Cheats and Walkthroughs
By Matt Swider
Sony’s San Diego Studio is made up of talented developers who put together the authentic-looking MLB 11: The Show. But while their presentation of baseball is spot-on for a videogame, it’s not as realistic as watching, you know, actual baseball. Luckily, Sony and Major League Baseball have once again teamed up to livestream America’s pastime so you can enjoy nearly every regular season game on your PS3. The console’s 2011 MLB.TV app is filled with enhancements over broadcast games, making it a steal for fans who are in the market for out-of-market match-ups.
The good news is that the MLB.TV app on PS3 is free and weighs in at only 12 MB. The bad news is that the annual streaming subscription that goes along with it costs as much as $120. HD quality video (where available), in-game highlights and stats, full-game archives and alternate audio feeds make up the $100 vanilla plan. Parting with an extra Andrew Jackson bumps you up to the superior MLB.TV Premium, which adds home and away broadcasts and live DVR controls. Multi-game view is listed among the premium features on the PC and Mac, but its support doesn’t extend to PS3. You’re limited to streaming one game at a time on the console.
Even without multi-game view on PS3, paying the extra $20 for MLB.TV Premium is a no brainer thanks to the invaluable home and away broadcasts feature. There’s nothing more annoying than hearing the announcers from another city subtly mocking your home team every chance they get. Don't believe me? I accidentally turned on the broadcast feed for the New York Mets in their game against the Philadelphia Phillies, only to hear the NY-based announcers criticize Phillies relief pitcher Ryan Madson. Instead of focusing on his activity on the mound, they were linking him to the Peter Principle: “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” In an instant, I switched over to the Phillies broadcast feed where the announcers were recalling the 2010 arrest of Mets relief pitcher Francisco Rodríguez. The Philly announcers were making these comments while K-Rod, as he’s known, was still warming up in the bullpen; they didn’t even wait for him to take to the mound to lay into him.
This negative sniping may lead MLB.TV users to skip the broadcast booths entirely and opt for the service’s best new feature: the park feed. With just the roar of the crowd, the crack of the bat and the faint echo of the stadium announcer’s voice, this is the most natural and peaceful way to enjoy a baseball broadcast. The closest thing that television offers is the mute button. But that silences the soothing sounds of the ballpark along with the biased commentary. Three hours of watching purely the park feed on PS3 is as tranquil of an experience as playing the PSN game Flower.
This no-color-commentary option alone makes MLB.TV 2011 worth investing in, as long as you can watch the games you want. For some people, the service’s blackout restrictions mimic sitting in front of a stadium’s foul pole and missing the most important plays of the game. Exclusive local and national broadcasting rights limit a chunk of the 162 regular season games you can view, so contrary to popular belief, MLB.TV is not a foolproof cord-cutting solution. The application is able to pinpoint your approximate zip code through your IP address and determine the local team or teams that fall under these tight blackout restrictions. People in Los Angeles can’t watch live Dodger and Angel games; residents of Nebraska, a state without a baseball team, can’t watch live Kansas City Royals games; and the entire country of Canada is blocked from seeing live Toronto Blue Jays games.
People in Las Vegas and Iowa have it most rough of all, though. A total of six teams claim broadcasting rights in each of these areas. Iowans, for example, can’t watch live games of the Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins. On top of all of this, certain national broadcasts also fall under the blackout restrictions. FOX contracts eliminate games from 1:10 PM to 7:05 PM games on Saturdays and ESPN does the same for games after 5:00 PM on Sundays. A general rule of thumb is that if you can watch in on television in your area, then you probably can’t watch it live on MLB.TV.
The good news is that even though you can’t watch blackout games live, they're archived and available to every subscriber 90 minutes after a game’s conclusion. Still, live blackout restrictions are going to be a deal breaker for some people. But, the service remains the only solution for relocated fans who can’t watch their hometown teams any other way, and that’s exactly what MLB.TV was built for in the first place.
Another groundbreaking MLB.TV-exclusive feature is event navigation. As the DVR timeline at the bottom of the screen streams from left to right, it leaves behind a trail of colored dots. These Viddler-looking comments are actually significant moments during the course of the game, from homeruns, to hits, to stolen bases. Even more impressive is that you can set which events appear and which don’t. The event filtering option allows you to check and uncheck strikeouts, doubles, singles, runs, etc, to your hearts desire. Jumping from event to event is easy now thanks to these customizable highlight indicators and makes your baseball watching experience revolutionary compared to everyone else’s unfreckled DVR timeline.
As advanced as event highlights are, though, the MLB.TV PS3 app has some common first-generation DVR un-functionality. Seeking with the PS3 controller’s D-Pad is wholly inaccurate; it never stops where you want it to stop. Seeking left and right doesn’t even bring up a thumbnail preview as you progress along the timeline. Worse yet, there’s no 30-second skip or rewind button, something that both the computer and iOS versions tout. Heck, even Major League Baseball implemented instant replay in 2008 after being stubborn about the whole issue for several decades.
Going the entire season without this must-have replay button and dealing with the spastic seek-button-on-crack is going to be painful. I trust that the next firmware update - which I pray is sooner than 2012 - fixes this oversight. But I hope that it doesn’t bring a change to the MLB’s current advertising method. Silent and still ads pop up on the screen every time TV networks go to a commercial break. Although I’m no closer to buying a Volvo, I feel as though I paid more attention to what the image and text were projecting and thoroughly appreciated the banner-like ad rotation not having someone shout at me for 30 seconds like the typical in-your-face car commercial. Alas, I doubt this simple pleasure will last.
MLB.TV has always been ideal for transplants who root for a hometown baseball team from afar. By extension, the PS3 app is perfect for these relocated fans who don’t want to be tied down to the computer to watch every game. Sure, MLB.TV is more feature-rich on the PC and Mac for stat-hungry fans, while it “hits for the cycle” on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android devices for more versatile baseball fans. But the PS3 MLB.TV app carves its own niche as the most convenient option for viewing live baseball games on your home theater system. There’s no need to have your entire crew gather around your inadequate laptop or mobile device anymore. Baseball fans looking to get the most out of the 2011 season shouldn’t think twice about installing MLB.TV between their Netflix and Hulu apps on the PlayStation 3.