Rugby has a rich history of video games, from the likes of Jonah Lomu Rugby to the classic Rugby 08, and even recently the coveted Rugby Challenge series.
As a young rugby fan, there was nothing better than returning home after playing rugby on a cold wet Sunday morning, to plant yourself in front of the PlayStation as you took control of your favourite team. Many hours would be spent running through players as Jonah Lomu or running around them with Jason Robinson, before converting a try by lining up the furthest possible kick you could as Jonny Wilkinson with 99 kicking ability.
Unfortunately, nowadays there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of funding for rugby games, with EA Sports no longer releasing their rugby titles. As a result, since 2008 it’s been the likes of Eko Software and Wicked Witch Software picking up the slack.
Despite calls from the likes of Ugo Monye for further development of the virtual game, there have been no solid movement as of yet. When you compare the likes of FIFA and the growth of football, rugby appears to be very much behind in progressing the game through virtual means.
This being said, there have been minor steps forward in the past couple of years. Nacon and Eko Software’s Rugby 22 was widely regarded as the most complete rugby game we’d seen since 2008.
Despite missing some major licenses, Rugby 2022 provided the most lifelike game of rugby we have seen on consoles. The ability to control pods to build phases led to some very satisfying scores. There were of course glitches and issues that you would expect without the backing of a big budget you may get from the likes of EA Sports, but it was certainly an improvement on what we’ve seen before.
The updated Rugby 24 version of the game has been met with much anticipation since its announcement, with a wider variety of licenses and improved gameplay being promised. But it’s not had the smoothest of journeys so far, with the release date previously being pushed back to January 30th 2024.
Sadly, this date has been moved back once again to March 2024, with only an early access version being available on Steam even then. The full game is now expected to be available on consoles at the end of the year.
In a statement, the studio said:
“Dear Rugby fans,
“As we look forward to another year full of incredible rugby moments, we hope this year treats you well!
“Firstly, we apologise for taking so long to bring you this long overdue update.
“The great news is that we have officially licensed almost all of the rugby world, some 140+ nations and competitions for inclusion in Rugby 24.
“However, due to the intense rugby calendar during the 2023 World Cup year, we have not been able to secure access to enough of the teams to create the considerable amount of content needed to meet our original release time frame.
“We have decided that the best way forward is to release Rugby 24 into early access on Steam after we have a sufficient amount of content captured. We are currently travelling the world capturing teams and expect to have enough content in March, with a view to completing all of the content capture sometime later in 2024, at which time we will release on Console also.
“We will be releasing more information about Rugby 24’s Early Access content and price in the coming weeks.
“We look forward to taking fans on this Rugby journey with us and sincerely appreciate the patience that has been afforded us.
“The Rugby 24 Team.”
Dear rugby fans, we took the important decision to launch Rugby 24 in Early Access on Steam in March 2024.
Stay tuned for more info. 🏉 pic.twitter.com/9IbWjbf9jC
— RUGBY 24 (@rugbythegame) January 23, 2024
Fans have been generally understanding about the situation, with one person saying: “I don’t think anyone will mind waiting a little longer if the game is actually good. Great gameplay, good graphics and licensed teams and you have a winner.”
If the game is eventually a hit, then this could well be huge for the sport.