NBA 2K20: Rinse, Repeat, Recycle.

            Sport video games are probably the closest things to real life monopolies we will ever see. The NHL, NFL and soccer series are all produced by EA. The NBA series “2K” is produced by 2K, although there is “NBA Live” produced by EA too, but it has not been a serious competitor in years. With the release of NBA 2K20, there have been countless issues upon release which could argued to be a direct result of 2K not caring for the consumers as the basketball video game sector is essentially a monopoly now, just like other sports. In this article, I will be highlighting some of the major flaws of the game and what needs to be fixed.

Game Review:

            The gameplay for 2K20 has become significantly harder than previous years as the intention of the developers was to build a skill gap amongst their players. This is understandable for a lot of people, but not when it hinders the overall gameplay. NBA 2K20 had one of the messiest launches in recent years because of the lack of attention to gameplay details by the development team. The game felt a lot slower, dribble moves were not as fluid, and frankly speaking, a lot of people agreed that the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) players were a lot faster than the NBA players. To make matters worse, shooting the ball was a lot harder to time now as well. If someone mistimes it just by a split second, the ball would not go in most of the times, which was extremely frustrating because the window to make a perfect shot is in milliseconds. In simpler terms, previous NBA 2K titles were a lot more forgiving when it came to shooting. To fix these issues, they have to hire better or more game testers who can detect the issues pre-release so that they can fix it. Overall though, the gameplay was virtually the same as NBA 2K19, only with more issues being added to this year’s title. The way the players moved, the dribble moves available for players, and the minor details like the cheerleaders doing the same dance in between timeouts were identical to 2K19 and even 2K18 in some instances. As for the graphics, they were identical other than some minor tweaks, which is understandable to a certain extent because the developers have seemingly reached the peak performance of this current generation’s consoles (Xbox One, PS4), and can’t go much further. Ironically, longtime fans of the NBA 2K series have stated that NBA 2K14, a game that is now 6 years old, had the best graphics. In the end though, NBA 2K20 simply felt like a NBA 2K19.5, not NBA 2K20.

Server Issues:

            If we as a 2K community could ask for one thing to be fixed in the game, it would not be the gameplay or better graphics, it would most certainly be the constant server issues. Whenever we play online, whether it be “Play Now online” where we choose an NBA team of our choice and go head to head with someone, or playing with our custom made character from the career mode in a 5v5 game mode called “Pro-am”, there are still issues with people lagging out and their games crashing. 2K needs to invest more money into the infrastructure of their servers because multiplayer is the biggest draw of any game. Once career mode is done, everyone will flock over the multiplayer, so it should be one of the most prioritized sectors of their game. I have not experienced this first hand too often, presumably because I have good internet to begin with, but I can still see how infuriating it must be when you have to restart the game and you lose all your progress. The server issues have been going on for years and is a constant issue. Some of the features or game modes that 2K have added in previous years, such as “MyCareer”, keep on getting recycled because it’s an essential part of the game as long as the story changes every year, which it does. However, we don’t want the crappy servers to be recycled, that’s for sure. To fix the issue, 2K really only has to invest more money into dedicated servers for their games to prevent the constant crashes and lagging. It’s a shame that EA’s NBA Live is not up to par in terms of its gameplay, because even though they have a much smaller fan base, server issues are not one of the common complaints you here about that game. It doesn’t have to be EA, but if any game company wants to surpass 2K, investing money into the servers would yield a big advantage. I feel the major reason why 2K is comfortable with where they are at is because this will most likely never happen since they already have the biggest names under exclusivity contracts with them , such as Michael Jordan, which is enough to sway enough fans over to them just by itself. They also have a better design team when it comes to mimicking the players real life attributes, like their ball handling and size, into their games because they have the players come in and put them through a scanning mechanism to track their movements to the most minor details.

Business Model

            There is nothing that highlights the greed of 2K more than the way in which they have implemented the use of “Virtual Currency”, also known as “VC”, which is the only form of currency in the game. This is rather uncommon as most other games usually balance between two different currencies, one which the players buy in the store and one that the player earns through progression.

               To upgrade our players in My Career, we need to use VC. To get VC isn’t the hardest thing and it doesn’t cost much to upgrade your player in the beginning. You start your player at a 60 overall and the cap is 99 overall. On average, you can earn about 1000 VC per game if you do well, and to get from a 60 to an 80 overall, it’s about 100,000 VC. There are bonuses in between and you get endorsements as you progress throughout the story, so it’s not like you’ll have to play 100 games in a season to get there. However, since there are 82 games in an NBA season, if you were to play all of them and get your endorsements, it would take the entire season to get somewhere just above an 80 overall. The long grind therefore incentivizes players to purchase VC at a bit of a premium. To get 75,000 VC, it costs $30 CAD after taxes. To put that into perspective, you buy the game for $80 and should you feel the grind is too long, which is for most of us because we have work or school, then you have to dish out another $30 on top to get to a respectable rating. This ultimately promotes the model of “pay to win”, meaning that we have to pay more money in the game in order to gain a substantial advantage. Even though we don’t have to, due to the circumstances of the game itself, being very hard to level up, most people will just buy the VC because their time is simply worth more. Once one person does it, the next person will feel obligated to do it too just to keep up. Eventually, it’s not even about winning, but rather, just keeping up. Like I said, although we have the option to purchase VC, it’s an ongoing trend that companies to place us in a sort of a chokehold to pressure us into spending money on micro transactions. EA is most notorious with us, as I previously stated in my blog “Apex Legends: A look at its lifeline”, but 2K and a lot of other companies are no different as we will see.

The USD prices for VC in NBA 2K20

            Prior to the release of NBA 2K20, the face of the franchise, known as Ronnie, was streaming gameplay of himself playing the game while answering and addressing questions or concerns the fans had. One of the questions was whether or not there would be a drop-in price for the VC, to which Ronnie replied that “yes there would be” and that we could “re-spec our builds which will let us save VC” as well. Whenever we build a player for My Career, once we build it, we cannot edit this player. This is in reference to the attributes and skills specifically, as we can change the physical appearance whenever we want. So in prior years, whenever we would mess up a build or get bored of it, we would have to remake a new character and restart with him, meaning that we may even need to repurchase more VC to bring our player up to a respectable overall just because the grind is so long. Now, Ronnie was saying that we could edit our player as we please, and that VC would see a drop in price. Unsurprisingly, these were all lies as the entire player builder system was the exact same and there was no drop-in price for VC. We, the fans, were very much looking forward to a brand-new player builder system where we could tweak our attributes and skills on the fly, but we were lied to. 2K recycled the same system from last year and reused it for this year. The fans, of course, were furious and gave Ronnie a piece of their minds, to no avail. There’s only one NBA game out there, and that’s NBA 2K20, so we either suck it up or leave. If this is not the most unethical thing, I’ve seen in the gaming world, then I don’t know what is. There should in essence, be a class action lawsuit of some sorts because we were blatantly lied to. Ronnie has still yet to clearly address their stance on this, but it has sort of blown by already even though 2K was not held accountable for their actions.

Final Verdict

            A couple things need to happen before the release of the next generation consoles if 2K wants to remain competitive, and that is to address the issues with the game, which includes recycling a product and reselling it to us, and to stop lying to the fans. Although it won’t be soon, it’s very possible that another company can come take what 2k currently has. I can speak for myself, my friends, and a majority of the fan base that if another company were to offer something comparable to 2K in terms of gameplay and graphics, while investing in dedicated servers and giving the fans what they want without trying to deceive us, then that company will be far more successful in the long run. From an outsider’s perspective, it looks as if 2K simply does what they need to stay ahead, and do not go above and beyond.

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