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 differences between the PC and console versions of various basketball games.
Our choice of gaming platform remains one of the pettiest parts of the hobby. Gamers who prefer PlayStation or Xbox to the exclusion of all other consoles will snipe back and forth with each other, comparing specs, exclusives, and anything else that will allow them to feel like their personal preference is intellectually (and even morally) superior. The other big and perpetual gaming war, of course, is PC vs. Console. I’m sure that you’re familiar with all the arguments, stereotypes, and insults that are flung back and forth as everyone engages in frothing-at-the-mouth tribalism.
Personally, I believe that gamers game. Give me a platform, a game, and ask me to play it and tell you what I think, and I’ll give it a shot! If PC gaming or a specific console works for you and you’re happy with your choice, more power to you. I’ll admit to being Team Nintendo during the Nintendo vs. SEGA war of the 90s, but when it comes to PC and console, I’ve actually always played games on both. I do that because certain titles and series have been exclusive, but I’ve also played the same basketball games on multiple platforms, and noticed some interesting differences between releases. There have been quite a few, but here are five noteworthy ones.
1. More Detailed Menu in NBA 2K12 (Console)
Let’s tip things off with one of the more inexplicable differences that I’ve noticed. The menu in the console versions of NBA 2K12 is far more detailed than the one in the PC release. Specifically, the menu in the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 version features photos of players on the menu items, as seen in the above screenshot. Conversely, the menus in the PC version don’t feature those photos; only the gradient. Obviously this is a very minor cosmetic detail in the grand scheme of things, and I don’t imagine that their absence ruined anyone’s experience. I know some people have their issues with frontend designs – as NBA 2K13 would go on to demonstrate – but this one is minor.
Nevertheless, it’s strange because there’s no apparent reason for it. It’s not as though 2K would’ve lost the rights to display those photos, and the PC version is a port of the console releases, so it wasn’t made by a different studio using different assets. It also can’t be a matter of technical limitations, as gaming PCs are and were more powerful than the PS3 and 360. Disk space similarly wouldn’t have been an issue. We can explain some of the other differences on this list fairly easily, but the removal of those photos remains a mystery. At least it’s the same style of menu, unlike NBA 2K11 PC which retained NBA 2K10’s clunky tile menu while the console version did not.
2. Differences in Rosters (Older PC & Console Games)
As I noted, there was a time when there was a much greater disparity in power when it came to gaming consoles and PCs. During that era, it wasn’t uncommon for different versions of the game to be released at different times; sometimes, far earlier or later on a certain platform. This meant that the same game had different roster cut-off dates for different platforms, leading to variations in the default rosters. These differences in the rosters range from outdated numbers and lineups to players appearing in one version and not another, and on occasion, cancelled trades and signings actually being included because of the cut-off date. It’s interesting to look back at these oddities.
We don’t see it happen these days, for a couple of reasons. The first is that the PC and current generation consoles receive the same version of the game, with the same cut-off date and default rosters. Official roster updates are also now pushed through all season long, which means those releases aren’t stuck with the same default rosters they had at launch. Back in the day however, the rosters were one of the noticeable differences between console and PC releases. Indeed, the PC version of NBA Live 95 broke the trend of including the previous season’s rosters, whereas it was still the case in the console versions. These days, differences like that are no longer an issue.
3. No Online Play in NBA 2K9 (PC)
Even though the game had let us down for two years running, our community was still disappointed when we heard that NBA Live 09 wouldn’t be coming out on PC. We resolved to keep NBA Live 06 updated with the NBA Live PC project, and did indeed do that, but we were also excited to discover that NBA 2K9 would be released on the platform at long last. Whenever inquiries had been made about a PC version of NBA 2K in the past, we were told that the developers had laughed them off, so it wasn’t something we ever expected to see happen. The situation obviously changed with EA Sports ending PC releases of NBA Live, and NBA 2K has come out on PC ever since.
It wasn’t smooth sailing for NBA 2K’s first foray onto PC, though. First of all, several copies of the game shipped without CD keys, meaning gamers couldn’t even install it. This has caused a lot of problems when picking up copies years later, as there’s no guarantee you’ll get a game with a code. Second, the PC version didn’t have online support or play, whereas the current gen console versions did. This wasn’t a huge surprise given that Visual Concepts were still working things out and testing the waters with NBA 2K on PC, and to be fair, it didn’t really bother the PC community that much. After all, we were far more interested in modding than playing online!
4. Unlockable Legends in NBA Live 2000 (Console)
When Legends made their official debut in NBA Live 2000 – they had previously been unofficially unlockable in the console versions of NBA Live 96, itself another examples of differences between platforms – they were implemented in different ways. The PC and PlayStation versions both included a host of Legends along with the Decade All-Stars, but the situation was a little different out of the box. In the PC version, all Legends were available on the Decade All-Stars and in the Legends Pool by default. On PlayStation, gamers needed to complete various tasks – or punch in cheat codes – to unlock some of the bigger names, including Michael Jordan.
Once again, I don’t have an official answer on this one, but I can think of a logical explanation for the difference. The PC version introduced the new Franchise mode, while the PlayStation version didn’t include it. Making a few Legends unlockable would’ve given gamers something extra to do outside of the traditional Season mode, so I assume that’s why it was done (and why there were cheats in case gamers wanted to play with them right away). Speaking of differences, the Nintendo 64 version only features Michael Jordan, who can be unlocked into the Free Agent pool after beating him in the 1-on-1 mode. In that case, it came down to storage space on the cartridge.
5. NBA Live 95 in NBA Live 06 (Console)
Basketball video games generally haven’t contained a ton of bonus content outside of unlockable jerseys, Legends, and more recently, retro teams. Things like crazy cheat codes and amusing Easter eggs, meanwhile, have been phased out. However, NBA Live 06 gamers got a treat when they were able to play an emulated version of the SEGA Genesis version of NBA Live 95. The catch is that this embedded version of NBA Live 95 was only available in the console release. Additionally, it was only available in the NTSC version, so PAL gamers were in the same boat as those on PC. Being in a PAL region, I was a little disappointed that I missed out on that back then.
Of course, PC gamers had plenty of other advantages when it came to NBA Live 06, such as modding. On top of that, playing the original version of NBA Live 95 PC, or the authentic console version for that matter, was a superior experience. The emulated version of NBA Live 95 couldn’t include any real players; not even the ones who were still active as of the 2006 season! Still, it’s one of the few noteworthy differences between the PC and console versions of NBA Live 06 (and for that matter, the NTSC and PAL releases). By that point, the PC version tended to be more or less identical to the sixth generation console releases, in features if not rosters as mentioned before.
What are some other differences you’ve noticed when comparing the PC and console versions of basketball video games? Do you recall any of the differences that I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments below, 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.