I am a relatively young man (stop snickering sweetie!), raised on NES video games and now have a good job which affords me a healthy chunk of disposable income. In short: I am exactly who video game developers are trying to lure. As if the 8-bit old NES Ice Hockey graphic I use as an avatar and as the unofficial logo as this blog wasn't a dead giveaway, I'm also the ideal person companies should be targeting to sell hockey video games. Alas, I usually find some enjoyment of hockey (and sports) video games, but I never enjoy them the same way I do games like Arkham Asylum or Assassin's Creed 2.

I played NHL 09 a lot, and it was a fulfilling game. But I feel like I wasted $60 on NHL 10. There just isn't enough time for a development crew to churn out substantial improvements to a game, update rosters, and put that polish on the improvements all within a year. I ended up bored with NHL 10 very quickly because I was playing almost an exact replica of NHL 09 (which I had already become bored with), but all the effort I had done for NHL 09 (franchise/be a player mode) was moot in NHL 10. NHL 10 offered me very little in the way of new gameplay, and NHL '09's Rosters felt archaic and out-of-date. Instead of having 2 great games, I had 2 games with substantial deficiencies. That yearly disappointment always left me, and I assume other gamers, unfulfilled with their hockey, and sports, game experience.

The NHL 2k Series, thought to be left for dead, may have finally taken a step to eliminate the annual disappointment that hockey games currently undergo.

More after the jump

Via the Video Game Blog Kotaku, NHL 2K has said they will release their series every other year. Personally, I find this to be a refreshing step in the right direction, if implemented properly. Two years gives NHL 2K enough time (and wiggle room) to really throw themselves into their game and develop a new hockey game that has significant upgrades over the previous version, instead of just rushing the same Malibu Stacey Doll to market with a new hat (Which is exactly what NHL '10 was compared to NHL '09. The fighting/boards play was a new hat, but the game was nearly identical).

Of course to be successful, NHL 2K has to alleviate the sports game fatigue described above. In order to keep the current release fresh they need to be active in updating rosters and player profiles. They need to put in roster updates, new designs for any "be a franchise" mode, and obviously update with new 3rd jerseys, all-star designs and patches etc for the uni nerds among us. all of this could even be purchasable ($5 or so) in order to continue to reap profits from the game. This would take some development work, as I imagine that there needs to be a lot of work that goes into player ratings. However paying a software developer to do that work seems like a poor allocation of resources. It seems like the majority of this work could be done by interns and fresh out of college students who are hockey fans. Hell they could even make a blog out of it and get input from other hockey fans, making their lives even easier, and doing a ton of research for free.

But the player ratings, etc would all be trivial to developing the next big thing for the the actual gameplay for the game 2 years down the road. The improvement in gameplay from one game to the next should be substantial, and enough to make people want to buy the game every release, while still playing it throughout its 2 year cycle.

Of course, the NHK 2K series has always played second fiddle to the EA's NHL series, and for good reason. The game play is significantly lacking, and the extras (Franchise mode, etc) are inferior and in some cases non-existent. This 2 year cycle may give the 2K series enough time to start bridging that development gap. Overall it's a risk because this has a substantial potential for failure. But it could be the next step in sports games, one that would improve the industry.