Ice hockey as a sport is one interesting example of a sport that is quite popular in some countries, whereas virtually non-existent in others. In the places where ice hockey is played more than traditional field hockey, the game is called just ‘hockey’.
Britain isn’t one of the countries where ice hockey is among the most popular sports, but it is probably one of the few places on earth where it has a strong presence despite not being considered a major sport.
The impact of video games on sports’ popularity
One way to popularise a sport is via video games. Yes, usually the more popular a sport is, more likely it is for video games based on it to be developed, but it doesn’t mean that the opposite can’t be true. Namely, it has already been recognised that the mega popular NBA 2K could help increase the league’s popularity in China, and we have to wonder why something similar can’t happen with ice hockey.
Even if you’re a fan of ice hockey you still might not be familiar with the fact that there are plenty of video games based on ice hockey. In all fairness, most of these games are based on by far the most popular ice hockey league – the NHL, but still, with the technological advances, we can be confident that there will soon be a spin-off, a sequel or an expansion pack based on the EIHL, or at least include some teams from the EIHL.
If we can have all sorts of diverse online slots and fringe games, like the mega popular and quirky Secrets of the Phoenix slot, then why not have an ice hockey video game featuring English teams.
We went through some of the most popular and most exciting ice hockey themed video games and their impact.
You might be surprised to learn this, but ice hockey games have been around since the 1980s. In fact, the first ice hockey themed video game was developed in 1979. Strangely named Hockey!/ Soccer!, this game was released for Magnavox Odyssey and is considered to be the first hockey video game.
There were a few ice hockey game sin the beginning of the 1980s, although not too many. The first Wayne Gretzky game was released in 1988 and we could say that this event marked the beginning of a new era for ice hockey video games as things got a lot more exciting in the 1990s.
The exciting 1990s
After all the 1990s were the first golden decade for consoles and video gaming became much more of a mainstream phenomenon compared to the previous decade.
A total of four ice hockey games were released in 1991, including the second Wayne Gretzky Hockey, as well as the first EA sports video game based on hockey.
Those even remotely familiar with sports themed video games are surely aware of the huge influence of EA Sports, a company that has created some of the most renowned and most played video games based on sports. Be that FIFA, NBA Live, or some other game, EA Sports, one of the largest divisions of Electronic Arts have surely made a mark on the sports video games market.
EA Sports and their competition
Each year, EA Sports went on to publish a new sequel of the NHL game, but there were few other operators and games that also made an impact. 989 Studios’ game NHL FaceOff also saw a number of renderings during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Following the establishment of 2K Games, they also started releasing NHL 2K games which became serious competition for EA Sports and their NHL titles. However, the 2K game and its popularity didn’t last too long, so the last edition was released in 2011.
In the last several years it has been mostly one game per year, EA Sports’ edition, i.e. its versions for Xbox and PlayStation. However, in the period 2015-2016, Bionic Salmon made an impact with their 3 ice hockey games for PC – Hockey Universe 2016 , Hockey Universe Multiplayer and Destinée Hockey. A couple of other games have also been released in 2017, but that’s about it.
What the future holds
Will there be a game that will threaten the dominance of EA Sports’ NHL? Who knows, but we sure hope to see an ice-hockey game featuring British teams and players and the EIHL. Ice hockey video games can surely contribute significantly to the sport’s popularity, in the UK and worldwide.