These week marks the beginning of the 2016 Wimbledon tennis tournament. To mark the occasion I thought I would check out this years latest tennis offering in the world of video games. “What offerings?” I quickly asked. Where are all the tennis games? As far as I am aware, the sport is as popular as ever, so why has the steady stream of games which graced consoles for such a long time dried up in recent years?
The last big game was Grand Slam tennis back in 2012. That was four years ago! Before that we had regular yearly updates from games like Sega’s Virtua Tennis (1998 – 2011) and 2K Sports’ Top Spin series (2003 – 2011). Amongst those big sporty sims were more party type games – Wii sports (2006), Sega Superstar Tennis (2008) and Mario Power Tennis (2004). In fact since 2000, there has been over 25 tennis titles released across all platforms. The 90s were also jam packed with hotly endorsed tiles – Andre Agassi Tennis and Anna Kournikova Smash Court Tennis to name just a few. So where have they all gone?
When I was a lad, my favourite sports game on my Game Boy was Top Ranking Tennis.
The game was a great fusion of traditional tennis games and Punch Out, Nintendo’s popular boxing game. You see, every opponent had a ‘tell’ for how they were about to play each shot. Maybe they would bounce the ball a couple of time or rush the net. Learning these telling habits was the secret to beating the game. Tennis games changed a lot over the years that followed, getting more and more lifelike and the action being presented in a televised format (much like other sports games).
So what happened 4 – 5 years ago to seemingly kill off this video game sport. Two words… Nintendo Wii!
The Wii bought something new to virtual tennis games – the ability to actually swing your controller through the air like you were actually wielding a real racket. How could traditional tennis titles come back from that? Moving a player around the screen using a thumb stick and pushing X to slice or circle to lob is simply not the same as actually performing that action with a Wii-mote. I’m guessing that PlayStation move has similar titles, but that is dead in the water.
I would really love to see a modern, TV-realistic tennis game on the latest generation of hardware. It would be a real treat. Failing that, let’s hope VR can help bring this seemingly dead genre back to the masses.