It’s been nearly a decade since the last major boxing video game was released, but now a new challenger has entered the ring with a bang.
For years, many had clamored for a new boxing game to be released to the masses with the last major title being EA Sports’ Fight Night Champions all the way back in 2011. Since then, other video games featuring boxing have been released, including the Creed: Rise To Glory VR game in 2018, but none replicated the Fight Night formula, much less succeeded doing so.
Steel City Interactive, an independent video game studio out of Sheffield, England, is looking to bring back boxing into the forefront of gaming with eSports Boxing Club (ESBC).
Fightful spoke with a representative of the studio developing the game, who spoke about many of the upcoming game's features. Though there is no official release date for the game, the plan is for the game to be released on PC by the end of 2020 and then on current-generation game consoles (PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) in 2021.
“We’re going for a PC release first or an early access release at the backend of this year. It’s not too far away in gaming terms. We are planning on a PC release later this year followed by a console release next year," Steel City told Fightful.
The game is titled “eSports Boxing Club” for a reason. With competitive gaming exploding onto the scene in recent years and making its way towards becoming a mainstream sport (various U.S. television stations, including ESPN, have broadcast eSports competitions), Steel City looks to capitalize on the burgeoning competitive gaming scene and has already planned out a road map to set itself apart from most games.
This is all thanks in part to a recently-announced partnership with the World Boxing Council (WBC), who is working with Steel City to not only include a robust online gaming experience, but also official online tournaments with tangible rewards for those who come out on top in those tournaments.
“One of the reasons we wanted the WBC and Ring Magazine involved, obviously for boxers, the ultimate ambition is to have the WBC belt or be announced as the Ring Magazine. For gamers who are just as passionate for boxing as boxers are in a gaming sense, there isn’t anything for them except a rankings leaderboard that appears in every game. [We] wanted something that would allow a gamer to receive something nice as part of a real competition. With eSports Boxing Club, with the WBC and with Ring Magazine, we will be hosting at least once a year a boxing tournament that will be broadcast. There will be qualifying rounds and essentially, the winner will receive an actual WBC belt and it's the same with the Ring Magazine. We plan on doing this across multiple weight divisions. It’s more than just a game where you can play against the CPU or against your friends. There will be an actual tournament that will take place and with sponsors and the backing and receiving the actual event, we’re planning on almost having a multi-night boxing event where if there’s a major WBC fight, if Tyson Fury defends his WBC belt, then the plan is to almost have an eSports equivalent, a gaming equivalent of becoming the WBC champion of the world. That’s something we’re excited about and that’s something the WBC is excited about,” Steel City said.
The game will feature a number of different aspects that few, if any, boxing games previously implemented. One aspect is the create-a-fighter mode, which will give players a chance to live out a boxer's career in different ways based on what nationality they choose for their fighter. Players can have their fighter compete for their respective national titles and move to win other minor belts such as the WBC Youth, WBC International and WBC Silver titles before moving on to fight for a world championship. The WBC will be incorporated in the game as well.
Even as an independent studio, Steel City Interactive is looking to further create authenticity not just with the game's roster but the visuals and animations as well. Steel City brought in Ten24, which has worked on the critically-acclaimed Death Stranding game, as a co-developer.
Boxing fans! We are delighted to announce our partnership with the WBC and The Ring Magazine to feature in eSports Boxing Club! Also, ESBC is now being co-developed by the scan team involved in Death Stranding - Ten24! Oh and here's a teaser! @WBCBoxing @ringmagazine @Ten_24 pic.twitter.com/dgNJvOma7u— SteelCityInteractive (@SteelCityInt) June 23, 2020
Hello fight fans! We will be making some exciting announcements in the coming days and weeks! In the meantime, please visit our website for the latest details on eSports Boxing Club!— SteelCityInteractive (@SteelCityInt) April 26, 2020
Can’t wait for you all to see the next trailer for eSports Boxing Club!— Dave Coldwell (@davidcoldwell) June 18, 2020
@SteelCityInter2 have blown me away with what they showed me today! #esports #esportsboxingclub #gaming #gamers pic.twitter.com/FbcyiC4jbO
The careers that players will have their created fighters go through won't just be limited to just in-ring action. The studio previously stated that there will be RPG elements incorporated into the game and aspects of life outside the ring could have an impact as to how they perform inside the ring.
"In terms of the RPG side, it's something that we all play in the studio. We feel that it's an aspect that is a little underrepresented in past boxing games. Just to give you an example, there will be attributes ranging from the usual strength, stamina, but there will be other stats such as discipline. There will be a number of attributes that will determine how your career progresses and that will be left up to the player with what kind of fighter they want to create. It's not just about what takes place inside the ring, what takes place outside the ring will also impact inside the ring. This isn't just something where we have a game and it's just two guys punching each other. We know boxing is more than that," Fightful was told.
For those that are curious, the roster of fighters for this game won’t consist of fictional characters, similar to that of past games such as the Punch-Out! Series and Ready 2 Rumble. Instead, the game has worked with independent boxers to get their likenesses included in the game.
Some of the names working with the game or will be included in the game feature current boxers such as unified WBA and IBF junior welterweight champion Josh Taylor, WBC Female super featherweight champion Terri Harper, twins Andrew and Jason Moloney, Shannon Courtenay, Sophie Alisch to name a few. But it also sports a growing list of retired boxers such as former cruiserweight champions Johnny Nelson and Enzo Maccarinelli, former middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.
Fightful can also confirm that former world champions Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward have also signed on to be in the game and their official announcements are set to be made imminently.
In addition, the studio brought in former British champion Ryan Rhodes as the lead technical boxing consultant with others such as Ricky Hatton and Nelson serving an in-game role. Besides the WBC, the game is receiving support from the IBF and British Boxing Board of Control and Steel City Interactive is currently in talks with the WBA in regards to bringing them on board as well.
One thing that eagle-eyed readers may see is that a majority of the roster that has been announced is UK-centric, which makes sense given the studio is based out of Sheffield, England, a city with a deep boxing history. Although the full roster has yet to be announced, or finalized for that matter, expect announcements featuring fighters from different countries across the world. The trailer for the game stated there are over 50 licensed athletes and professionals in the game.
“We have some major, major names. I think people will be a little bit surprised because the roster seems very UK-heavy, but in terms of U.S. fighters and even some from Mexico, Puerto Rico, we do have a number of big names that we signed up. I think eventually once ESBC has matured and been out for a while, I don’t see anyone that’s outside of our reach in terms of bringing them into the game. There wouldn’t be anyone that we’re limiting to not having in the game," the company told Fightful.
While the Fight Night franchise has seen several sequels be released throughout its run, eSports Boxing Club does not plan to follow that route. Instead, it will look to update the roster through “seasons” and will have downloadable content be announced after the game is initially released.
“I think it’s something we have thought about in-depth. We’re not looking to make it a yearly release or have regular sequels. The model behind ESBC is a long-time project where we will have regular updates. We’re already talking about boxers we’re signing and planning for the first update. So the game will be released with an initial roster. In essence, there will be seasons for ESBC where we’re bringing in new fighters. There may be a world champion that they’re going to be a world champion next year and we don’t want to do sequels just to add in a couple of boxers. We’re going to have an initial launch of fighters and then continuously update the game through seasons so there will be a combination of DLCs as time progresses," Fightful was told.
You can check out a trailer for the game below.
Fightful will keep you updated on the game’s development and any new announcements.