Not to be confused with electronic sports.
  1. REDIRECT Template:VG Simulation

A sports game is a computer or video game that simulates the playing of traditional sports. Most sports have been recreated with a game, including team sports, athletics and extreme sports. Some games emphasize actually playing the sport (such as the Madden NFL series), whilst others emphasize strategy and organization (such as Championship Manager). Some, such as Arch Rivals, satirize the sport for comic effect. This genre has been popular throughout the history of video games and is competitive, just like real-world sports. A number of game series features the names and characteristics of real teams and players, and are updated annually to reflect real-world changes.

Game design

Sports games involve physical and tactical challenges, and test the player's precision and accuracy.[1] Most sports games attempt to model the athletic characteristics required by that sport, including speed, strength, acceleration, accuracy, and so on.[1] As with their respective sports, these games take place in a stadium or arena with clear boundaries.[1] Sports games often provide play-by-play and color commentary through the use of recorded audio.[1]

Sports games sometimes make use of different modes for different parts of the game. This is especially true in games about American football such as the Madden NFL series, where executing a pass play requires six different gameplay modes in the span of approximately 45 seconds.[1] Sometimes, other sports games offer a menu where players may select a strategy while play is temporarily suspended.[1] Soccer video games sometimes shift gameplay modes when it is time for the player to attempt a penalty kick, where a single athlete tries to kick a goal passed the other team's goal keeper with no presence from other players.[1] Some sports games also require players to shift roles between the athletes and the coach or manager. These mode switches are more intuitive than other game genres because they reflect actual sports.[1]

Older 2D sports games sometimes used an unrealistic graphical scale, where athletes appeared to be quite large in order to be visible to the player. As sports games have evolved, players have come to expect a realistic graphical scale with a high degree of verisimilitude.[1] Sports games often simplify the game physics for ease of play, and ignore factors such as a player's inertia.[1] Games typically take place with a highly accurate time-scale, although they usually allow players to play quick sessions with shorter game quarters or periods.[1]

Sports games sometimes treat button-pushes as continuous signals rather than discrete moves, in order to initiate and end a continuous action. For example, football games may distinguish between short and long passes based on how long the player holds a button. Golf games often initiate the backswing with one button-push, and the swing itself is initiated by a subsequent push.[1]


Beginnings of sports games

File:Tennis for Two.jpg

In 1958, William Higinbotham created a game called Tennis for Two, a two player game played on an oscilloscope. The players would select the angle at which to put their racket, and pressed a button to return it. Although this game was incredibly simple, it demonstrated how an action game (rather than previous puzzles) could be played on a computer.[2]

Computer games prior to the late 1970s were primarily played on university mainframe computers under timesharing systems that supported multiple computer terminals on school campuses. The two dominant systems in this era were Digital Equipment Corporation's PDP-10 and Control Data Corporation's PLATO. Both could only display text, and not graphics,originally printed on teletype machines and line printers, but later printed on single-color CRT screens.

In the late 1970s arcade games began to appear, many of them featuring around the sports genre. The first racing game, Night Driver was released in 1976, starting a sub-genre which has continued to be popular ever since. 1978's Atari Football is considered by many historians to be the first video game to accurately emulate a sport. [1]


Between 1980 and 1984 Atari and Mattel's Intellivision waged a series of high-stakes TV advertising campaigns promoting their respective systems, marking the start of the first console wars. Atari prevailed in arcade games and had a larger customer base due to its lower price, while Intellivision touted its visually superior sports games. Sports writer George Plimpton was featured in the Intellivision ads,[3] which showed the parallel games side by side. Both Atari and Intellivision fielded at least one game for baseball, American football, hockey, basketball, auto racing and association football.

In 1982, ZX Spectrum released the first association football management simulation, Football Manager. In 1983 EA produced their first sports game Dr. J and Larry Bird Go One on One,[4] which was also the first licensed sports game based on the names and likenesses of famous athletes.


In the same year, Mattel released Intellivision World Series Baseball (IWSB) by Don Daglow and Eddie Dombrower, the first game to use multiple camera angles to show the action. Games prior to this had displayed the entire field on screen, or scrolled across static top-down fields to show the action. IWSB mimicked television baseball coverage by showing the batter from a modified "center field" camera, the baserunners in corner insets and defensive plays from a camera behind the batter.[5] It was also the first sports game to introduce audibly-speaking players (as opposed to text) using the Mattel Intellivoice module.

In 1984 game designer Scott Orr founded GameStar, a game publisher specializing in Commodore 64 sports games, and served as its lead designer. GameStar was the most successful sports game company of its era, and Orr sold the company to Activision in 1986.[6]

In 1988 EA released Earl Weaver Baseball again developed by Don Daglow and Eddie Dombrower, which for the first time combined a highly accurate simulation game with high quality graphics. This was also the first game in which an actual baseball manager provided the computer AI. In 1996 Computer Gaming World named 'EWB the 25th of its Best 150 Games of All Time, the second highest ranking for any sports game in that 1981–1996 period (after FPS Football).[7]


The 1990s began in the 16 bit era, as a wave of fourth generation video game consoles were created to handle more complex games and graphics.

In 1989 EA producer Richard Hilleman hired GameStar's Scott Orr to re-design John Madden Football for the fast-growing Sega Genesis. In 1990 Orr and Hilleman released the game that is still recognized today as Madden Football, the best-selling title in the history of games in North America.[citation needed] They focused on producing a head-to-head two-player game with an intuitive interface and responsive controls.

Orr joined EA full-time in 1991 after the success of Madden on the Sega Genesis, and began a ten-year period of his career where he personally supervised the production of the Madden Football series. During this time EA formed EA Sports, a brand name used for sports games they produced. EA Sports created several ongoing series, with a new version released each year to reflect the changes in the sport and its teams since the previous release.

Later in the 1990s began the 32 bit era, with the release of Sony's PlayStation and 3D graphics cards for personal computers (PCs). These updated systems allowed sports games to be made in 3D. The first game to exploit these updates was Gremlin Interactive's Actua Soccer, released in 1995 for the PlayStation.

Meanwhile, Sierra Online released Front Page Sports Football in 1995 for the PC. The following year Computer Gaming World named it twelfth of the Best 150 Games of All Time, the highest ranking sports game in the list.[7]

Extreme sports enters into the mainstream

File:SSX blur screenshot.jpg

At the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century, extreme sports video games started to appear. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was one of the first, a skateboarding game where players were challenged to execute elaborate tricks or collect a series of elements hidden throughout the level.[8] In 2000, SSX was released. Based around boardercross, the game featured fast downhill races, avoiding various objects whilst using others to perform jumps and increase the player's speed.[9]

Sports gaming becomes big business

On 13 December 2004, Electronic Arts began a string of deals that granted exclusive rights to several prominent sports organizations, starting with the NFL.[10] This was quickly followed with two deals in January 2005 securing rights to the AFL[11] and ESPN licenses.[12] This was a particularly hard blow to Sega, the previous holder of the ESPN license, who had already been affected by EA's NFL deal. As the market for football brands was being quickly taken by EA, Take-Two Interactive responded by contacting the Major League Baseball Players Association and signing a deal that granted exclusive third-party major-league baseball rights[13]; a deal not as restrictive, as first-party projects were still allowed. The NBA was then approached by several developers, but declined to enter into an exclusivity agreement, instead granting long-term licenses to Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive, Midway Games, Sony, and Atari.[14] In April 2005, EA furthered its hold on American football licensing by securing rights to all NCAA brands.[15]

Physical movement

File:Mario & Sonic.jpg

In 2006, Nintendo released Wii Sports, a Sports game for the Wii console in which the player had to physically move their Wii Remote to simulate movement of their avatar.[16] The game contained five different sports – boxing, bowling, golf, tennis, and baseball – which could all be played individually or with multiple players. Players could also track their skill progress through the game, as they became more proficient with at the different sports, and use the training mode to practice particular situations.[17]

Wii Sports opened the way for other physically-reactive sports-based video games, such as Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, the first official title to feature both Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog, in which players used the Wii Remote to simulate running, jumping and other Olympic sports.[18] In 2008, Nintendo released Wii Fit, which allowed players to do aerobic and fitness exercises using the Wii Balance Board.[19] In a similar light, 2008 saw the release of Mario Kart Wii, a racing game which allowed the player to use their remote with a Wii Wheel to act as a steering wheel, akin to those on traditional arcade racing games.[20]

Sports games today

The sports genre is currently dominated by EA Sports and 2K Sports, who hold licenses to produce games based on official leagues. EA's franchises include the FIFA series, the NBA Live series, the Madden Football series, the NASCAR series and Tiger Woods series. All of these games feature real leagues, competitions and players. These games continue to sell well today despite many of the product lines being over a decade old, and receive, for the most part, consistently good reviews.

With EA Sports' domination, the market has become very difficult to enter; competing games in any of the above genres, with the exception of racing games, tend to be unsuccessful. This has led to a sharp drop in sports-themed titles over recent years. One of the most notable exceptions is Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer series, which is often hailed as an alternative to the FIFA series, but does not contain as many licensed teams, players, kits, or competitions. Racing games, due to the variation that the sport can offer in terms of tracks, cars and styles, offer more room for competition and the selection of games on offer has been considerably greater. Sports management games, while not as popular as they used to be, live on through small and independent software development houses. Management titles today have transitioned to the very popular fantasy sports leagues, which are available through many websites such as Yahoo.

Nintendo has been able to make an impact upon the sports market by producing several Mario-themed titles, such as Super Mario Strikers and Mario Tennis. These titles sell respectfully, but are only available on Nintendo's video game consoles, for example GameCube, Nintendo 64, Nintendo DS, and the Wii .



Sports games have traditionally been very popular arcade games. The competitive nature of sports lends itself well to the arcades where the main objective is usually to obtain a high score. The arcade style of play is generally more unrealistic and focuses on a quicker gameplay experience. However the competitive nature of sports and being able to gain a high score while compete against friends for free online, has made online sports games very popular. Examples of this include the NFL Blitz, Sport Games and NBA Jam series.


Sports management games put players into the role of team manager. Whereas some games are played online against other players, management games usually pit the player against AI controlled teams in the same league. Players are expected to handle strategy, tactics, transfers, and financial issues. Various examples of these games can be found in this category.

Games and televised sports

More and more, video sports games are starting to look and act like their TV counterparts as developers focus on creating realistic commentary and camera-angles. Additionally, televised sports, namely American football, have started to model some of their cameras on those seen in video games, further blurring the line between fantasy and reality.

See also


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 Rollings, Andrew; Ernest Adams (2006). Fundamentals of Game Design. Prentice Hall.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  2. Reimer, Jeremy (2005-10-10). "The evolution of gaming: computers, consoles, and arcade". Sports games. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  3. "Intellivision Apace Action Network". Intellivision Lives. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  4. "Dr. J and Larry Bird Go One on One". MobyGames. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  5. "Digital.Hollywood". Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  6. "Activision will buy game firm". San Jose Mercury News. 1986-01-10. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "150 Best Games of all time". Computer Gaming World. 1996. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  8. Gerstmann, Jeff (1999-09-29). "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater Review". GameSpot. Retrieved 2009-05-10. 
  9. Zdyrko, David (2000-10-23). "SSX Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-05-10. 
  10. Robinson, Jon and Doug Perry (2004-12-13). "Only Game in Town". IGN. Retrieved 2006-01-16. 
  11. Surette, Tim (2005-01-10). "EA scores exclusive AFL deal". GameSpot. Retrieved 2006-01-16. 
  12. Feldman, Curt (2005-01-17). "Electronic Arts, ESPN ink exclusive 15-year deal". GameSpot. Retrieved 2006-01-16. 
  13. Thorson, Tor (2005-01-24). "Take-Two inks agreement with MLB Players Association". GameSpot. Retrieved 2006-01-16. 
  14. Surette, Tim (2005-03-22). "NBA evades exclusivity". GameSpot. Retrieved 2006-01-16. 
  15. Surette, Tim (2005-04-11). "EA scores NCAA Football rights". GameSpot. Retrieved 2006-01-16. 
  16. "Wii Sports". Nintendo. Retrieved 2009-05-10. 
  17. Casamassina, Matt (2006-11-13). "Wii Sports Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-05-10. 
  18. "Sega Unveils Details for Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games". GameSpot. 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2009-05-10. 
  19. "Wii Fit". Nintendo. Retrieved 2009-05-10. 
  20. "Mario Kart Wii". Nintendo. Retrieved 2009-05-10. 

External links

ca:Videojoc esportiu

cs:Sportovní počítačová hra da:Sportsspilko:스포츠 게임 it:Videogioco sportivopl:Komputerowa gra sportowaru:Спортивные игры fi:Urheilupeli sv:Sportspel zh:體育類遊戲

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.