Will there be a cricket game in 2009?

icon_feature1Cricket fans will know that for a long time, the battle for cricket supremacy in video games has been a two-horse race between Codemasters’ Brian Lara International Cricket franchise (rebranded for different regions – Ricky Ponting in Australia, Yuvraj Singh in India) and EA Sports’ cricket series. Both publishers last released a cricket game in 2006-07, and since then both have been quiet on the next installment; not ruling it out, but not confirming it either. But is 2009 the year we will see another cricket game from one of these publishers, if not both? The signs certainly look positive, and here’s why.

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There has been a buzz around the internet about Codemasters snapping up the license to the Ashes – the age old Test rivalry between England and Australia. The Ashes for 2009 gets underway in July and there’s a strong likelihood that Codies will release their next cricket title, probably titled Ashes Cricket 2009, in early July. The fact that Codies recently acquired Swordfish Studios, who’ve developed past cricket games for them, is also a positive sign for the future of their cricket franchise.

We tried to get an official confirmation on Ashes Cricket 2009 from Codemasters via their Indian distributor E-Xpress Interactive without any luck. Making things more interesting however, is a listing for Ashes Cricket 2009 on the website of UK retailer Game. So as it stands, it seems very likely that we will see a cricket game from Codemasters this year, and we expect an announcement in that regard soon since July isn’t that far away.

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When the Codemasters game does come however, you probably won’t find too many licensed teams or tournaments in there, apart from England and Australia courtesy the Ashes license. And that’s because all the major licenses lie with EA. All of EA’s cricket games since Cricket 96 have been developed by outside studios, starting with Melbourne House/Beam in Australia (96, 97), Creative Assembly in the UK (2000), and HB Studios in Canada (2002, 2005, 2007). EA’s last cricket game – Cricket 2007 – came in 2006, so by logical progression, you would expect 2009 to be the year for their next cricket release, right?

But recent events have made the prospect of an EA cricket game in 2009 improbable. Peter Moore, head of EA Sports, categorically stated on his blog that they had no plans for a cricket game as of now. He reaffirmed that point further in an interview with Eurogamer, where he said that the demand for a cricket game was not global but regional, and with the current economic situation, investing in a game that lacked global appeal may not be wise.

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So EA has pretty much closed the door of an EA game in the foreseeable future, but it doesn’t look like they’ve given up on cricket just yet. Mumbai-based studio Trine has some interesting screenshots of a cricket game on their website that is sure to fuel more speculation. The game is titled Cricket 10, interestingly following the same naming convention as other EA Sports titles (FIFA 10, Madden NFL 10, etc).

What’s even more interesting is that the screenshots show various national team players in their coloured One-day International attire and appear completely licensed with cricket board and sponsor logos. Now as mentioned above, EA holds most of the major cricket licenses, so anyone who is presented with these facts would naturally assume this is EA’s game. We got in touch with Sangam Gupta, CEO of Trine, and all he told he would tell us was that the game was under development for a “major international publisher” and that it was scheduled for release only in 2011. A little strange for a game titled Cricket 10 to release in 2011, but it’s pretty obvious who this major international publisher is. Quick; some one get hold of Peter Moore.

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So it at least seems likely that we will see one cricket game this year. Let’s hope Codies can deliver a more enjoyable title than they did with BLIC 2007. They’ll need to because they don’t have the ICC license to rely on anymore.

The above images are from Trine Games‘ Cricket 10. More images below.

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