RBI Baseball (R.B.I. Baseball) is a baseball video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was produced by Tengen and originally released in 1988. RBI was the first video game to be licensed through the Major League Baseball Players Association, thereby containing authentic major league players and rosters. RBI spawned two sequels on the NES as well as versions for the Sega Genesis, Commodore Amiga, Super Nintendo, Sega Game Gear, and Atari ST.
The roots for RBI Baseball begin with Tengen's controlling company, Namco. In December of 1986, Namco releases Pro Yakyuu Family Stadium (aka Family Stadium) for the Nintendo Famicom, the Japanese version of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Family Stadium is a success and spawns numerous sequels across a variety of platforms in Japan. In 1987 Atari Games, the American arcade divison and Tengen's parent company, ports Family Stadium to the Nintendo Vs. Series and releases Vs. RBI Baseball. The game was also a success and the programmer for Vs. RBI Baseball, Peter Lipson, gets started on a console version for the NES. Because the Nintendo Vs. architecure is nearly identical to the NES and Famicom, the gameplay between the Family Stadium, American arcade, and NES versions of RBI Baseball is almost exactly the same. At the summer 1988 Consumer Electronics Show, the NES version of RBI Baseball is shown to the public for the first time. Later in 1988, RBI is officially released for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
MLB, MLBPA and licenses
The most unique feature of RBI Baseball upon its release was its license from the Major League Baseball Players Association, the first of its kind in the console market. The MLBPA license allowed RBI to use actual players and rosters from Major League Baseball, giving the game instant appeal by fans of the sport. Though LJN's Major League Baseball was the first NES title to obtain an MLB license in April of 1988, it was only permitted to use team logos, not authentic player names. The MLBPA license is what set RBI Baseball apart from the rest of the baseball games in the late 1980s.
Teams and rosters
Though RBI did not have an MLB license (giving them the right to use team nicknames or logos), they still gave you the selection of 8 MLB teams - Boston, California, Detroit, Houston, Minnesota, New York, St. Louis, and San Francisco. There were also two All-Star teams, American League and National League, featuring players from teams other than the eight represented in the game. The eight teams were chosen because they were the playoff teams from the 1986 (Boston, California, Houston, New York) and 1987 (Detroit, Minnesota, St. Louis, San Francisco) MLB seasons. The All-Star teams featured such established vererans as George Brett, Dale Murphy and Andre Dawson, as well as up-and-coming players like Mark McGwire, Benito Santiago and Jose Canseco.
The rosters for the 8 teams are fairly accurate representations of the playoff roster from their respective year. There are a few omissions and incorrect stats, but for the most part they do a fair job representing the teams. Each team has 8 starting batters, four bench players, two starting pitchers and two relievers. You can start any pitcher you like, though the relievers have a very low stamina. For pinch hitters, you have to wait until the game starts before subbing players.