With Regard To Our NBA 2K18 Review

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.

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  1. Interesting, and a fair statement. However, whilst a “protest” score could harm the integrity of the review (it’s not something I’ve ever witnessed on this site before). If this aspect of the game annoyed the reviewer enough, then it’s a fair thing to do in my view. As far as I’m concerned, a review takes into account all aspects of a game – not just it’s technical features – so if the score is trying to represent how someone has felt about their experience, nevermind if they’re helping people to decide if they’re going to have to spend £40 on it (and possibly more in this case), then that’s fair enough. PSN games in particular are often judged on their price, and length – The Order was criticised for it’s length for an “AAA” title and reviewed accordingly in some cases; so was Dead Space 2 for it’s micro-transactions (which were actually fine btw) – so why should this be any different. The pay-to-win model may not bother some people anyway, but it’s down to the reviewer to give their honest opinion, and up to people if they think it’s reliable.

  2. Just created an account to be able to give you kudos on standing on the side of the reviewer and the consumer on this one.

    I feel publishers are going to push micro-transactions more and more as time goes by and make them more abusive every time. It starts with paid games with loot boxes, then goes to paid games with paid stat points (which… really? Imagine that if it was in a RPG, which is more-or-less what career modes in sports games are), who know what they will try to push next?

    Steam review bombing is useless and pointless and will never get the point across. Where these publishers can be hurt is on the review scores since that’s what they care about the most. Gamers are great at making excuses for publishers and saying micro-transactions are fine because “they’re just cosmetic”, “they’re optional”, ect. Just like Dead Space 3 made the grind worse so you would buy stuff to upgrade and craft faster, now NBA2k18 preys on gamer’s impatience to make the grind worse so you’ll be more likely to buy those VC. Somewhere, we have to draw a line and say “no, enough is enough”.

    If everyone behaved like the reviewer for NBA2k18 did maybe Shadow of War wouldn’t have happened, and maybe Overwatch wouldn’t have set a new standard for how much a game can get away with.

    Good job, TSA.

  3. I think you at TSA have handled this very professionally, it all makes sense to me. Hope you can relax now, ignore the usual more stupid comments on Reddit, maybe even get some additional traffic to make up for the pain. And, of course, I very much hope 2K will handle the matter as professionally.

    And I’ve learnt something about Basketball games, I otherwise would never even consider reading a single story about… ;o)

  4. Well I don’t like basket ball anyway, so without even playing the game, I’m gonna give it a 3/10 ;)
    Besides, if my memory serves me correctly, thats what happened with a few Driveclub reveiws. The reviewers didn’t like car games so gave it a low score. I believe I once saw a 2/10 FIFA review too because the reviewer didn’t like ‘soccer’ as they called it.

  5. Good stuff.

    I make TSA totally right here. Any full-price game that has micro-transactions needs to be very careful how they’re implemented. If they’re not cosmetic only and can influence how successful you’ll be with the game, then the game should indeed receive a very low score.

    Well done TSA.

  6. Hey 6th. I’m proud of your decision. Speaking from experience it isn’t easy to be involved in controversy, but this one was bound to happen. Sometimes it’s necessary to challenge the discourse and I’m glad you did.

  7. Agree with you and the reviewer.
    Micro transactions are a blight on the videogame industry, in my opinion, and are a slap in the face to any consumer who has just paid £50 for a brand new game.
    Yes, they are an acceptable source of revenue for developers and publishers in (so-called) ‘free-to-play’ games but they have no place in full price releases.
    A review has to be based on the experience of a gamer who has paid for the game and any review score should reflect whether that person feels the game is worth their hard earned cash, with this title that is clearly not the case.
    Good work TSA.

  8. Shame on YOU. What’s the problem with a “protest score” really? If a reviewer feel that a game is making something damaging for the consumer in the long term and for the franchise in the short one, then he has the right to put whatever the score he want and I would respect it a lot. But this BS decision of “pending” the score because 2K called to you? You’re a disgrace as an editor. This is the reason why gamers follow reviewers on YouTube more and more… because some oh them are not afraid of telling what they think and aren’t afraid of losing some privileges.

    • Oddly I posted something very similar on the review page and it never showed up.

      I’d be all for supporting TSA if the 3/10 score remained, but removing it because Take 2 said a statement was pending is utter BS.

      1. A statement doesn’t affect the game as it is on the shelf.
      2. A “pending” statement is clearly BS. At most you should have agreed to revisit the issue once they made good on their statement.

      It’s clear that appeasing the publisher/developer is more important than protecting the consumer for TSA.

    • To be fair, TSA has never really done a ‘protest’ score and whilst I wouldn’t put the game down as a 3/10, Microtransactions ruining a big chunk of the game is something i can see being the main cause of the 3/10. Publishers can be quite petty and it may be that the editing team didn’t even consider that to be a factor, thus temporarily suspsended the score to see if it was justified or not.

    • Yeah, its quite alarming to see a corporate publisher pressurise a site for giving a low review and then to temporarily remove it. Its probably happened with different reviewers in the past.

    • Being open to discussion but still standing your ground is actually a very mature way of handling things. But it’s always easier to call out on others anonymously, as you do here, than actually dealing with the situation yourself.

      Actually, as an exception, TSA openly communicated about this whole matter, what most other media sites don’t seem to do, as they surely get these calls too.

      In my view, TSA handled this perfectly well.

  9. lol, 3/10 is crazy score cause of Micro transactions. i never bother playing My Career, using My Player to buy VC coins and use them for upgrade my player rating, buy badge and other things. i give this is 9.5 because i love it so far : great gameplay, player model look great, AI cpu playing so smarter on higher difficulty and My League is deeper and more fun to play.

    if people don’t like pay for Micro transactions then don’t bother playing My Career with Their player. if people love playing My Team mode then they have to pay VC for buy packs

    • Whilst you may not play My Career, a lot of people will and it is touted as the main feature of the game. The reasons stated in the review does back up the score and Microtransactions that must be paid or face grinding is a bit of a crap way of doing it. It’s a major part of the game and not many folks like having to grind or pay to achieve progress at a reasonable rate.

    • “if people love playing My Team mode then they have to pay VC for buy packs”

      And you’re ok with that? You’ve just stumped up £50 for a supposedly full game but you’re happy to pay out even more to play and progress the modes you like?

  10. I do feel that the 3/10 was harsh as it seemed to be a somewhat, average game but the Microtransactions turning basketball into grindingfests does justify it. It’s good to see that stuff like this is handled well and that every possibility has been investigated. I do feel that this should become the standard for any games that use the freeium model. By that, i mean, a harsh score is given because it takes up the chunk. Without the Microtransactions ruining the game, i think it would have been a 5 or 6/10. This? This just ruined the game. It is really a shitty thing to put into a full price “Triple A” game then turn the game into “Feck you, give us money or take forever.” That crap is bad enough on free mobile games. That infecting the rest of gaming would ruin it forever.

    Heck, Lootboxes are becoming common and that is almost gambling.

    It may be worth doing two seperate scores. One for what it would have gotten if it didn’t have stuff like this. E.g. Without Microtransactions interfering with the game, I feel that it is worth x but due to this, I am giving it a lower score because of how much it affects the game.

    Cosmetic stuff is ok as long as it’s cheap. Grinding or paying to enjoy the game is not. I mean, feck off. If i buy a sports game, grinding is not something i want to see in it. I want to be able to pick it up, play and not worry about needing to pay to get the most out of it.

    The day where every fecking game has freeium shit is the day I give up on games and stay in the past. Yes, I fecking hate this model. Why should I have to keep paying to play the fecking game if it’s not an MMO? WHY!? Why should I be expected to pay to progress in a single player game?


    Also, #fuckonami.

    Oh, i just wanted to end my rant with that.

    • If it went to that everyone would stop buying games, this industry deserves to crash & burn.

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