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 five basketball games, other than the infamous NBA Elite 11, that were cancelled.
If we’re talking about cancelled basketball games, then NBA Elite 11 is obviously one that springs immediately to mind. I’m sure that everyone knows that story, but the short version is that the demo was poorly received and widely mocked due to both gameplay issues and the infamous “Jesus Bynum” T-pose bug. This led to the full version being pulled five days before release so that it could receive further polish, with the delay eventually becoming cancellation. It’s a disaster that’s set the NBA Live series back years, and while it’s a significant event, it’s also a very familiar tale.
To that end, I thought it’d be more interesting to talk about some cancelled games in a list that doesn’t include the obvious example of NBA Elite 11. That’s not to say that these games are obscure and their stories unknown, but at least a couple of them aren’t talked about all that much. Please note that I’m also excluding the recent examples of NBA Live 17/The Drive to NBA Live, NBA Live 20, and NBA Live 21, as they were either never really officially announced, or there isn’t much to say except EA decided that they weren’t fit to launch. I’d like to think that there are some interesting stories with these other cancelled games though, so let’s take a look!
1. NBA Live 13
While I’m excluding NBA Elite 11 from this list of cancelled basketball games, I will include its intended successor that was also canned. Following NBA Elite 11 being scrapped, EA announced that they’d be taking the 2012 season off from the sim scene, instead releasing NBA Jam: On Fire Edition with an eye towards bringing NBA Live back the following year. That of course didn’t happen, and the series didn’t return until 2013, with the launch of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. NBA Live 13 was meant to be an Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 release – perhaps the last release for that generation – but ended up being cancelled following an abrupt halt to the game’s preview season.
EA had released several screenshots, and even their initial ratings for the Class of 2013. Not long after the Draft however, everything went quiet, and stayed that way until the announcement that the game had been cancelled. The developers had hoped for a big return, but the NBA Live Advisory Council were unimpressed with the beta version they played, and former Executive Producer Sean O’Brien described his own dissatisfaction to us when we chatted to him on the NLSC Podcast. NBA Live 13 was cancelled before its cover player could even be revealed. According to Sean, it was Dwyane Wade, who would’ve become the first repeat cover player for NBA Live.
2. NBA Live 96 for 3DO
I’ve mentioned that the PC version of NBA Live 96 is one of my all-time favourite basketball games; even if I did have to use a boot disk to get it to run properly on my family’s old 486! That wasn’t the only platform that it came out on, however. It was also released on the original PlayStation, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and even the Nintendo Gameboy. One platform that it didn’t come out on was the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer (usually just referred to as the 3DO), developed by The 3DO Company. As revealed in our interview with Andrew Jinks, however, a 3DO port was planned.
It was cancelled – obviously, since I’m including it on this list – but it had nothing to do with the game itself. For a time, the 3DO was the most powerful console on the market, but its initial high price is seen as a large factor in its failure to gain traction. It was also surpassed by the PlayStation and Sega Saturn in power, and by 1995, the writing was on the wall. There was little incentive to invest in developing new games for the 3DO by the time NBA Live 96 was in production, and so the port never saw the light of day. The 3DO itself was discontinued by the end of 1996, so I’d suggest that EA made the right call focusing on the more established and popular platforms.
3. NBA ShootOut 99
Just in case you’re thinking that only EA’s basketball titles get cancelled, we’ve got an example from 989 Studios. The NBA ShootOut series, released as Total NBA in PAL regions such as Australia, had established itself as an annual release in the mid to late 90s, going head to head with NBA Live. It was quite popular and well-regarded, which is why it came as a surprise to gamers reserving copies of NBA ShootOut 99 that it was cancelled in January 1999, not long before its scheduled release. Not unlike EA did with NBA Live 13, 989 Studios went quiet about the game after announcing it, though on this occasion the cancellation was revealed by video game retailers.
Apparently, NBA ShootOut 99 had not been shaping up well. One of the retailers who spoke to IGN to confirm the cancellation didn’t mince words, stating that 989 Studios “cancelled it two weeks ago because of lack of quality. Sony cancelled it because the game sucked.” I haven’t been able to find any information about the game’s problems, but suffice to say that the developers, Sony, or both were displeased with how the game had turned out, and pulled the plug. The ShootOut series would return with a 2000 season edition, and eventually became the NBA games (the ones “Featuring the Life”). That series ended with NBA 10: The Inside, released for PlayStation Portable.
4. NBA Live 07 for PlayStation 3
Back to NBA Live; yes, EA Sports does hold the dubious distinction of having a number of cancelled basketball video games! Much like the aforementioned 3DO version of NBA Live 96 however, NBA Live 07 wasn’t completely cancelled, even if a lot of gamers probably thought it should’ve been. As the PlayStation 3 came out a year after NBA Live 06, it obviously didn’t receive a version of EA’s first foray into the new generation. NBA Live 07 was meant to be released on PS3 though, and a tech demo of the PS3 version was even part of EA’s presentation at E3. EA ultimately cancelled the PS3 port however, releasing solely on Xbox 360 until NBA Live 08.
According to an EA Sports rep, the PS3 version of NBA Live 07 was cancelled due to their designs for the platform being “very ambitious”, stating that they “did not want to rush the game this year”. If you’re wondering how to decipher that PR speak, then you’re not alone! Developers have gone on record stating that the PS3’s architecture was difficult to develop for early on, so it’s possible that the PS3 port of NBA Live 07 wasn’t coming together properly. It’s also been suggested that EA opted to scrap the game after other versions were received poorly, making vague technological excuses. It’s also quite feasible that it was a combination of both factors at the end of the day.
5. Lakers vs Celtics for Sega Mega Drive
In case the name “Mega Drive” isn’t ringing any bells – and it might not if you live in North America – it’s the PAL version of the Genesis. That may be well known these days, but I do remember wondering what the Genesis was when I first heard about it, as I’m from a PAL region and thus familiar with the Mega Drive moniker. Anyway, the first game in the NBA Playoffs series – EA’s forerunner to NBA Live – Lakers vs Celtics was released for both MS-DOS PC and Sega Genesis. A Mega Drive version was also developed and finished, but never released due to an inability to secure the international licensing rights. 192 cartridges did make it into the wild, however.
Thirteen of those cartridges have surfaced, and subsequently become very expensive collector’s items. Whereas the Genesis version is readily available in retro collecting circles and thus quite cheap, the unreleased PAL version for the Mega Drive has been known to fetch prices of over £8000 (around $9,900 USD) at auction. This example is admittedly a bit different as it’s a port of a finished game that did come out on other platforms, rather than an unfinished prototype or never released title. It’s also usually highly regarded as a classic, unlike NBA Live 07 on Xbox 360. It’s technically still a cancelled game though, albeit for reasons that have nothing to do with quality.
Can you recall any other infamously cancelled games that were previewed or at least confirmed? Let me know in the comments below, along with any details that you can remember, 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.