Video games form an essential part of popular sporting culture. However, compared to football, cricket has not witnessed the growth and popularity of video games. Cricket 96 was the first video game launched by Melbourne House and published by the EA Sports. Thereafter, EA sports attempted to improve on the existing game and eventually launched Cricket 97 with better graphics, three-dimensional stadiums and commentary by Richie Benaud and Ian Botham. But there was no great change in the representation of the players and like in the previous versions, the two-dimensional sprites continued to be used.
Unlike FIFA, the cricket game took longer to improve on the graphics and game feel. Hence, its reception to the fans was lukewarm. EA Sports then came with the Cricket Ashes Tour was released with the updated statistics and players just after the 1998-99 Ashes tour and it was by then one of the most realistic cricket games on the market.
By 2004, the EA Sports cricket series had been hugely worked upon to improve the gameplay and the graphics. Designed by HB Studios and published by EA Sports, Cricket 2004 included all the international teams and the domestic teams from Australia and England. The game was released simultaneously for Windows and PlayStation 2. However, on the technical aspect, Cricket 04 was heavily criticized by experts for its PlayStation format.
After finding some amount of success, EA Sports launched Cricket 2005 and 2007. Though some notable additions like new venues, weather conditions, and five-day Test matches were introduced, the improvement in the gameplay and the graphics was far from satisfactory.
Cricket 2007 was the last version of the game to be published by EA Sports. Substantial up-gradation was undertaken in graphics, controls, gameplay, and simulations. The EA Sports cricket series now lies defunct, played, and cherished by very few people.
One of the main reasons why the cricket series was shelved was because cricket seriously lacks the global reach of a sport like a football. The EA Sports cricket series was popular only in England, Australia, and New Zealand but its main market was understandably in South Asia. Rampant piracy from these regions however seriously marred their profit margins and the series never produced the estimated revenues.
As EA Sports ran into a legal deadlock with the BCCI and lost the licensing rights to the Indian players, their problems only got compounded. With a shrinking market and very few people interested in the sport, the cricket series was condemned to die out soon.
It eventually began to cut both ways. Gamers were no longer interested in a game with poor gameplay, unimpressive graphics, and silly generic names for the players. EA Sports eventually did not feel it was necessary to develop a series that was already running at a loss.
This interestingly proved to be the fate of most cricket-based video games. As football-based video games like EA Sports FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) began to grow by leaps and bounds, the Brian Lara Cricket Series published by Codemasters also suffered a similar fate like the EA Sports cricket series.
Mr. Wilson, the CEO of EA Sports, in his interview, hinted at the market forces and the logistical problems that had thrown up insurmountable difficulties in developing the cricket series. “A cricket game really needs the sub-continent to make it viable,” he said. “And there is a series of barriers with respect to the economics, infrastructure, the disparity of mobile devices and services there. At the point that comes together, absolutely we’ll do a cricket game.”