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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Suddenly, sports gaming competition is everywhere. Unless you're into the NHL.

The big picture: EA's return to making baseball games this week is the latest in a recent rush of moves that will restore competition to video game baseball, golf, football and more.

  • Fans of many sports video games complain that decreased competition among largely annualized releases has made the games worse. Increased competition = increased quality?

The intensifying playing field: Baseball — EA vs. Sony (sort of): EA's new acquisition, Metalhead, makes "Super Mega League Baseball," an arcade-style game with fictional players.

  • The deal puts EA back in baseball game development for the first time since 2006.
  • Take Two snagged a semi-exclusive on the MLB license until 2014, when it got out of baseball gaming.
  • That left Sony's "MLB The Show" standing. It remained PlayStation-exclusive until this year, when an extraordinary new MLB deal forced Sony to also release "The Show" on the arch-rival Xbox.

Golf — Take Two vs. EA vs. ... Nintendo?: Take Two got into making golf games in 2020, with the acquisition as it rebranded "The Golf Club" series into "PGA Tour 2K."

  • That filled a void left since 2015, when EA bailed on its long-running golf series that had been long-associated with Tiger Woods.
  • In March, EA announced a return to golf gaming with the development of "EA Sports PGA Tour," just as Take Two signed former EA cover athlete Woods for their game.
  • Bonus: Nintendo is bringing back "Mario Golf" in June. No Tiger Woods there, but they do have a well-dressed Wario.

Football — EA vs. Take Two: Big-time video game football has been EA's "Madden" series and nothing else since EA landed the NFL exclusive in 2004.

  • That 2004 deal killed Take Two’s well-regarded rival series “NFL 2K” and all but ended serious football competition.
  • Last March, Take Two announced its long-missed "NFL 2K" series would return in a deal that lets Take Two make "non-simulation" football games.

The other football — EA vs. Konami: EA's "FIFA" series is dominant here, having turned the tide against former category leader "Pro Evolution Soccer" from Konami.

  • Konami’s been struggling to battle EA, but fancied an incredible 2019 name change to “eFootball PES” might help. 
  • Doesn’t seem to have, and the series did not get a full new release in 2020. Its 2021 plans are unclear.

Basketball - Take Two vs. maybe EA: Take Two’s “NBA 2K” series rules here, with EA barely still in contention.

  • “NBA Live” has simply sat out this formerly annual rivalry multiple times this past decade including no-showing 2019 and 2020.

Hockey — EA: EA's got the NHL to itself.

Sign up for the new Axios Gaming newsletter here.

Go deeper

U.S. friends in Latin America are turning to China

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The U.S. is losing Latin America to China without putting up a fight, Ecuador’s ambassador to Washington told Axios, laying bare her frustrations with early inattention from the Biden administration.

Why it matters: Ecuador isn't alone. China has deepened its engagement in the region, and it's now the top trading partner for many of the region's largest economies. That gives Beijing considerable leverage in a region historically dominated by the U.S., and makes Latin America a major frontier in the global competition for influence.

1 dead, 14 injured in shooting at Kroger grocery store near Memphis

One person was killed and 14 others were injured Thursday in a shooting at a Kroger grocery store in Collierville, Tenn., near Memphis, the town's spokesperson Jennifer Casey said, per CNN.

What they're saying: "I've been involved in [police work] for 34 years and I have never seen anything like [this]," Police Chief Dale Lane said at a press conference.

3 hours ago - Health

CDC panel recommends Pfizer boosters for high-risk individuals, people 65 and up

Photo: Marco Bello/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A key panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus booster shots for people 65 years old and older, as well as those at high risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: The approval is the near-final step in making the booster shots available to tens of millions of Americans, and comes a day after the FDA approved Pfizer boosters for the two groups. CDC director Rochelle Walensky is expected to announce her recommendation soon.