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Yesterday, MLB Advanced Media, through MLB.com, released "World Series 2009", a game designed for Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch. In what is believed to be a first for a sports league, the game was developed in-house. The application is available on iTunes for a one-time cost of $7.99.
The game’s appeal centers on accelerometer technology within the Apple products. This allows the user to rotate the devices for placement of pitches and bat location (see images provided). On the pitching side, when coupled with the velocity setting for pitches (the user selects the pitch type – fastball, curve, change-up, slider – and then sliding your finger along an arrow for speed) you can place pitches on the corners and up and down in the strike zone.
The game has all 30 teams with MLB logos. The game also has replicas of Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, and in a nod to the current World Series Champions, Citizens Bank Park.
The game also features a “pitcher fatigue” meter, which allows you to play manager and put in relievers when you see fit. On the offense side, you can advance runners, or send them back to bases by tapping the screen on a diagram of the diamond that is placed in the corner of the screen.
A nice touch is the ability to recalibrate the device’s accelerometer. This is handy for those that are getting a crimp in their neck, and want to layback in their chair.
The game is good fun, but does have a few shortcomings.
In a case of the app being developed strictly by the league, no player names or likenesses are used. The addition of the players, along with their associated strengths and weaknesses would have been a good added value aspect of the game. However, this would have most assuredly increased the cost of the app due to royalties being paid to the MLBPA.
A couple of other quirks… Close plays at the bags has the app offering up a “slide” button. This is cool when heading to second, third, or home, but let’s face it; a discerning fan will find it annoying when it pops up on first base all the time. Maybe “dive” would have been more appropriate at first. Another nitpick… When playing in “auto-defense mode”, infielders turnaround and chase the ball when it squirts through the infield, instead of the outfielder running up on the ball.
In terms of the scoring interface, white numbers on a light gray background made it difficult to read the score. This could be addressed by simply using a different background color.
Lastly, I had the screen “spaz” on me once or twice when the ball was in-play. This wasn’t due to me moving around the device as I was sitting level. It didn’t occur often enough to ruin the gaming experience, but it did happen.
All-in-all, the game is good, but not great. Given a choice between “At Bat 2009” and “World Series 2009”, At Bat is clearly the killer app of the two (it is now the #1 sports-based app on iTunes and has sold over 100,000 copies, ranking it #9 for all apps sold for iPhone and iPod Touch). But, if you’re a baseball geek, and are looking for mindless fun, World Series 2009 is a decent addition to your iPhone or iPod Touch application library.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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