A Friday List
Since the beginning of time, Man has been fascinated by video games. That also includes baseball video games, as well.
There have been numerous successful baseball simulations across numerous platforms: Ken Griffey Jr Presents Major League Baseball, Baseball Stars, OOTP, Bases Loaded, MLB: The Show, and so on. There have also been numerous successful video games made with corporate sponsorship: Yo! Noid, and I can't think of any others. Unfortunately for the human people, there have been just as many baseball video game ideas that were initially backed by corporate sponsors, only to die in utero. Here is a list of the best of those ideas, ranked in order of potential greatness.
4. Mike Piazza Hut's You'll Love the Stuff That We're Made Of
Did you ever wonder how Mike Piazza went his entire career without an endorsement deal with a pizza company? Well, he didn't. After his Rookie of Year season in 1993, Piazza signed a deal with Pizza Hut to appear in commercials, on billboards, and that kind of stuff. One of the first ideas down the pipeline was for a baseball simulator starring Piazza with a product placement tie-in.
Piazza was initially curious about the idea, as he had heard that Ken Griffey Jr was at the same time working on a game. The project quickly went off the rails though, as Piazza severed his ties with Pizza Hut after the first pitch meeting.
The game developers' presentation to Piazza included screenshots of the game. the super-cartoonish styling featured pizzas for bases, breadsticks for bats, and a pizza party for the entire stadium - including the umpires - for the seventh inning stretch. Reportedly, Piazza was not upset by any of this, though. In fact, he only called the deal off when Pizza Hut insisted that his character in the game be named "Mike Pizza".
3. Scott's Challenge
This game was as boring as it sounds. Scott's is the official lawn care company of MLB, and this game was to challenge players to maintain the baseball fields. The gameplay was surprisingly in-depth, as the player began as a little league groundskeeper, lining fields with chalk and digging crabgrass from around second base. The player would work her way up all the way to the big leagues, tending the field for her favorite team. This never got beyond the conceptualization stage though, as no developers could stay awake through the pitch meetings.
2. Mo Vaughn's Mo Money, Mo Problems!
This one can only be tenuously considered a baseball simulator, but Mo Vaughn's enthusiastic involvement in the project gives it enough cred to make the list. This project was sponsored by Hertz Rent-a-Car and was intended to give players an inside-look into the life of a ballplayer off the field. While that may sound like an interesting idea for a video game, Hertz's iron-fisted control over the project basically reduced the multi-layered player experience - which initially intended to include training, diet, exercise, travel, and numerous other activities that ballplayers must deal with while on the road - to standing in line at the airport waiting to pick up a rental car.
Players were given the tasks of negotiating payment for service, furnishing proper identification, and deciding whether or not to get the extra insurance. Game developers eventually got fed up with Hertz's Draconian demands and gave them the finger by changing all of the coding for the rental selection screen so that every car the player could choose looked like a '92 Ford Taurus wagon.
The game was eventually completed, though it never saw the light of day in western or Japanese markets. It was only sold in Mongolia, where it became something of a hit. To this day, Mo Vaughn cannot walk down the street in Ulan Bator without being mobbed by fans.
1. The Baseball Trainer for Virtual Boy
Remember Virtual Boy? It was more or less an expensive view finder and a legendary flop for gaming giant Nintendo.
The United States military, still buzzing after the fall of the Communist bloc, was eager to channel their near-limitless resources into finding the Next Big Thing. Some camo doofus in Washington saw his kid totally absorbed and focused in a video game and he got the idea to somehow do something. The Baseball Trainer was born (kind of).
I'm not quite sure what the idea was myself, but I'll do my best to describe it based on the resources I was able to uncover. Nintendo needed software for its Virtual Boy and the military wanted to get kids interested in joining up when they turned 18. They figured they could hook the kids in with a baseball video game, because baseball was the American past time and video games were the future. Or something like that. I'm sure it made for an inspiring meeting with the Joint Chiefs.
But the project was doomed from the beginning. One, the '94 strike basically killed baseball as the past time, and two, the Virtual Boy was a massive flop. The VB was mothballed before Baseball Trainer even got beyond the conceptualization stages.