks to a dearth of talent and the dominant but dull Klitschkos facing very little challenge. I was a fan of both, but sometimes it seemed the only way we would get any excitement was through the brothers facing off against each other.
Thankfully we had the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather and a plethora of talent in the lower weight classes. But there is no doubt that having stars among the big men is the easiest way to attract the public.
With 2011’s Fight Night Champion we had a great sports game that managed to satisfy true boxing fans, featuring legends and current fighters and rewarding players who understand the ebb and flow of the sweet science, It was also ground-breaking, featuring a dramatic storyline that would go on to inspire a number of other sports titles.
So we played the game, loved it.
Ever since then publisher EA has opted to take advantage of the burgeoning UFC, releasing three editions of mixed martial art action since 2014.
On the face of it, it was entirely sensible given the fortunes of the sports at that time.
However, with sales in the UFC series falling and the resurgence of boxing’s glamour division, you could reasonably expect the sort of thinking that drove them into the arms of UFC in the first place directing them back to boxing.
Just compare the potential rosters for a start. While Fight Night Champion featured all the legends of the sport, the modern talent was underwhelming. As well as the Klitschkos, we had Butterbean, Eddie Chambers and Chris Arreola.
bviously, we did have the likes of Pacman, Mosely, De La Hoya, Cotto and Bradley to make up for that, but broadly speaking it was less than stellar.
Compare that to the potential line up in a sequel.
Lomachenko, Fury, Wilder, Joshua, Ruiz, Inoue, Garcia, GGG, Canelo, Ward, Kovalev and so on. Not only are these exciting fighters, they are all personalities.
Unfortunately, this short list highlights the one potential roadblock. With the UFC the game developers deal with a single entity, as they do with their NFL, NBA and NHL games. Clearly this makes a deal a lot more straightforward.
The boxing industry certainly can’t be accused of being straightforward. After all most fighters are more like freelancers or agency workers and the each sanctioning body works independently of one another. Trying to secure individual fighters for a game is a laborious, not to mention expensive, endeavour.
Still, if not now, then when? If they don’t get their finger out during this boom period for the sport I wouldn’t put money on them bothering in the future.
There has been no lack of pressure from fans, that is certain. One fan decided to be proactive, setting up a petition, www.change.org/p/ea-games-new-boxing-game-fight-night-champion-2, which has attracted more than 10,000 signatures.
The petition states: “There is no doubt about it. Boxing IS on the rise again. The excitement and entertainment the sport brings to the masses is unquestionably breath-taking
“It (Fight Night Champion 2) would mean a great deal to the boxing community as well as many casual fans to be given an opportunity to relive the great moments from fighters, old and new, all over again.”
While many (possibly most) of you may have absolutely no interest in pixelated pugilism, I hope that you would agree that, for boxing to grow, it is precisely this type of crossover that has a role to play – drawing people, especially younger ones, into the boxing family.
The One Game We’d All Want for Christmas… If It Existed
The One Game We’d All Want for Christmas… If It Existed
By: Jordan Seward
If you’re an avid boxing fan and a gaming enthusiast the one game you’d have to have at the top of your Christmas list this year would be the new EA Sports boxing game … if only it existed.
Since EA Sports launched Fight Night Champion in 2011 boxing as a sport has dramatically increased in popularity, but calls for a new boxing game compatible with the new generation consoles have been largely ignored. With rumours and demands circling many were hopeful of an announcement at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), but hopes were washed away when nothing official came from EA, despite a petition signed by almost 5,000 people in efforts to persuade them to create a new boxing game.
EA put the Fight Night franchise on hold after Fight Night Champion was released, instead turning their attentions to UFC games which was understandable with the rise of the sport. For years UFC has played second fiddle in the world of combat sports to boxing but with the immediate emergence of superstars like Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey the sport has taken off. The UFC game was undoubtedly worthy of the second game that was released in March this year after the first game took to the shelves in 2014 selling 1.45million copies across the PS4, XBOX1 platforms.
At UFC 205 McGregor made history by beating Eddie Alvarez to become the first UFC fighter in history to hold two belts simultaneously in different weight divisions. Reports suggested the event drew in a record-breaking 1.65 million US pay-per view buys, surpassing the previous UFC PPV buys of 1.6million when McGregor faced Nate Diaz in their much-anticipated rematch.
These gigantic numbers have led to reports suggesting McGregor alone drew twice, nearly triple the number of buys than the entire sport of boxing in 2016. Though it is a credible argument to suggest UFC is on the cusp of equating to or even overtaking boxing as a sport, in perspective these numbers mean little.
Though boxing right now hasn’t got a Conor McGregor, it did used to have a certain commodity who could sell tickets like hotcakes and that was Muhammad Ali. His fight of the century with Joe Frazier makes McGregor’s numbers look meniscal and almost insignificant as 27.3million people in the US tuned in to watch the fight between Ali and Frazier.
Even more recently Mayweather vs Pacquiao in the ‘fight of the century’ pulled in a whopping 4.4million purchases. Despite Boxing losing its biggest PPV seller in Mayweather to retirement, Pacquiao has bought in 1million buys several times before and is now back in the ring. Elsewhere with the likes of Canelo Alvarez, Vasyl Lomachenko, Anthony Joshua and more, these big-name superstars could generate similar numbers to the ones drawn in by UFC, providing they have a comparable, credible dance partner.
While EA made a correct call to focus on UFC games, an identical sized if not larger audience is crying out for their turn. The audience and popularity is there in boxing, Frank Warren’s recent multi-million-pound TV deal with BT Sport is testament to that and the gaming community, well that doesn’t need such justifying. It’s huge. Chances are, if you own an Xbox 1 or PS4 and you like boxing or sporting games, you’ll most likely purchase it.
The long five years since Fight Night champion needs to be drawn to a close. Though it was labelled as the most well-received boxing game it was still a game that lacked convincement – every knockout no matter what position you threw the punch from would result in the opponent falling in the same melodramatic and unconvincing fashion. It lacked care, maintenance and thought process.
But now with the technological advances and the vast improvements in gaming quality in terms of graphics, gameplay, game options and capabilities, it’s crying out for someone to grab the bull by the horns and give us a high-quality boxing game to rid the memories of the last one.
If EA were to go ahead they’d have to consider whether it’s worth re-branding the franchise or naming it ‘Fight Night 5’ or ‘Fight Night Champion 2’. The general consensus among the fans is that they’re hoping for a Fight Night Champion 2. Though essentially part of the same anthology the Fight Night games and Fight Night Champion game does differ. Fight Night Champions focused on depicting the tangible, coarse reality of a boxer in the career mode and was targeted at an older audience in comparison.
When the first Fight Night was released in 2004 they became a regular product on gaming shelves, with round 2 and 3 coming out the following years. After two UFC games in the last two years it’s been the UFC fans who have been reaping such benefits of having a new game to enjoy, but with five years without one could it be time for the boxing fans’ turn? Hopefully.
It’s fair to say since the last EA boxing game the sport has ventured uphill in terms of popularity, particularly in Britain, but it still remains unclear what it will take to make EA budge, perhaps the news of a certain Irish MMA fighter making the switch from the octagon to the ring might entice them?