Hi, my name is Dave Pearson and I am a franchise nut. I am 21 years old and I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My favorite sports teams are the Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Wild and Miami Hurricanes.
Some of my favorite athletes became role models simply by performing well for me in my franchise modes. When Peyton Manning was a rookie and a 78 overall in Madden 99, I traded for him in my Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise and he became one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game within that single franchise. When Vladimir Guerrero was an up-and-comer with Montreal, I traded for him in Triple Play 98 and he was a perennial all-star and the cornerstone of my franchise for a decade. I have posters of both of these players in my room for those specific reasons.
If you are like me, you would care if EA Sports added in the new Minnesota Gophers’ TCF Bank Stadium into NCAA Football so you could play with them in Dynasty mode. You would care if Madden added the supplemental draft so you could potentially find that second-string offensive lineman that could plug holes. You would care if The Show added a shortlist so you could follow your minor leaguers closer.
I have always loved the idea of running my own team or franchise. I love stockpiling young talent in the minor leagues, trading over-the-hill vets, clearing cap space and winning championships with my constructed masterpieces. I love the idea of making economical decisions that affect an organization for years at a time. Do not get me wrong, I love to play the actual game as well, but there are not many more things sweeter than drafting a 19-year-old kid, letting him develop in the minors, and then bringing him up and watching him compete and succeed at the highest level. To me, that is just as exciting as netting a hat trick with Crosby or hitting three dingers with Pujols.
With that said, here are my current top six console franchise modes:
As it stands right now, MLB '10: The Show's Franchise mode is the best of the bunch.
1. MLB: The Show (SCEA) – I think The Show is head and shoulders above the competition right now. There is a deep minor-league system, correctly progressing players (post-patch), dynamic updates in-game that are relevant to your franchise, quick sim times, the ability to edit players, and clean and quick menu navigation. The list could go on and on, but the next step for The Show should be free agency. As of now, I feel like far too many players are not re-signed. My other significant complaint about The Show’s franchise mode is that the scouting system seems a little too random at times.
2. NBA 2K (2K Sports) – I am not a huge basketball fan, but 2K has a phenomenal franchise mode. Associations are always very, very fun. First off, pretty much every setting is customizable. Whether it is the order of your fantasy draft or the alignment of your divisions, the developers really let you play the mode in whatever way you please. One thing that I would love to see 2K implement is better trade logic. I have seen very, very few actual legitimate trade offers from the AI during my many Association runs. No, sorry Atlanta, I do not want to trade my second-year all-star for two guys that could barely crack my rotation and make about $10 million more than they should per year. With that said, Association mode has loads and loads of depth. The rotation and target minutes addition is absolutely phenomenal and is now a must for every basketball video game in the future.
3. NCAA Football (EA Sports) – While I have many complaints and suggestions for the developers of NCAA Football, most of those are minor. I think college football is the best base for a franchise mode because you can play all the games and not spend three months completing a season. NCAA has leveled off in terms of adding features into Dynasty mode, but the developers have made the presentation much more fluid over the years and definitely given recruiting some variety over the past few years. I am liking what I am reading and hearing about the improvements for the new year, but I am skeptical and will wait to bump NCAA up until after I play it.
FIFA's Manager Mode is a Champions League away from being at the top.
4. FIFA (EA Sports) – If the developers would add the Champions League, this series would be at or very near the top of the list. It is a great mode with a ton of options and replay value, but the fact that arguably the biggest event in soccer other than the World Cup is not in the game really bothers me. I like the transfer system and the ability to upgrade your club using money that directly ties to your player budget. However, one thing I do not like is the extreme stamina carryover from game to game if you choose to play them all -- even after updating your club's fitness as far as it can go.
5. Madden (EA Sports) – Until Madden fixes its long-standing simulation problem, it will stay at this spot for me. There is really only one way to build a team in Madden. Simply put, if you do not have a quarterback with 90-plus awareness on your team, it is extremely rare to make the playoffs or even win more than one or two road games a season. The worst part about it is, if your QB does not start the mode with good awareness, it does not go up more than 10 points over a player's career. You cannot tell me Donovan McNabb and Drew Brees both came into the NFL as top-five quarterbacks in terms of awareness. Quarterbacks develop awareness as they gain experience. I also can't count the number of times I gave Aaron Rodgers the reins (pre-roster update) and then promptly threw my controller after seeing him throw 20 INTs a season simply because his awareness was in the 70s. It is a huge problem and limits the replay value of the mode.
6. NHL (EA Sports) – The addition of the fantasy draft really helped, but the offseason and actual season simulations are really lacking. There are way too many really good young free agents on the market every year, and the computer-generated prospects are usually pretty poor as well. In addition, goalies never put up realistic stats, bottom-six players never eclipse decent plus-minus ratings, and fourth liners annually report in around minus-40 for the season. (Apparently, I have a bunch of benders who can't tie their own skates playing for my NHL team every time I put them on the fourth line.) With that said, these are all pretty small tweaks that could push NHL into the elite.
What are your top franchise or dynasty modes? What real-life sport do you think has the best base for a franchise mode?