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MLB The Show 21 launches on PS5 — and Xbox Series X — in April

Sony’s exclusive baseball sim joins a rival platform for the first time

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promotional shot for MLB The Show 21 depicting Fernando Tatis, Jr. insouciantly flipping his bat
Fernando Tatis Jr., a shortstop for the San Diego Padres, graces the cover of Sony San Diego-developed MLB The Show 21 for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
Image: Sony San Diego Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment America
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Hometown hero Fernando Tatis, Jr. is the cover star for Sony San Diego Studio’s MLB The Show 21, launching April 20, but the real news is the game also launches on Xbox One and Xbox Series X the same day.

The unusual cross-console launch of a Sony-developed game gives Xbox baseball fans their first simulation-quality game since 2013’s Major League Baseball 2K13 from Visual Concepts and 2K Sports. MLB The Show 21 will also feature cross-platform play (among Xbox and PlayStation devices) and cross-generation game save compatibility (PlayStation 4 to PlayStation 5, and Xbox One to Xbox Series X).

Cross-generation game saves, however, will not include the importation of career and Road to the Show progress from prior versions of the game. Sony introduced this feature, the first and only of its kind in sports titles, with MLB The Show 14 and 15 on PlayStation 4.

“We don’t have anything to share about the feature’s future, but we’re aware of its popularity in the community,” Sony San Diego wrote in an FAQ.

There is no free upgrade from the previous console generation to the current family, however. Players who want to play MLB the Show 21 on both generations will have to buy a collector’s edition. A price and other details on that will be announced on Wednesday.

MLB The Show 21’s launch on Xbox platforms was foreshadowed in a December 2019 announcement, with both Nintendo and Microsoft acknowledging that the Sony franchise would be coming to their platforms. (Details on a Nintendo Switch launch were not given on Monday).

MLB’s absence on those two platforms dates back to the formation of 2K Games itself, when Take-Two Interactive bought Sega’s Visual Concepts studio in 2005 and negotiated a third-party exclusive license with MLB. Sony retained the right to make its MLB the Show series with San Diego Studio (then known as 989 Sports).

2K Sports’ MLB franchise slipped in quality with the 2005-2006 console generation change, and never regained its footing, while MLB The Show became arguably a console-selling sports title for PlayStation. The only Major League Baseball-licensed video games for Xbox and Nintendo since 2013 have been the reconstituted R.B.I. Baseball series, an arcade-style game developed by MLB Advanced Media.

Shortstop Fernando Tatis, Jr. begins his third season with the San Diego Padres this year. The son of former St. Louis and New York Mets third baseman Fernando Tatis, he placed third in National League Rookie of the Year balloting in 2019 with 22 home runs and a .317 batting average over just half a season (84 games).

Tatis, Jr. is among a wave of second-generation baseball stars who have made the league in the past four seasons, among them the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger, and Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Cavan Biggio, and Bo Bichette.