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NES Controls and PITCHf/x Ratings: The Details of MLB's 'RBI Baseball' Reboot

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Since Major League Baseball Advanced Media announced in January that they were reviving the classic sports video game franchise RBI Baseball, details have been sparse. No longer. Today we have the full scoop, along with a first look at the game. Most basically: RBI Baseball 14 aspires to replicate the nostalgic feel of playing the classic game, while taking advantage of modern graphics and MLB's hypers-specific player evaluation tools. Fellow nerds rejoice!

Here are the basic specs:

  • The game will be released for XBox 360, Playstation 3, iOS, and Android, with next-gen console versions on the way.
  • It'll only be available as a digital download only -- no discs.
  • It uses classic two-button controls.
  • Real MLB players are in the game.
  • The game has three modes: season, postseason, and exhibition. (Good news for Expos fans: In-season challenges unlock retro jerseys).
  • Two-person multiplayer is available on the console versions, but no online multiplayer means no iOS/Android multiplayer and no Xbox Live/PSN gameplay.

The gameplay is quick and frantic like its namesake's -- nine-inning games can happen in under twenty minutes. The batter scoots around the batter's box, trying to line up the pitch before it gets there, while the pitcher tries to curve the ball out of his reach. MLBAM claims that beta testers have responded positively, saying the game "feels just like the old one."

But perhaps most interestingly -- especially for game that aspires for retro simplicity -- RBI Baseball 14 is powered by MLB's expansive and hyper-specific game data, including PITCHf/x. 

"PITCHf/x and every other data point that we have were brought in to create the DNA of the players," said Matthew Gould, MLBAM's VP of Corporate Communications. "The DNA of the pitchers are influenced by PITCHf/x. The batter outcomes are influenced by the results we see from the batters in PITCHf/x."

It's all based on historical data, though, so the nerd dream of in-season PITCHf/x-based rating updates will have to wait. Nor will there be roster updates that bench injured players, a la EA Sports games. For most sabermetrically-inclined fans, though, it's probably heartening that the gatekeepers of MLB's micro-stats won't be giving into the whims of hot and cold streaks with constant roster updates.

RBI Baseball 14 will reportedly release on April 10.

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