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 my thoughts on the interest in the return of NBA Live, and the brazenly dismissive attitude that some people have towards the idea.
The announcement that EA Sports will be reviving its college football franchise at some point in the future drew a lot of interest last week. There was scepticism too, of course. Madden doesn’t have the best reputation these days, and so the prospect of getting a virtually identical game, except with college teams, is one that many gamers are leery of. Nevertheless, there’s also excitement and optimism, and those feelings have spread to the basketball gaming community. If EA’s college football series can return, then maybe we can look forward to NBA Live making a comeback, too.
Not everyone is excited by or supportive of that prospect, though. The idea that gamers want to see NBA Live return was met by some with mocking scorn and derision. Prominent voices in the community, and their followers alike, ridiculed the idea that anyone is interested in – or should be interested in – a return for NBA Live. Now, I understand being sceptical about the NBA Live series, and feeling burned by it. I understand being satisfied enough with NBA 2K to not be personally interested in an alternative. However, anyone sneeringly denying there being any interest in NBA Live returning is being profoundly myopic at best and a blatant shill at worst.
Since the question has been raised, who wants to see NBA Live return? Furthermore, why do those people have that interest? To answer the first question, it’s a far more common sentiment than you may think. Read through Reddit threads grumbling about NBA 2K’s most frustrating issues and you’ll frequently see comments from people wishing that NBA Live was providing a satisfactory alternative, and hoping for that to become a reality. Similar remarks can be found on Twitter, and in our own Forum. Dissatisfaction with NBA 2K has been increasing in recent years, and the desire to have competition and alternatives has only grown stronger along with it.
That brings us to the “why” of the matter. The notion that basketball gamers would want EA Sports and NBA Live to save them from NBA 2K cornering the market may have once sounded absurd, but times have changed. We’ve seen what’s happened with NBA 2K when it has a virtual monopoly, from pushy recurrent revenue mechanics to legacy issues that have not only spanned several games, but also console generations. Goodwill has been lost, and fatigue has set in. There’s a desire to have a choice in the basketball gaming space, and EA Sports are really the only other players in the game. Ergo, yes, there are people who want to see NBA Live return, and for good reason.
To pretend otherwise is to be living in the past. Sure, ten, even five years ago, the idea that it was up to EA Sports to improve the basketball gaming scene sounded silly. NBA 2K was riding high, consistently improving in many areas, and there was far more satisfaction with the product. Quite simply, that’s no longer the case. That’s not to say there’s absolutely no merit to recent NBA 2K games, or no enjoyment to be had. There has been building frustration though, and threads in the official subreddit indicate that many gamers are buying NBA 2K more out of obligation than love for the brand. They want a new basketball title, and it’s the only game in town.
And so, they want someone else to throw their hat into the ring again, with EA Sports and NBA Live being the only realistic option. No one is disputing the struggles of the series, mind you. No one is denying that it’s still a long, hard road back. Those of us who want to see NBA Live get back into the game are not expecting miracles, and you can be sure that we’ll have our standards and critiques. We want to see them try, though. We want an alternative because no, not everything that NBA 2K does is wonderful. A lack of competition hasn’t been good for the genre in the long run, and we want to see change. It doesn’t hurt to at least have the option of another title.
Quite frankly, those voices that are balking at the idea of there being interest in NBA Live or a reason to want to see it return, do not have their finger on the pulse of the community. As I noted, these sentiments are not uncommon. I’m not going to suggest that it’s a clear majority of basketball gamers, or make up any kind of statistics here. However, the posts and Tweets are there for all to see. Not only that, but there has been a renewed interest in NBA Live 19, and NBA 2K20 for that matter, which speaks volumes about NBA 2K21. To deny that it isn’t happening, or suggest that the dissatisfaction is nothing but petulant whining, is being disingenuous to say the least.
Let’s not mince words here. The opposition to NBA Live making a comeback, the scoffing at the idea that anyone would want it to happen, is coming from NBA 2K shills. This is especially true of those who wield influence in the basketball gaming community. For many years, some of these voices have clearly delighted in NBA Live’s struggles. They’ve enjoyed kicking it while it’s down, tossing out snarky barbs and proclaiming doom and gloom at every setback. They take pleasure in dancing on its grave, in insisting that it stay buried. If NBA Live returns and does well, they’ll have to eat their words, and that will be a very bitter pill for them to swallow.
It’s why in the same breath as denouncing the idea of wanting NBA Live to return, they’ll defend NBA 2K. All the usual rhetoric will be trotted out. “Every game has issues.” “Gamers are spoiled, and never happy.” “Microtransactions are bad, but they’re optional.” “Developing games is a business.” “Game development is harder than you think.” “You mustn’t be good at the game.” Yadda, yadda, yadda…we’ve heard it all before, shills. Again, what it comes down to is framing valid criticism, reasonable expectations as a consumer, and understandable frustration, as petty whining from people so ungrateful that they dare to want an alternative to NBA 2K.
Sure, sometimes you’ll get one of these shills to admit to a problem or two. Most of them have enough self-awareness to realise if they pretend everything’s perfect, they’ll lose all credibility. Their criticisms will still be laughably gentle though, to the point of being apologetic; both on behalf of 2K, and to 2K for daring to be critical. They’ll shift the blame back to gamers: “Well OK, that is kind of broken, but frankly gamers expect way too much, and these games are really quite cheap when you think of the production costs, and people are just really rude on Twitter.” The criticism has thus been deftly buried amid bashing rightfully dissatisfied gamers for not being happy.
The irony here is that many of those shills that are scolding their fellow gamers for being too hard on NBA 2K have rarely given NBA Live a fair chance or thoughtful critique. Once again, they’ve delighted in mocking NBA Live and being dismissive of it rather than offering up in-depth analysis and even-handed criticism, yet stamp their feet and cry foul when someone dares to point out troubling issues in NBA 2K. It’s very much like Nick Wright bashing the NBA of yesteryear, and then turning around and insisting that people “appreciate greatness”. Hypocrisy makes such sentiments ring very hollow, leading us to retort something along the lines of “Sure, you first!”
But that’s the way it goes with shills, who have no interest in supporting their fellow gamers, and are terrified of their perks and access being yanked away. The further irony here is that if and when NBA Live does return, some of those same content creators are going to be lining up to get scoops, freebies, and clout. Honestly, I hope that EA Sports snubs any and all influencers who have made it their mission to shill for NBA 2K and bash NBA Live at all costs, while throwing the community under the bus if it means their free ride continues. Those people don’t care about NBA Live, and have openly derided interest in its return. They don’t deserve any perks or access.
The people that EA should be reaching out to are the ones that have supported the series through thick and thin; not to the point of shilling and being fanboys, but those that have been fair-handed in their criticism, and have demonstrated a genuine interest in the NBA Live series for many years. Maybe that could include a site that’s been covering the series for going on 25 years now, and has always been willing to give games a chance and provide constructive feedback…just saying. All self-serving suggestions aside, there are several voices in the community that EA could and should listen to, and partner up with. They do not include those shameless NBA 2K shills.
In short, it should be the people who want NBA Live to return, and be successful in making a comeback. Who wants that to happen? Again, I’m not going to make up any numbers here, but those people exist, and they feel that way for a reason. You see it every time a prominent issue in NBA 2K is discussed. You see it in the user scores for NBA 2K, which have dropped significantly. You see it when people are dusting off NBA Live 19 because NBA 2K21 feels like more of the same, and they’re weary of it. It’s ridiculous to look at these comments and trends, and suggest that the complaints about NBA 2K aren’t legit, and that there’s no interest in NBA Live making a return.
Shills are going to shill, I suppose. That’s why they shouldn’t be the voice of the community, and they shouldn’t be the ones getting access to NBA Live in the future. That may sound petty, but then, so is their attitude towards NBA Live. As I said, few who want NBA Live to return are denying its struggles or the difficult task in getting the game to where it needs to be. We just want to see EA Sports try, because a lack of choice has done the genre no favours whatsoever. If you’re never going to play an EA game again, I get it. If you’re happy to stick with NBA 2K, so be it. But to deny the interest in NBA Live is to be so out of touch, you owe Hall & Oates royalties.