Monday Tip-Off: Vale, NBA 2K20 Servers & Content

Monday Tip-Off: Vale, NBA 2K20 Servers & Content

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 some thoughts on the NBA 2K20 servers being shut down, and the bigger picture of losing content and modes along with online support.

On December 31st, the NBA 2K20 servers were shut down as scheduled. Of course, this isn’t anything new for the series. 2K originally guaranteed 18 months of online support for all of its titles, before extending that period to 27 months following the deactivation and reactivation of NBA 2K14’s servers. These Terms of Service aren’t hidden – beyond the fact that many of us never read the EULA in full, of course – and if you’ve been playing the NBA 2K series for some time, you’re familiar with the drill. As unfortunate as it is, it’s understandable given the way that the userbase moves on.

The problem is that over the years, bigger chunks of the game are disappearing when online support ends. It used to be that we’d lose the ability to set up online games, use the in-game file sharing functionality, and receive any official roster updates. It was still a blow, but the games were largely intact. Now that there’s a larger focus on the connected experience and live service content, server shutdowns are making major modes inaccessible. Even primarily offline moves can be affected, if your save file utilised any online content when it was created. MyCAREER is the big one though, and the shutdown of the NBA 2K20 servers has exposed a troubling approach.

In short, gamers are discovering that in the wake of the NBA 2K20 servers being shut down, MyCAREER is no longer playable. It isn’t just a matter of limited functionality or a barebones version of the mode as in previous games, either. MyCAREER is no longer available in NBA 2K20 in any form. This is the culmination of several years of MyCAREER losing features and functionality as an offline mode. At first, it was just cosmetic items and VC purchases; fair enough, though it was a shame that we needed online support just to equip an armband. In the years that followed, however, we lost Badge upgrades, customisation options, and the story. Now, the entire mode is gone.

NBA 2K20 MyCAREER With No Servers

While there is frustration and outrage, there has also been – predictability – pushback on the complaints. As such, in addressing this issue, I need to address those remarks. They basically boil down to saying that people are expecting too much if they want the servers around indefinitely, that they need to move on, and that the newer games are better anyway. I’ll never understand why people shill for companies instead of supporting their fellow gamers, but that’s exactly what remarks like that are doing. It’s myopic, apologist rhetoric, almost always spouted by gamers who want everyone to care about their complaints, but refuse to extend the same courtesy to anyone else.

A majority of the fanbase had indeed moved on from NBA 2K20 long before its servers were shut down, but clearly there were still people playing it. As recounted in the Reddit thread I linked to above, some gamers were still playing the NBA side of MyCAREER, enjoying the single player experience. It’s difficult to finish all of your business with a game within twelve months, and despite what the sales figures may indicate, not everyone buys the new game every year. Even if you do, you may want to revisit an old favourite. That seems to be a difficult concept for some people to grasp, but retro basketball gaming is a thing, and a completely acceptable practice.

Furthermore, it’s something that MyCAREER gamers – or at least, those invested in the NBA portion of the mode – have incentive to do. It’s a long grind, or extra money spent, to level up a player. After putting that much work (or money) into an avatar, it’s not unreasonable to want to continue using them in the single player experience. With a goal of making it to the Hall of Fame, or interest in playing multiple seasons, there’s a lot to try to pack into twelve months of gameplay. This in turn makes it all too easy to leave a plethora of content and unfinished business on the table. Even if you had fun, there’s nothing to show for it, and no way to continue the adventures, years later.

Empty Neighborhood in NBA 2K18

What makes this so frustrating is that it wasn’t always this way. In some games, we were able to convert online saves into offline files and continue playing them, albeit with some limitations. If nothing else, we could start a new game and still enjoy the mode with that limited functionality. When I played through MyCAREER in the PS4 version of NBA 2K14 last year, I was impressed by how complete and playable it felt, with the cosmetic options being the only absent feature that I missed. Even with the decline in offline content – or inability to convert online saves if you’re reinstalling years later – MyCAREER can still be in enjoyed in NBA 2K15 through NBA 2K17.

If you’re wondering what changed in NBA 2K18, it’s The Neighborhood. Emphasis had clearly shifted from simulating the experience of playing through an NBA career to more of an MMORPG approach. You could argue that this was simply following a trend in gaming, but it left gamers who liked the NBA side of MyCAREER out in the cold. Yes, MyCAREER is still playable in NBA 2K18, but there’s no depth, and you can’t replay the story. That may sound like an odd complaint given how critical I’ve been of NBA 2K18’s tale, but it’s the principle more than anything else. It still sucks to lose content, not to mention an avatar you’ve put work (and maybe money) into.

Again, it stings because older games allowed us to keep playing MyCAREER, even if the offline version was being consistently watered down. And yes, from a financial and logistical standpoint, we can’t fairly justify perpetual online support for a series that has a new iteration every year. 2K also wants to sell the latest release, and as people are so fond of saying, it’s a business. Planned obsolescence is also a common approach, and the length of support is both specified and legal. That still doesn’t make it right, despite what some apologists claim. Their logic is on par with “not touching, can’t get mad“: it’s technically not breaking a rule, but still behaving antagonistically.

NBA 2K20 MyTEAM With No Servers

Server shutdowns obviously put an end to MyTEAM too, though at least MyTEAM is a mode that is based around online/live service content. Its single player modes still revolve around buying and earning card packs, collecting desirable new cards as they become available, and playing new challenges that are added throughout the year. MyTEAM wouldn’t really work as an offline mode the same way that the NBA side of MyCAREER can. Once again, it sucks to have all that work (and possibly money) that went into building your squad effectively erased after 27 months, but it’s always been the deal with MyTEAM. MyCAREER demonstrably can work without servers.

Speaking of the offline/single player modes though, the shutdown of the NBA 2K20 servers has also affected MyLEAGUE. It’s intact for the most part, but there’s no way to share custom Draft Classes anymore. On top of that, if you’ve re-branded too many teams using online assets – either your own or other people’s creations that you’ve downloaded – your save file will be inaccessible, as the game can no longer call back to the servers to verify the necessary data. It makes recent entries in the series feel temporary and disposable, underscoring a pushy approach to upgrade. The irony here is that it’s turning more people off the brand than making them want the latest game.

Personally, my business with NBA 2K20 had concluded. I was considering a feature in which I’d attempt to sim my way to the Hall of Fame, since I’d set myself up to do that with a great rookie campaign, and big numbers in the season opener of Year 2. I kept dragging my feet on it however, and now that the NBA 2K20 servers are offline, that experiment is obviously impossible. That’s on me, though. It’s far worse for my fellow gamers who were still actively playing and enjoying NBA 2K20, and are now unable to access their single player experiences because there’s content that requires the servers to be online. Missing out on writing an article is comparatively painless.

Dunking in MyCAREER (NBA 2K20)

Look, I believe that everyone – well, a vast majority of gamers, anyway – understand that online support isn’t forever, and that some content and functionality will be lost when it ends. We also understand that there’s a business side to things, and that 2K wants to sell new games. However, it’s not unreasonable to be disappointed in the stripping down and eventual removal of a mode that traditionally supports offline single player gameplay; indeed, that’s what career modes were to begin with! It’s not unreasonable to expect offline franchise mode saves to remain playable, even if they originally used downloaded content. These aren’t petulant demands by any means.

Indeed, pushing back on this approach is why NBA 2K titles now receive 27 months of online support. When gamers were locked out of their NBA 2K14 MyCAREER saves after 18 months, the outrage was understood, and validated. People actually called out 2K Support’s “all good things must come to end” form response for being the tone-deaf statement that it was. Can you even imagine such a thing now? I can’t; not with the apologists shouting “Just buy the new game”, “Don’t be greedy”, “You should’ve expected this”, “Stop crying”, and all manner of thought-terminating cliches that mindlessly defend anti-consumer practices in NBA 2K, and other video games.

You’ll see those comments on social media and Reddit, though at least in the case of the latter, they tend to be downvoted. I guess an absence of critical thought explains why those people are happy to play the latest game, no matter how many issues it has. Ignorance is bliss, as they say. If that sounds unusually combative and judgemental on my part, it’s because I’m tired. I’m tired of people defending bad practices as if they’re necessary to produce great games. It’s clear when something is lacking in goodwill, and hurting the hobby. It sucks even though we expect it, as we know the situation won’t get any better. What else is there to say? Vale, NBA 2K20 servers and content.

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