We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a few thoughts on the perpetual problems with NBA 2K’s servers.
There’s an Australian idiom that goes “mad as a cut snake“. It can either mean very angry, or crazy and eccentric; in other words, playing off the two main definitions of “mad”. On this occasion, when I talk about being mad as a cut snake, I’m using it in the “angry” context and in reference to NBA 2K. Last week, I expressed my disgust on Twitter after issues with the MyTEAM servers caused me to waste a Locker Code following a disconnection. I usually prefer to keep my commentary constructive but sometimes, you just have to let off steam.
Look, I can keep things in perspective here. At the end of the day, basketball video games are just that: games. If the worst thing that happens to you in any given week is missing out on some free content in a basketball game, it’s been a pretty good week. Of course, this is a site dedicated to basketball gaming, so those are the matters that we concern ourselves with around these parts. As far as the issues that rank among the most concerning, online stability is undoubtedly up there. For all of the great things that NBA 2K has done with innovative modes and connected experiences, problems with the games’ servers continue to be a major letdown.
I’m not going to bury the lead here. The crux of the matter is that if there are game modes that require online connectivity, the service must be as stable as possible. In other words, always online means the servers must also be up and running, not to mention performing at an acceptable level. Obviously there are going to be hiccups and routine maintenance – 100% uptime is impossible to guarantee – but it’s safe to say that the performance of 2K’s servers is far from optimal. Despite the weirdly passive-aggressive error messages about a problem with “our connection”, the constant barrage of “Fix your servers!” Tweets indicate that the issue lies with 2K.
It’s astonishing that as successful as NBA 2K has been, its servers remain subpar. All too often, popular Locker Codes cause overload on the MyTEAM servers, leading to issues such as the one I had. Occasionally 2K has issued new codes for anyone who missed out due to connection errors, but more often than not, we’re out of luck. The amount of lag in online play hasn’t really improved either, and I’ve experienced disconnections multiple times playing the Jordan Rec Center. I’ve even had trouble entering the Daily Spin room due to an inability to connect to the server, not to mention losing progress in MyCAREER when there’s a sudden server error.
As for MyLEAGUE Online, Sports Gamers Online made a bewildering discovery that explains the numerous issues with the mode. Unlike MyCAREER and MyTEAM, which reportedly utilise Amazon Web Services, MyLEAGUE Online is apparently powered by two in-house servers. The result is choppy performance, syncing issues, and crashes. It’s understandable that fewer resources are being put into MyLEAGUE Online as it’s a less popular mode, though the drawbacks no doubt stunt its popularity. What’s concerning is that despite harnessing the power of Amazon for MyCAREER and MyTEAM – if that is indeed the case – it hasn’t improved server stability.
Considering how much of a juggernaut the NBA 2K series has now become, it’s quite concerning and disappointing to say the least. Its sales figures are unmatched by any other basketball series, cumulatively and year-to-year. The game makes Take-Two a lot of money through its “recurrent revenue” mechanics, and there’s no shortage of in-game advertising. The developer’s license with the NBA was recently renewed for over $1 billion, so there’s no doubt that NBA 2K is profitable. Unfortunately, it seems that not enough of those profits are being put into improving infrastructure. There’s a lot of focus on making the NBA 2K League work, but the rest of us plebs miss out.
Allow me to address a couple of points that may be raised here. Yes, Locker Codes are free content (and there’s no guarantee you’ll get the best rewards anyway), but it’s still disappointing to miss out on them because of issues with the servers. It’s not as though those issues don’t affect other aspects of the mode as well, such as being able to access the Auction House, complete Challenges, or get packs. And yes, there will be times when you get kicked from an online game because of a server hiccup, but there are too many gamers having frequent problems. Look at the complaints on 2K’s social media pages; server issues undoubtedly remain a weakness for the games.
What I find particularly frustrating is how 2K has responded to a problem that they’re clearly aware of. Aside from a disappointing lack of improvement to online stability, we’re also seeing nods to fan feedback in the flavour content of MyCAREER. In NBA 2K18, we could respond to Ronnie 2K’s text messages by saying “Fix your servers”; a reference to a multitude of Tweets that come his way. Likewise, there’s a cutscene in NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER in which Ronnie enters your MyCOURT in dirty clothes, explaining he was just fixing the servers. On one hand, it’s a cute and self-deprecating reference. On the other hand, I’d much rather they fix the situation than joke about it.
That’s not even getting into the situation with MyLEAGUE Online, which as SGO noted, came about due to a lack of rigorous testing and was intentionally kept quiet until such time as a fix came about; something that didn’t come to pass. NBA 2K offers a variety of modes that should be, and indeed are, fun to play. Unfortunately, the most popular modes utilise online content, even for the single player experiences. It’s bad enough to lose big chunks of the game (and entire modes) when the servers are eventually shut down, without enduring interruptions, lost content and progress, and subpar performance while a game is still receiving priority support.
If we’re going to be required to always be online to get the most out of NBA 2K, then we need to be able to remain connected to stable servers. And look, it may sound like I’m reading too much into a somewhat poorly worded error message, but 2K has to stop trying to pass the buck and blaming us for connection issues. Too many gamers from different places with many different Internet providers are all encountering the same problems. Overload on the MyTEAM servers happens far too often when there are popular Locker Codes. We’re doing our best to stay online and maintain the best connection possible, but the 2K servers are not doing their part.
We shouldn’t make excuses for it. We wouldn’t if it were EA or any other developer, and rightfully so. At this point, 2K shouldn’t be making jokes about it, either. For all the little pot shots they take at EA and NBA Live, they’ve allowed their server issues to become a stain on the series. Instead of lining the pockets of 2K executives with bonuses for hitting recurrent revenue targets, invest that money into improving the online experience. Sure, we can vote with our wallets and boycott the game, but that’s unlikely to happen on a large scale. After all, we want to play NBA 2K because we enjoy it, and the modes it has to offer. We just need the servers to play along, too.