Yesterday afternoon, we found ourselves embroiled in a minor controversy surrounding one of our reviews, as I decided to adjust our NBA 2K18 review after it had been posted and temporarily remove the score, pending a statement from 2K about our complaints.
In our review, Aran raised the issue of the rate at which you can earn the game’s Virtual Currency from play, how pervasive VC is through the game, and how this pushes you towards the microtransactions in a manner that seriously impacts the game.
Sadly, 2K have not been able to issue us a statement in a timely fashion and so we have now returned the 3/10 score to the bottom of our review, 24 hours after the review was originally posted.
So in retrospect, did I make a mistake in altering our published review? Possibly. Were there good reasons to change the review? Definitely. Most importantly, was this from undue publisher pressure? No.
The conclusion that was originally posted read, “If you’re a series fan you may enjoy what you see, and the score below doesn’t indicate the quality of the core basketball game, but rather protests how utterly invasive the microtransactions have now become.” To categorise our review and its score as a protest vote against 2K was wrong on a number of levels, and it was something I believed I had removed when editing. Evidently I didn’t or didn’t realise that my edits had not been submitted properly while travelling. Either way, it was largely for this reason that 2K’s PR team got in touch after the review was published.
We give plenty of leeway to our reviewers, so if they reason their position well enough and it matches the score, then it will stand as is. In this case, Aran argued well enough for my liking that the balance between microtransaction and what you earn in game was dragging down the potential enjoyment for players. Whether entries have receive a 6/10 or a 9/10 in the past, it’s been a consistent point that he’s addressed in NBA 2K reviews for the last half decade, and it’s exactly this point that I relayed to 2K when they contacted me.
Yes, they asked us to reconsider the score or shift to a “review in progress”, but I can’t state strongly enough that there was no “pressure” or threat of blacklisting made or even implied. If this were the case, the demand would have been for the review to be removed entirely, which we would not have done.* However, the word “protest” was still misplaced and needed to be removed, and it was while doing this that the olive branch of a statement surrounding planned changes and adjustments to NBA 2K18 was made. So I made the call to change the score to pending at the same time, get on my flight and hope for something remarkable when I landed.
While 2K are listening and reacting – they lowered the pricing of in game haircuts on Tuesday, for example – they still can’t offer us specific information on or off the record about changes that are incoming. Hopefully they will be revealed soon, because as Aran wrote and as many people across Reddit, Twitter and NeoGAF agree that the demands of virtual currency and the push towards microtransactions in NBA 2K18 are currently too much.
In light of this, and as was always the most likely outcome, the 3/10 score has been restored to our review and the wording remains intact aside from the changes to the conclusion. We’ll look to return to NBA 2K18 down the line to see if and how Visual Concept and 2K rebalance the currency and progression systems and we expect and hope to see significant improvements in this area. Needless to say, they’re now very aware that players aren’t happy, which is perhaps the best thing to come from all of this.
This hasn’t been the most pleasant episode for anyone involved. It’s nice to be the top story on Reddit and NeoGAF, but not for this and not with the maelstrom of speculation that has come with it. With hindsight, a number of things should have been done differently, and for that I sincerely apologise. We’ll learn from these mistakes and do better in future.
*Updated to clarify this hypothetical situation.