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The Friday Five: 5 Keys to a “No Money Spent” Experience

The Friday Five

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 tips that are the key to having a “No Money Spent” experience in NBA 2K.

Microtransactions remain a controversial issue in NBA 2K, and Triple-A gaming as a whole. Although they are technically optional, there’s no denying that 2K’s recurrent revenue mechanics are implemented in a way that does all they can to push gamers towards spending real money on Virtual Currency. Gamers who spend level up quicker and end up with better cards sooner, and in turn, they set the competitive balance in online play. Even if you stick to the offline modes, opting for the No Money Spent approach ensures a lengthy grind, year after year.

Of course, for those of us who don’t want to support the recurrent revenue business model and spend additional money on a game that’ll be outmoded in a year, finding a way to beat the system is a point of pride. There’s great satisfaction to be had in enjoying a game without having to shell out cash in order to level up efficiently, or access some of its best content. Once again though, NBA 2K is subtly (and not-so-subtly) trying to push us towards spending at every turn, so the No Money Spent approach takes a few tricks, discipline, and a willingness to work the system. To that end, here are five keys to getting the most out of a No Money Spent experience.

1. Exercise Patience

No Money Spent means waiting to upgrade (NBA 2K21 MyCAREER)

When a video game offers you the opportunity to skip a lengthy grind, it’s selling you a solution to a problem that the developers created themselves. It’s also basically an admission that the journey isn’t as fun as it could and should be, especially when the destination is “being suitably levelled up to viably play online”. Jim Sterling has been very outspoken about this, and I think that deep down, everybody knows it. The issue is that we all just kind of accept it: get grinding, or pay up. Well, the idea behind No Money Spent is to get grinding, so whether it’s MyCAREER or MyTEAM, that’s what you’ll have to do if you intend to spend nothing at all on NBA 2K’s Virtual Currency.

Obviously that requires patience, but there’s the rub. The grind is designed to prey on our impatience and make us want to level up faster, or amass a collection of better cards sooner. It’s very easy to start thinking “one of the cheaper VC bundles will get me to the level cap much quicker”, or “if I buy a few packs or a box, just a couple of decent pulls will make my lineup that much stronger”. It’s therefore important that you remember that pack odds are against you, and that you can earn some great cards simply by playing the game. Likewise, playing MyCAREER games is necessary for Badge Progress, and if you’re patient, you’ll amass VC for those attribute upgrades.

2. Don’t Fall Victim to FOMO

Buying Michael Jordan GOAT Card (NBA 2K20)

This tip ties into the above point about exercising patience, though it does stand out as a separate tactic. Although some goals and content can be a chore to attain, you can still grind for them at your own pace. They’ll always be available as long as the mode is playable, meaning if you put in time and effort, you’ll get there. And then, there’s the content that you have a limited time to obtain. Whether it be MyTEAM packs that are only up for a week, or rotating Throwback Thursday jerseys in MyCAREER (and the “limited supply” that some of them ridiculously have), if you don’t unlock or buy them ASAP, you’ll miss your chance. At least, that’s what you’re meant to think.

It’s an all-too-common marketing trick intended to play on our fear of missing out; or FOMO, as it’s trendily abbreviated. You have to have those cards or that gear, and if you don’t act now, you won’t get it. Given the in-game prices of those items, it either means madly grinding, or opening up your wallet. The key to the No Money Spent approach here is to ask yourself if you really need it. In most cases, the answer is no. Furthermore, when it comes to MyTEAM packs, they both come around again and their contents end up in the Auction House. Wait until you’re swimming in VC to buy, consider if you really need what’s on offer, and save your MT for bargains at auction.

3. Grind Everything You Can

Grinding every bit of VC (NBA 2K20 MyCAREER)

Alright, so you’ve resolved to be patient and not buy anything you don’t need. You’re still going to have to grind for VC. Now, every year someone will find a VC exploit, but be careful here. Not only will it be patched quicker than any other issue in the game – including any bug that prevents the user from receiving earned VC – but 2K has been known to ban people for taking advantage of exploits. As such, I recommend grinding the hard way if you’re intent on No Money Spent. Fortunately, there are a lot of legitimate avenues to maximise your VC earnings in MyCAREER, and if you put in the work, you’ll be able to make swift progress without spending any real money.

The first, obviously, is to play the NBA games. The more you play and the better stats you put up, the more VC you can earn. You’ll also pick up some endorsements that’ll give you a payout of a few thousand VC here and there. Between every NBA game, performing tasks on your MyCOURT (hitting ten shots in a row, dunking in each basket, etc) will earn up to 500 VC. Visiting VC Sports Management once a day nets you another 500 VC and aiming for the Daily Bonus will earn a little more. Spinning the Daily Prize Wheel and logging into MyTEAM daily will also earn rewards, or save VC via free cosmetic items. Finally, punch in every Locker Code that’s released.

4. Play Offline until Online is Viable

Pre-Game in The Rec (NBA 2K21)

I know this isn’t what people who are all about online want to hear, but the best way to level up a player faster is to play offline, i.e. the NBA games. Longer games where you’re undeniably player one affords you the best opportunity to put up stats, earn VC, and grind for Badges. Anyone who’s tried to take an underpowered player into the online arena can attest to what a miserable experience it is, and that’s by design. Yes, the importance of Badges has removed some of the incentive to pay to skip the grind since Badges can’t be bought, but low ratings are still a factor. The struggle to keep up while you’re still trying to hit 80 Overall obviously encourages you to spend.

We’re aiming for No Money Spent, however, so stick to offline play until your player is capable of competing; at least 75 Overall with a handful of Badges. You don’t need to be maxed out to play online, but anything lower than that and not even superb stick skills will be enough to overcome your sluggish, underpowered avatar. The same goes for MyTEAM. There are plenty of opportunities to build your team through Triple Threat Offline, Domination, and the various challenges. Once Locker Codes start to be released, you’re bound to get a few good cards for free. If you’re late to MyTEAM, I strongly recommend not venturing online without building up your team first.

5. Careful How You Spend

No Money Spent means spending VC wisely (NBA 2K21 MyTEAM)

If you think 25,000 VC sounds like a lot of in-game currency, just take a look at some of the prices. That much VC is enough for just one of the top tier throwback jerseys in the NBA Store, or some of the premium MyTEAM packs. However, it’s also enough to take your player from 60 Overall to around 70 Overall, meaning a head start on some of your key skills. If you’re only playing MyCAREER or MyTEAM, choosing between packs and MyPLAYER is a moot point. However, you’ll still want to look at the rewards. What are the exclusive cards? What are the chances of getting Diamonds or better? Are there any guaranteed rewards? What are pack odds like this year?

Simply put, some packs aren’t worth buying. Even with No Money Spent, you don’t want to squander your VC (as an aside, don’t waste MT on packs at all, since you need it for the Auction House). As for MyCAREER, focus on upgrading your ratings before buying any clothing items. If you really must pick up some cheaper items like armbands and whatnot, spend VC on your attributes first, and then if you’ve got a couple of hundred VC left over, get your accessories. This way, you can upgrade your player as quickly and efficiently as possible, with No Money Spent. Once you’re at a cap or maxed out, let your VC build up, and then you can spend it more frivolously!

What are some other keys to having a No Money Spent experience in NBA 2K? Share your tips 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.

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