[Image: MLB The Show 21. Sony]

The real-life Major League Baseball season has been underway for almost two weeks, but we're still a few days shy of opening day on MLB The Show 21's virtual diamond.

Sony San Diego Studio has been dropping info-bombs on its community for the past several weeks. Based on the information I've collected, here are the 20 things you need to know about MLB The Show 21 before you buy it.

(NOTE: There won't be any Diamond Dynasty info here because Sony won't reveal the mode until April 15.)

 

1 - The Xbox debut

Since its inception, the MLB The Show series has been a Sony exclusive, but that ends with this year's version. For the first time, The Show is coming to the Xbox family of consoles in addition to PlayStation.

 

2 - The debut on Next-Gen

After MLB The Show 14 made its PS4 debut and 15-20 were a part of the PS4 library exclusively, the series is now taking the next step to the next-gen consoles. MLB The Show 21 will be the first in the series available on the PS5 and subsequently on Xbox Series X|S, but it will also be available on PS4 and Xbox One. 

 

3 - Release date

This year’s game officially releases on April 20, but fans who purchase the Jackie Robinson Digital Deluxe Edition will get early access on April 16.

 

4 - Three different versions of the game

Fans can buy the standard version of MLB The Show for $59.99 on the last generation of consoles and $69.99 on next-gen. In addition to the most basic version, there are also two different Jackie Robinson Editions. The base one is $84.99, and the Deluxe will retail for $99.99.

The base JRE offers the following in-game extras, per GameStop:

  • Dual Entitlement (PS4 Disk and PS5 Download Code)
  • Limited Edition Steelbook (physical only)
  • Early Access (Launches April 16)
  • PlayStation will donate $1 to the Jackie Robinson Foundation for every Collector’s Edition sold in the United States
  • 1 Diamond Choice Pack
  • 2 Gold Choice Pack
  • 10 The Show Packs
  • 1 Ballplayer Equipment Pack
  • 10,000 Stubs
  • Double Dailies
  • Immediate Access to Jackie Robinson Bat Skin

The Deluxe JRE offers:

  • Limited Edition MLB The Show x New Era 9FIFTY Cap (Physical Only)
  • Limited Edition Steelbook (Physical Only)
  • Early Access (Launches April 16)
  • PlayStation will donate $1 to the Jackie Robinson Foundation for every Collector’s Edition sold in the United States**
  • 1 Diamond Choice Pack
  • 2 Gold Choice Pack
  • 10 The Show Packs
  • 1 Ballplayer Equipment Pack
  • 25,000 Stubs
  • Double Dailies
  • Immediate Access to Jackie Robinson Bat Skin

 

5 - Xbox Game Pass subscribers will get The Show 21 free on day 1

Not only is MLB The Show 21 coming to Xbox for the first time, but subscribers to Xbox Game Pass are going to be able to download and play it at no extra charge.

Jamie Leece, MLB senior vice president, Games & VR, wrote the following statement on Xbox.com:

“We’re delighted to announce that MLB The Show 21 is coming to Xbox Game Pass on day one and will be available on April 20 for Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One, as well as on Android phones and tablets via Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta) for Ultimate members. Both MLB The Show 21 Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S Standard Editions will be included with Xbox Game Pass so members will be able to play the best version of the game regardless of which console they’re on.”

That’s awesome for Xbox owners and GP subscribers, but there is nothing of the sort available for the tried and true PlayStation fans. Per a statement from Sony issued to Inverse, the publisher says it was MLB’s call to release The Show 21 on Game Pass. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as though there was any similar offer available for PlayStation owners.

 

6 - Cross-platform play is in

The Show isn’t just coming to Xbox; this year’s version will also feature cross-platform play. In its inaugural year on the Xbox, The Show series allows something Madden, FIFA, or NBA 2K has done despite their series being on both consoles for more than a decade.

 

7 - Fernando Tatis Jr. is the cover athlete

San Diego Padres young star Fernando Tatis Jr. was pegged as the cover athlete, as I predicted almost a year ago. Tatis is one of the hottest young stars in the majors, and because he plays local to the Sony studio that develops The Show, it seemed like perfect timing.

 

8 - How much of a visual upgrade is the next-gen version?

We saw a sizzle trailer for next-gen, and there is an extended look at gameplay above. Suppose we're comparing the upgrade to last year's game. In that case, there are some noticeable improvements, but not necessarily the kind of visual leap that many associate with a debut release on new hardware.

That said, visuals were never a big issue for The Show series, so the gradual improvement will do the trick as long as the gameplay remains strong and the best new features work well.

 

9 - Stadium Creator makes its debut

Finally, Sony is introducing a Stadium Creator feature to MLB The Show.

According to a recent feature preview outlining the details, Sony says SC has been in hardcore development for two years. The SC feature had been one of the most requested by fans, and it appears to be an incredibly layered experience.

The Stadium Creator feature is a next-gen exclusive, which means PS4 and Xbox One fans won't have access. The feature is usable in most modes in the game, although there are some online play restrictions in Diamond Dynasty.

 

10 - Pinpoint Pitching makes its debut

From a gameplay standpoint, it appears the new Pinpoint Pitching mechanic is the most significant new wrinkle.

PP was added to introduce a more extensive skill-gap component to one of the game's most critical areas. It's now the third type of pitching mechanic in the game along with analog and meter, and as FanSided's Matt Liebl describes, it's a bit of a hybrid between the two, only with more layers.

"Pinpoint Pitching combines a little bit of the Meter and Analog pitching functions along with a new specific gesture motion that you'll perform with the R stick," writes Liebl. "This motion will be rated on a GRD system: Gesture Performance, Release Timing, and Direction of Release. If all three are performed correctly, you'll generate a perfect pitch with very, very high accuracy."

The Pitching Accuracy Region is designed to serve as an indicator for where a pitch should land near the plate, and with PP, users will have more control over hitting or missing their spots.

As usual, Sony isn't forcing you to use this new gameplay mechanic. If you're OK with analog and meter, you can still use those options to pitch.

 

11 - Better ball tracking in the outfield

Fielding has been overhauled, according to Sony. There are several new on-field indicators to better allow users to play the field effectively. Perhaps the significant gameplay improvement is centered around improving ball tracking in the outfield. Action around the wall was less than realistic in MLB The Show 21, but Sony assures fans that this aspect of the game has been improved.

All of the details of the fielding improvements are discussed in the video below.

On PS5, The Show 21 will utilize the new rumble function in controllers in several areas of MLB The Show 21. Hard contact with the bat, the ball hitting the mitt, and a few other events will trigger haptic feedback in an attempt to deliver a tangible payoff for the on-screen actions.

 

12 - Franchise-mode improvements

Many have been disappointed with the franchise-mode improvements, but I’m not necessarily in that boat. I see Stadium Creator as a significant franchise feature, even though it’s not exclusive to the mode.

However, you can build a new stadium for all 30 teams in the majors. When you also consider you can rebrand each team, you now have the tools to create an entirely new major league baseball association.

That’s a noteworthy addition, but all franchise fans may not appreciate it. As far as franchise mode exclusivity, the new Player and Trade Metrics are all about the hardcore feature.

The Player Metric is a new evaluation formula designed to value the guys on your team based on their age, attributes, and contract. Within the newly formed depth charts, you’re able to see a projection of your players for the life of their contract with your team.

It’s a fresh concept that other sports video games should pop into their franchise modes. In a related feature, the Trade Metric uses a similar formula to determine players’ trade value. I’m hoping this works as smoothly as it was explained in the feature preview.

 

13 - No online franchise mode

Fans have been waiting for Sony to bring online franchise mode back, but this won’t be the year. The feature was again left out of the game for MLB The Show 21.

 

14 - RTTS new features and presentation

The single-player experience has a new story narrative and more presentation. The mode has felt bland, and this year’s RTTS is said to have dynamic presentation directed by the events in your career.

There is an in-game podcast that tells the story of your journey. The podcast is presented in full-motion video on next-gen systems, but only audio on current-gen. I’m not sure how this will go over on either console, quite honestly.

Unless it is hyper-specific to your RTTS journey, it could wind up being skipped by users. However, because it offers fresh and relevant immersion, that could be a different story.

There are 180 different episodes, and you won’t see them all in one RTTS career.

This year’s version of the game will also allow you to be a Two-Way Player. You can make this designation when you start your RTTS career, and you can customize how much you go back and forth between pitching and hitting.

The new Ball Player feature allows you to take your RTTS character and use him in Diamond Dynasty. That concept was present in the last version, but it’s more layered.

The loadout concept has been added, enabling you to bring a player to any situation with the desired attributes and perks to succeed in that mode.

In RTTS, users try to max out the different archetypes to ensure any loadout they choose can perform to the top tier of their abilities.

 

15 - New legends

Legend reveals have long been a major attraction during the pre-release period for MLB the Show. This year, we’ve learned the game will include Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Fernando Valenzuela, Prince Fielder, and more. As usual, these legends will be playable in Diamond Dynasty (in various forms) and in Play Now, HR Derby (yes, that’s still in the game), and franchise mode. Here is the legend reveal trailer.

Look for the full review of the game once it is released. An evaluation of each mode will take place during the week of early access.

This article was written by Brian Mazique from Forbes and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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