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 new basketball games that I’d like to see developed in the future.
Happy 2K Day everyone! NBA 2K20 is out today, which means a lot of gamers in our community will be spending time with it this weekend; I know I will be! While I hope I’ll enjoy NBA 2K20 as much as I did NBA 2K19, I’m also hoping that it won’t be the only release this year. We’re still waiting on any information about NBA Live 20, and the future of the NBA Live series. A release is slated for next quarter and various reps have said that EA Sports aren’t pulling the plug, so we can only wait and see what happens.
I still firmly believe that we need at least two viable choices when it comes to the sim-oriented NBA games on the market. Ideally, we’d also have some more arcade games and other titles to choose from, too. Obviously a lot of people are getting the virtual basketball experience they crave from NBA 2K, but competition, alternatives, and different takes on the sport are important to have. Beyond seeing NBA Live catch up to NBA 2K and be competitive again, there are other ideas for basketball games that I’d like to see come to fruition. Some of these ideas are easier said than done when you take licensing into account, but I’m throwing them out there anyway.
1. New NBA Jam Games
EA Sports missed a golden opportunity for goodwill, and I expect a lot of sales, by refusing to cash in on the 25th Anniversary of NBA Jam. I know a lot of younger basketball gamers are nostalgic for the NBA Street series, and I do love those games as well, but NBA Jam defined the genre of arcade basketball games. It’s spawned a lot of imitators over the years, but none have done it quite as well as NBA Jam. From the original games to the 2010 reboot and On Fire Edition by EA Sports, their take on the sport with high-flying dunks, shattered backboards, being On Fire, and of course the voice of Tim Kitzrow, has been the perfect complement to the sim-oriented titles.
For whatever reason, however, EA has been disinterested in doing anything with the NBA Jam brand since the release of OFE in 2011. It’s a shame the 25th Anniversary passed without them doing anything special for it, but I’d still love to see a new NBA Jam be developed at some point in the future. Yes, we have NBA 2K Playgrounds 2, but if I may be blunt, it’s a poor imitation. I’d like to go into that in greater detail at some point, but the Playgrounds series has missed the mark on so many staples of the arcade genre. Even if EA were to simply remaster and update On Fire Edition with current rosters, it would easily be the best arcade hoops game available today.
2. New NBA Street Games
As I said, I am a fan of NBA Street as well. While I’d prefer a new NBA Jam game if I had to choose between the two, I like the idea of EA alternating between them while continuing to release NBA Live as their sim game every year. Now, we have actually seen a few elements of the old NBA Street games via some of the additions to The Streets in NBA Live. I commend EA for not letting those ideas go to waste, but I don’t think it’s been the right direction or area of focus for NBA Live. It’s made the game less sim, while still not being arcade enough to properly replace NBA Street. A game that’s halfway between the two is never going to truly satisfy fans of both series.
I’m not against there being a streetball element in NBA Live, but it should be like The Playground in NBA 2K: an exaggerated, looser approach to the sim style, with unique animations that don’t show up in regular NBA gameplay. At the same time, there’s value in reviving the NBA Street series that is completely focused on streetball, with arcade gameplay and a stylised aesthetic. Like NBA Jam, we don’t necessarily need a new one every year – especially if roster updates are viable and can be pushed through for a couple of seasons – so once again, I’m in favour of EA Sports bringing back both NBA Street and NBA Jam, and alternating between a new release every other year.
3. New College Basketball Games
The Ed O’Bannon lawsuit hasn’t technically banned the development of any college basketball games, but it’s made it a lot more difficult to get the appropriate licensing, effectively putting an end to both EA and 2K’s collegiate series. There are also issues with international licensing, which have historically restricted the sale of all college basketball games to the United States and Canada. Now that consoles are region free, that won’t be an issue for those of us living outside of North America. If everything can be sorted out with the NCAA, I’m keen to see new college games by EA and 2K. Well, at least 2K, since EA needs to invest in improving NBA Live first.
A possible alternative in the short term would be an unlicensed basketball game with in-game editing and external modding capabilities. I’m envisioning a game like World League Basketball, only with more sandbox features and customisation. That way, we could create our own college basketball games, or basically any league that we want; even another NBA sim title! Of course, an unlicensed basketball game is probably a tough sell these days, and the depth of modding could attract negative attention from the leagues whose likenesses and trademarks are being used. All things considered, a new College Hoops game is probably more realistic, but both are fun to think about.
4. NBL Live or NBL 2K
I’m sure that a Euroleague game would be more popular, but being an Aussie, I’d love to see an official NBL game from EA Sports or Visual Concepts. After all, even the Australian Football League had its own series of games some years back. EA’s FIFA and Cricket series have also featured Australian teams, and of course the Boomers have been present in a few titles that included FIBA content, but there hasn’t been a standalone NBL game. Although there are quite a few changes that would need to be made in order to accurately represent Australia’s professional basketball league, NBA Live and NBA 2K would both still be suitable bases to work from.
Obviously, the main roadblock is popularity. Even within Australia, the NBL isn’t the most popular sports league, having endured some rough times following its golden era in the 90s. It has been making a comeback in recent years however, resulting in NBL teams visiting the United States to take on NBA squads during the preseason. It has a bright future, and it would be awesome to see it finally represented in a video game. Given the smaller audience, for now it would be far more feasible to include them as bonus teams in NBA Live or NBA 2K, much like the Euroleague and WNBA teams. That alone would be a huge step forward in visibility and credibility for the NBL.
5. A BIG3 Title
Thanks to the participation of former NBA players, including a few who aren’t that far removed from the league, the BIG3 has been quite successful so far. It’s been praised for some of its more innovative ideas, and sense of fun that isn’t always possible with the NBA’s more serious image. Considering the popularity of modes like LIVE Run and The Playground, both of which feature 3v3 basketball, I believe that there would be interest in a licensed BIG3 game. Since NBA Live and NBA 2K both already have the mechanics in place, it could feasibly be developed as a spinoff if either developer were to acquire the license. They’re in the best position to develop a solid BIG3 title.
Once again, one of the main issues is whether the brand is strong enough to support a standalone game. Right now, I’d suggest that it’s in the same boat as the WNBA and NBL: it’s viable as extra content in an established NBA title, but not quite popular enough to be a separate game. To that end, I’d be in favour of NBA Live or NBA 2K including the BIG3. NBA 2K would probably be preferable as NBA Live still needs to work on the NBA side of things, and The Playground is one of 2K’s most popular modes, so I think it would be a logical expansion for them. Of course, I’m guessing the NBA and BIG3 don’t want to share billing, likely putting the kibosh on this idea.
What are some other ideas for basketball games that you’d like to see developed in addition to the ones we currently have, or have seen in recent years? Have your say in the comments section 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.