NBA 2K21 courted controversy in an all-too-familiar fashion this week, as gamers found themselves confronted with unskippable adverts while NBA 2K21 loaded in a match, framed as part of a TV broadcast-style pre-game show.
This caused uproar amongst players who had already forked out $60 / £55 to $100 / £85 for the game, pushing 2K Games to issue a statement over the matter.
2K Community 🗣 pic.twitter.com/rvMC9z0Wft
— NBA 2K21 (@NBA2K) October 20, 2020
The statement reads:
As many are aware, in recent years ads have been integrated into 2KTV segments. Yesterday’s 2KTV ad placement impacted our players’ experience in a way we didn’t intend, as these ads are not meant to run as part of the pre-game introduction.
This will be fixed in future episodes.
Thanks for your continued feedback.
Which is all fine and dandy, but highlights how there’s a cycle of predictable controversy that surrounds the NBA series and pre-game advertisements. The game launched on 4th September for PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC, and 2K waited around 6 weeks, until after the typical review window of the game, to insert adverts into their faux TV show game intros.
For NBA 2K19, they waited until June (per Gamerant) and the twilight of the game’s relevance before they did this, but for last year’s NBA 2K20, this kerfuffle kicked off at the end of October (per Comicbook). I don’t know about you, but that seems pretty damn intentional, and it clearly follows in the footsteps of the last several years worth of games.
You can see the current implementation, as captured by Stevivor over the weekend:
I guess someone slipped while coding the loading screens?
It comes just a month after EA pulled a similar move in UFC 4, inserting adverts into the transitions around replays, before removing them after backlash from players.
It also adds to the criticism of 2K’s efforts to monetise their dominant sports franchise beyond the initial sticker price. NBA 2K has long had microtransactions that have gone beyond cosmetics and can tie into the player and character progression across all modes through the overarching Virtual Currency. Some years strike a decent balance between earning VC though play and pay, and others fail to do so. Then there was the whole advert that was specifically made to look like gambling scandal.
2K were also the first to announce a price hike for their game series while heading to the next generation, and decided not to offer players an upgrade path from the current generation, paid or otherwise. Instead, the only way to get the next-gen upgrade included with your current-gen game was to buy the Mamba Forever edition at £84.99. It should be acknowledged that the next-gen version has been rebuilt from the ground up and offers significant changes to the game’s visuals, animation, presentation, and more. 2K might have to work a little bit harder to integrate adverts when loading screens will be so much shorter, though.
NBA 2K21 is out now for PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC and Stadia. It’s coming to Xbox Series X|S on 10th November, and PlayStation 5 on 12th or 19th November depending on your region.