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What Happened To Fight Night?

EA Fight Night is the main competitor for esbc undisputed boxing

Juan Castro lands a short jab.

difficult the player will be forced to either practice and familiarize himself with the controls, or bitch about it and play an easier game.

How The Boxing Game Kingpin Went Gentle Into That Good Night With A Loose Fart And A Sad Whimper

Fight Night Round 4 vs. Fight Night Champion

At the expense of realism, EA released another boxing game and tried to make Fight Night fun again a couple of years later in 2011. It’s no mystery; they were still nursing wounds from the public beating they’d taken after releasing Fight Night Round 4 initially with only stick controls for punches. Fans and critics went absolutely in on them for personally assaulting each of them with that buttonless punch scheme.

Seeing an opportunity for an adjustment, EA listened to the players and walked back their purpose-built control layout. But even though they switched course and hobbled together an emergency button punch Frankenscheme, the game was already built around the experience of using the control sticks only.

New Total Punch Control

A deep swathe of well-thought out intention and depth of gameplay is completely removed by using the buttons to control punches.

Sticks vs. Buttons

Since Fight Night, boxing game enthusiasts have long been divided on the best input control scheme. Those that prefer to seek advantage in spite of difficulty might take the time to learn using the stick controls of certain boxing games. With practice, many who opt for stick control schemes in boxing games, like New Total Punch Control, find that there are genuine advantages. Others that don’t mind sacrificing some of the experience for the sake of simplicity might opt for a more initially intuitive control scheme.

While it’s absolutely true that spamming is technically possible using the sticks to punch, it’s a much easier input pattern on the buttons. The ease at which certain actions can be commanded can drastically shift the tendencies of each player as they make choices throughout gameplay. If a simple input pattern on the game controller leads to a predictable and desirable visual output on the screen, chances are the player will have few reservations recalling and using that input pattern when desired. They may even rely on that input pattern as a crutch, when they can’t recall a more complex one that actually might be more appropriate for the situation.

But if the input pattern is more difficult or awkward, or just unfamiliar, the player will be forced to either practice and familiarize himself with the controls, or bitch about it and play an easier game.

Even though there were literally no competitors, EA was apparently so terrified that people would go play an easier game that might even be worse than Fight Night Round 4 that they decided to go ahead and make an easier game that was definitely worse.

Enter Fight Night Champion.

From Boxing Sim To Fighting Game

EA needed a win, so decided to play it as lukewarm safe as possible for Fight Night Champion; they abandoned most of the systems custom built for Fight Night Round 4 and instead pivoted to simpler, more accessible gameplay and a fun storyline.

In retrospect, we see that was a fatal mistake that killed the Fight Night franchise.

With a mortal wound, it limped through the ropes for one more sequel. Instead of the hyper-realistic subtlety and amusing REAL AI adaptations, the like of which were sorely missed by the majority who played Fight Night Round 4, Fight Night Champion relied on cinematics, simplified gameplay, and the engaging (if not utterly cliche) redemption story of protagonist Andre Bishop.

Fight Night Fatality

The problem EA thought they had was that they weren’t selling enough boxing video games; comparing the sales of a game from the Fight Night series to any Madden released around the same time would show you that the NFL game consistently sells more copies. There are lots of reasons for this, but the major one is that boxing is a smaller sport than FIFA, NBA, NFL, or NHL. All of those sports have teams, organizations, franchises, owners, associations, and leagues, and hundreds of personalities and likenesses to be included in a comparatively simple licensing process.

While there are technically fewer people to license in boxing than in, say, the NFL, licensing can still cause headaches with boxing game developers. Because there are no governing leagues or associations to which any boxer belongs, there can be no negotiation between a game developer and some boxing equivalent of Dana White.

EA Switches To UFC

In the UFC, it’s a much different system. Each fighter is an employee of Dana; that means he controls their likenesses, and can lease access to them to any partner he chooses. This is part of the reason why EA pivoted to UFC from boxing after 2011; it’s much easier to acquire assets through White than through each individual boxer, which would be necessary for boxing games.

Instead of everyone belonging to one company, like the UFC, boxers typically each represent their own businesses and promotional companies. This can lead to arduous negotiations between dozens of parties, many of whom are likely working collectively to maximize their individual compensation. You could argue that the UFC is “better” because it allows such ease of negotiations, but when you consider that each of the individual fighters would probably get a better deal if they got to negotiate for themselves, you have to wonder.

There have really only been a few exceptional superstar UFC competitors that have made numbers anywhere near the ballpark of what some boxers are taking home after PPV events. Oddly enough, the greatest champion in UFC history never got any of the fanfare or promotion that certain other fighters got. In fact, his weight class was eliminated by Dana White after he conquered it. Something like this could never happen in boxing; there’s no one person that controls anything in professional boxing.

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