In the past few days we’ve been witnessing the debacle that the Major League Baseball 2K12 $1 Million Perfect Game Challenge has created. The event that was set up to reward players for pitching a perfect game against the computer turned into a test of morality when competitors learned that they could remove players from the opposing team’s lineup, thereby giving themselves an excellent advantage over other competitors.
Here’s where the entire situation starts to get complicated. The official rules from 2K Sports state that competitors cannot substitute their pitcher, but does not forbid altering the opposing team’s lineup. The situation got worse because 2K Sports later released some guidelines in the form of a checklist about the contest. In the checklist, it expressly forbids altering the lineup, but many competitors pointed out that the checklist was not part of the official rules.
William Haff, one of the finalists who will be flying to New York to compete in the final tournament admitted that he exploited the rules, but then later changed his statement to say that he did not. 2K Sports has released a statement saying that the contest was run according to the official rules after being asked about the exploit.
“The contest was run properly,” stated a 2K Sports representative. “We look forward to awarding someone a million dollars on May 10 in New York.”
The real question is, “Did he cheat?” I know that if I was one of the other 900 competitors who threw a perfect game, I would be pissed. It’s clear that he took advantage of an exploit, but did not break any of the official rules. I could see the argument that the amended guidelines should supercede the official rules, but they really don’t. Rules for contests like this are created by a team of lawyers, and altering them mid-contest would set 2K Sports up for lawsuits. It’s clear that he did not follow the spirit of the contest, but that’s not the same thing. I think it boils down to how 2K Sports treats the situation. If they put out the rules, allowed someone to exploit these rules and then rewarded that person, then the rules were followed.
What we’re really talking about is the betrayal justifiably felt by the other 900 competitors. This is a promotion that 2K Sports has been doing since 2010; giving them huge publicity and sales boosts that are greater than their initial investment of the $1 million dollars, along with the vacations of the eight contestants. 2K Sports took advantage of their fans by allowing this exploitation to count and I would feel betrayed and taken advantage of if I was a competitor. Gamers are a very loyal bunch who have outstanding devotion to developers. I have a favorite developer like most gamers and I’m willing to take a chance on a game that I would’ve overlooked if it had been made by someone else. If I was a member of the MLB 2K12 community, I would consider selling my copy and sitting out next year, or instead opting for MLB 12 The Show if you have a PS3 and still need your baseball fix.
So now what? 2K Sports claims that everything is fine, but they have essentially pissed off their most hardcore fanbase. The only good thing that may come out of this is that it’s possible Major League Baseball may not grant the rights to 2K Sports to make another MLB game. A decision that MLB officials could make later this year when 2K Sports’ contract is up for renewal. I can hear EA Sports rubbing their hands together with glee at the possibility of adding to their sports empire. I bet they could throw more money at MLB than Take-Two Interactive — the publishing company for 2K Sports — and we all know the MLB likes the money (Exhibit A: the MLB blackout map above).
So did he cheat? I think he did, but as someone who has been watching publishers and gaming companies hide behind EULAs, update agreements and lengthy legal statements for years, a part of me is kind of happy to see them lose at their own game. I just wish it didn’t have to come at the expense of other gamers. That’s the real travesty.