Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of pre-order bonuses that I believe would be preferable to offer gamers every year.
Yes, I know. The whole concept of pre-ordering is one of the biggest problems with video games these days, right up there with always online connectivity, and the need for day one patches. Ideally, we’d all band together and refuse to pre-order, in an effort to curb the practice. However, that’s not going to happen. Developers obviously want to move their product, which means providing gamers with an incentive to put their money down as soon as possible. That incentive comes in the form of a variety of pre-order bonuses, which in theory reward gamers for having faith in a title.
In practice, pre-order bonuses can be a little underwhelming. If you’re not into “ultimate collector’s editions”, the physical extras such as hats and posters aren’t going to offer much incentive, but even if we just focus on the in-game items, certain pre-order bonuses can leave something to be desired. The “Early Tip-Off Weekend” bonus for pre-ordering the last couple of NBA 2K games is a great idea that should be retained, but there are a few other things that both Visual Concepts and EA Sports could be doing to reward loyal customers who pre-order. In some cases, that simply involves a slightly different approach to what they’re already doing.
1. Expensive, Non-Exclusive Player Gear
“Seriously, Andrew?” I hear you ask. “You’re talking about player clothes? What happened to you? You used to be cool!” First of all, I was never cool, but thank you! Second, as far as pre-order bonuses are concerned, player clothes and accessories would absolutely be preferable to making content such as the Dream Team in NBA 2K17, or the ’91 Warriors and ’02 Kings in NBA 2K12, exclusive to pre-order customers. Granted, the latter technically weren’t pre-order exclusives in NBA 2K12, but given the limited quantity, they were definitely an incentive to get your hands on a copy as soon as possible, with pre-ordering being the most effective way of doing so.
Making player gear and accessories a part of the pre-order bonuses appeals to gamers who are interested in that kind of content, while at the same time being something that other gamers can happily pass on. By making the gear in question expensive but non-exclusive items, gamers who purchase the game later aren’t prevented from acquiring it if desired, while pre-order customers get it without having to spend any in-game currency. Player gear is the ideal “take or it leave it” content when it comes to pre-order bonuses; I’d absolutely advocate making it part of the package before extra teams, or anything else that everyone should have access to by default.
2. Unlocked Moves
Somewhat controversially, NBA 2K17 saw more moves – particularly dribbling animations – placed behind a Virtual Currency paywall. Most of the prices aren’t extortionate, and enough VC can be earned within a few games to unlock moves, as long as your ratings meet the requirements. Certain moves can be gained for free by completing the various connections in MyCAREER, under the premise of working out with the player in question. I assume that future NBA 2K games will adopt a similar approach, so I would suggest that automatically unlocked moves for MyCAREER would be a welcome addition to the selection of pre-order bonuses.
Even if purchasing these moves doesn’t necessarily break the bank, when it comes to in-game currency – especially VC in NBA 2K – every little bit counts. Every 500-1000 VC you need to spend on a premium move is less that you can put towards ratings upgrades, MyTEAM packs, or anything else you want to spend your VC on. NBA Live’s handling of its in-game currencies tends to be a bit more generous, but it could take a similar approach nevertheless. It’s also a good tie-in promotion with the cover player, whose signature moves would logically be the ones which are automatically unlocked.
3. Permanent Player Cards (Of Good Quality)
One of my biggest complaints about both MyTEAM and Ultimate Team is the selection of cards you receive upon firing up the mode for the first time each year. I understand that earning cards and building up your collection is the whole point of the modes, but the process is a grind and those initial challenges can be tougher than they should be, thanks to your starting players being mostly garbage. NBA 2K17 and NBA Live 16 offered a bit of a leg up by providing their respective versions of short term player cards, but they’re a bit of a tease. NBA 2K has also offered cards for their cover player as pre-order bonuses, but in NBA 2K17, they too were Free Agent cards.
My suggestion here is straightforward: if player cards are part of the pre-order bonuses, they should be permanent cards (i.e. cards that don’t expire, and can be boosted with more contracts). They should also be quality cards, such as a maxed out Moments card. Alternatively, pre-order customers could receive 5-10 premium packs, with a guaranteed chance of pulling a few quality cards (none of which are Free Agent/short term player cards). MyTEAM and Ultimate Team cards aren’t really great pre-order bonuses if you need to stingily hoard them, in order not to see them disappear within the first few days of playing a new game.
4. Larger Amount of In-Game Currency
Unless you opt for the premium pre-order package for an upcoming NBA 2K title, the amount of bonus Virtual Currency you’ll receive is rather paltry. Pre-ordering NBA 2K17 netted you an additional 5000 VC, which was increased to 30,000 VC and 100,000 VC in the Legend Edition and Legend Edition Gold respectively. The latter two options were somewhat expensive though, and still didn’t provide enough VC to max out your MyPLAYER at the pre-training cap of 88 Overall. I can understand not wanting to give too much away, and there’s obviously money to be made through microtransactions, but 5000 VC doesn’t go very far. A little more would be nice.
NBA Live is a trickier case, since there are multiple in-game currencies, and they’re arguably not as intrusive as in NBA 2K. You can’t actually boost your Rising Star through microtransactions, as Skill Points can only be earned. Likewise, it’s impossible to purchase Reward Points, which are used to buy gear and accessories from the in-game store. Still, a viable pre-order bonus would be to include enough Skill Points to give your player an immediate boost, and a decent amount of Reward Points to buy some of the more expensive items to outfit them with the gear of your choice. It would at least be a head start on the inevitable grind.
5. Loyalty/Returning Gamer Rewards Instead of Pre-Order Bonuses
Pre-order bonuses are intended to reward gamers for putting their money down and making a game a day one purchase, but when it comes to sports titles, many of us are doing that year after year. I think a better incentive and reward than pre-order bonuses would be loyalty bonuses, or “returning gamer” bonuses if you will. More than a token amount of in-game currency, more than the signature moves or a card of the cover player, more than player gear or any other bonus that you could name, I think that most basketball gamers would like to be able to carry the progress they’ve made in the previous release over to a brand new game.
I’ve previously discussed the annual grind involved in basketball gaming, and suggested a few ways that we could be rewarded for our loyalty to the brand, as well as our previous in-game efforts. An automatic boost to your player’s ratings, a one-time transfer of in-game currency (even if it was to be “fifty cents on the dollar”) or a generous fixed amount of it, a couple of your best cards from the previous game’s team building mode…I think in many respects, these would be more appealing options than most pre-order bonuses. I don’t see pre-order bonuses going anywhere anytime soon, but regardless, there’d be a lot of goodwill in also doing this.
In short, pre-order bonuses shouldn’t remove content from the game, but instead treat gamers fairly and give us the most bang for our pre-purchase buck. Since the practice is unlikely to end anytime soon, how would you prefer pre-order bonuses to be handled? What kind of content do you think they should include? Have your say in the comments section below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.