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 how NBA 2K has finally hit the right combination with Locker Codes.
In one of my earliest Monday Tip-Off articles back in 2015, I criticised Locker Codes for the way they’d been implemented in NBA 2K. At the time, all codes were severely limited in both quantity and the amount of time gamers had to redeem them. To that point, gamers in different time zones rarely had a chance to successfully redeem any codes. Even if you made it a point to wait around for a Locker Code drop with the game loaded and code entry screen in front of you, the limited quantity always meant that your chances of successfully redeeming a prize were incredibly slim.
Furthermore, Locker Codes often yielded useless rewards, such as 100 VC or MT, or a shoe or animation for your MyPLAYER, even if you weren’t playing MyCAREER. It’s for that reason I included Locker Codes in a Friday Five list of useless features back in 2017. At the time I received some pushback on Twitter from someone who clearly didn’t bother to read my explanation, which was that while the concept wasn’t bad or pointless, the execution of the idea limited their usefulness. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case. Over the past couple of years, NBA 2K19 and NBA 2K20 have made much better use of Locker Codes, and deserve credit for making that change.
For those who are unaware, the Locker Codes that are distributed via the official MyTEAM Twitter account are now unlimited quantity, and we have a full week from when they’re released to punch them in. Obviously it’s still possible to miss out on a reward, but if we keep up with the codes as they’re released, we have more than ample time to redeem them. The rewards are also significantly better. While the lowest rewards on some codes aren’t particularly exciting, and we’re still at the mercy of pack odds when they’re on the board, there’s nothing as useless as a paltry 100 MT or VC. Premium packs, Tokens, good amounts of MT, and desirable cards, are all attainable.
Indeed, a couple of Locker Codes have even featured guaranteed rewards, such as the code for a Kobe Bryant tribute card. The codes have also greatly improved in quality throughout the year, generally offering a better selection of rewards to make entering them worthwhile. It did take a little while for the codes to start coming through for NBA 2K20, but they’ve been quite consistent throughout the last few months. The “ball drop” game isn’t to everyone’s liking, but some of the boards offer additional MT and Token rewards. Sometimes the lower rewards aren’t too exciting and again, some card packs will yield doubles and duds, but it’s always worth the time to try your luck.
This is a refreshing change of pace, especially in a mode that is one of NBA 2K’s big money-makers. It is possible to assemble quite a strong lineup without spending a single cent on VC, and frequent Locker Codes play a large role in that. It takes some good luck, but one would have to be extremely unfortunate to regularly enter codes and never get anything of value. Considering that 2K has been pushing their luck with a more aggressive approach to microtransactions in recent years, and have squandered a significant amount of goodwill in the process, the generosity and improved quality of Locker Codes in the last couple of games is much appreciated, and worth noting.
Now, don’t go thinking that I’ve gone soft, or that I’m naive about what’s happening here. First of all, it took longer than it should to get to this point. Through NBA 2K18, codes were still limited quantity with a tiny redemption window, and had lacklustre rewards. It’s taken until the end of the decade/generation for them to be generally worthwhile. Second, while they are great for giving MyTEAM gamers a boost, they’re not as reliable (or fast) as spending money to rip open packs. Third, they’re obviously meant to give gamers a taste for MyTEAM and hopefully get them hooked so that they’ll invest time and money, and thereby boost engagement and recurrent revenue.
That’s not to say that we’re not getting anything out of the arrangement, or that we can’t and shouldn’t appreciate that Locker Codes are finally being utilised properly; better late than never, after all. It’s just that it would be naive to look at the situation as being wholly altruistic on 2K’s part. It may seem cynical to suggest that there’s a certain amount of damage control at play, on top of being a nifty trick to get gamers hooked on a mode where they may be inclined to spend real money on loot box mechanics, but they’re fair assertions. As long as there are microtransactions, Locker Codes are a means of softening the blow, not a sign that the company is on our side.
With that being said, it’s only fair to give credit where it’s due, and I’m glad that 2K has stepped up with better utilisation of Locker Codes. Not only are they always worth entering, but they’re now accessible to NBA 2K gamers around the world. No longer do we have to camp out on Twitter and then furiously punch in the code as quickly as we can, only to find that the tiny allotment of rewards has been claimed almost immediately. There have been a few codes that only last up to twelve hours – generally co-promotional efforts with YouTubers – but they’ve been rewards for the especially diligent who watch livestreams, rather than a frustrating norm as before.
If I do have a criticism of the Locker Codes we’ve seen the last couple of years – apart from the MT amounts sometimes being a little low and disproportionate to the other rewards on the board – it’s that they’ve mostly been centred on MyTEAM. There have been a few codes for MyCAREER, but they’re far less frequent, and tend to be limited to cosmetic items. I do like that there are separate codes for different modes, rather than the old approach of random rewards that could be unsuitable on top of being very underwhelming, but MyCAREER codes could be more substantial. A stack of VC for attribute upgrades, as well as Badge progress and MyREP boosts, come to mind.
As it stands, the Locker Codes menu in MyCAREER is largely going to waste. Codes are admittedly more useful in MyTEAM, but a few monthly drops of codes granting the aforementioned rewards in MyCAREER would surely be appreciated. From 2K’s perspective, it could also have a similar result to the intended effect in MyTEAM. It’ll encourage even more engagement in MyCAREER, and probably the creation of a few second and third builds. No doubt that would attract some VC sales to further level up those additional players a little quicker. Again, let’s not pretend that Locker Codes are a completely altruistic gesture, so we also need to consider the incentive for 2K.
Nevertheless, the concept has been salvaged. I do stand by my previous criticisms of course, as they were absolutely applicable to previous games in the series. The fact that Locker Codes are well-utilised and worthwhile now doesn’t change how they were mishandled and disappointing for several years, nor that it took several games to change the approach (or that 2K seemingly went back on a promise). However, I’m also not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, and again, credit should be given where it’s due. There are ways they could be improved further and put to better use in MyCAREER as well as MyTEAM, and I’d like to see it, but they’ve come a long way.
My hope is that we don’t see an about-face on the approach, though I’m guessing that the arrangement must be mutually beneficial if 2K has stuck with it through the last two games. It would unquestionably undo much of the goodwill that 2K has fostered with the MyTEAM community, and given they’ve seen fit to implement features such as daily login bonuses, the weekly spin, and polls to earn free Tokens, I’m cautiously optimistic that Locker Codes won’t regress into a wasted concept. In the meantime, if you’re a MyTEAM gamer, I encourage you to enter them as soon as you can after they drop. You’ll find that they’re the right combination to unlock some desirable rewards.