MVP Baseball 2005 sprints out of the box; MLB 2K5 close behind.

[UPDATE] EA's king of the diamond ships to stores; Take-Two shipping MLB 2K5 tomorrow?

Cyber-spring training has sprung. Electronic Arts today made the semi-surprising announcement that MVP Baseball 2005 has shipped to retailers, which is more than a full week before the real Major League Baseball preseason games begin. Last week, online retailers listed today as the game's ship date, even though EA never made it official. EA previously announced March 1 as the game's official release date. MVP takes to the field on the PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube.

Not to be outdone, it appears as though Take-Two Interactive is getting its diamond dandy out earlier than previously expected as well. Online retailer EBgames.com lists the game as being available tomorrow, while Gamestop.com lists the game's status as "usually ships in 24 hours." Representatives at publisher 2K Sports were unavailable to confirm the release date as of press time. MLB 2K5 is being released on the PS2 and Xbox.

MVP Baseball 2005 and MLB 2K5 not only get head starts on baseball's preseason, but also get healthy leadoffs against the competition. Sony and 989 Sports' MLB 2006 will be available exclusively for the PS2 on March 1, while Nintendo Pennant Chase Baseball for the GameCube will be available on April 4.

The rivalry between EA and Take-Two is reaching Yankees-Red Sox proportions. Take-Two fired the first shot by selling its 2K lineup of games for the wallet-saving price point of $19.99, taking a share of EA's sports market. EA countered with a price cut of its own, dropping the price of popular sports titles such as Madden 2005 to $30, down from $50.

But the big blow came last December, when EA locked up the exclusive licensing rights to one of sports most coveted entities, the National Football League, effectively burying the competition in the football simulation market. Down but not out, Take-Two swung back with a haymaker of its own, securing third-party rights to Major League Baseball properties. Both deals begin in 2006, when the next generation of consoles is expected to hit the market.

This year, MVP Baseball 2005 follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, the number-one-selling baseball game of 2004. The new hitter's-eye system lets batters pick up the speed and break of a pitch as it leaves the pitcher's hand for more high-powered offense. An owner mode gives gamers control of an entire organization, arranging everything from the coaching staff and day-to-day lineup to the ballpark's promotional days and concession stand prices. In addition to featuring the triple-A and double-A affiliates of all 30 MLB teams, MVP 2005 adds 30 single-A squads, allowing gamers to take to the field with teams such as the Kane County Cougars.

MVP Baseball 2005 is rated "E" for Everyone and retails for $29.99. For more information on the game, check out GameSpot's previous coverage. MLB 2K5 is rated "E" for Everyone and will sell for $19.99. For more information on the game, be sure to read GameSpot's previous coverage, including our recent hands-on preview, which was posted last week. For a roundup of all the upcoming baseball releases, head on over to GameSpot Sports' preview feature.

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