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 times that PC gamers have missed out when it comes to the virtual hardwood.
Due to the popularity of the PC platform in our community, it’s all too easy to forget that it isn’t a priority for sports video game developers. Consoles account for a bulk of the annual sales, making PC sports gamers a niche within a niche. That hasn’t stopped us from having a lot of fun with the games that have come out on PC though, thanks in no small part to what our modding community has been capable of throughout the years. Furthermore, if you go back and look at the history of NBA Live on PC, there was a time when those releases could be considered the definitive version.
Unfortunately, playing on PC has sometimes led to missing out on content, or certain games altogether. From a developer’s perspective, consoles provide the convenience of standard hardware and digital platforms, as well as more security when it comes to piracy. Developing for the PC is more challenging due to differing hardware, as well as distribution methods. Even when the former hasn’t been a barrier to getting a PC release, the latter has prevented it from receiving the same level of support, including downloadable content. We’re fortunate enough to still get basketball games on PC, but here are five times that we weren’t so lucky on the platform.
1. Several Games Have Had No PC Release
Let’s start out with the worst case scenario when it comes to PC basketball gaming. A lot of games simply haven’t been released for the platform, leaving gamers out in the cold. An obvious example here is the NBA Live series. Once the only NBA game that could be relied upon to come out on PC – NBA Live 2002 being a notable exception – that run finished with NBA Live 08. Every release beginning with NBA Live 09 has been console-only, and although Madden returning to PC offers a glimmer of hope, NBA Live’s return sadly isn’t imminent. Hopefully that will change in the future, but for now, NBA 2K remains the only sim-oriented option on the platform.
Of course, it wasn’t until NBA Live left PC that Visual Concepts began porting NBA 2K over; about half the series to date is exclusive to consoles. Likewise, of all the games in the NBA Playoffs series – EA’s forerunner to NBA Live – only Lakers vs Celtics was released on PC. The original NBA Jam isn’t available on PC, though Tournament Edition, NBA Hangtime, and NBA Jam Extreme are. NBA Courtside was a Nintendo exclusive, and several other series from the 90s and early 2000s stuck with console releases. We’ve had some great basketball games on PC, but the platform has also missed out on quite a few classics, and other interesting titles.
2. NBA 2K10 Draft Combine
As I mentioned, distribution methods have presented problems as far as providing post-release support and downloadable content for basketball games. That’s changed a bit with NBA 2K now being solely distributed digitally through Steam, though it hasn’t alleviated the issue entirely (more on that later). With NBA 2K10 receiving both a Steam and disc release, however, there was no standard distribution platform through which all gamers could purchase DLC. This meant that PC gamers couldn’t get the NBA 2K10 Draft Combine, a standalone title released through Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network a month prior to the main game.
Available at a cost of 400 Microsoft Points on Xbox 360 or $4.99 US on PlayStation 3, the NBA 2K10 Draft Combine allowed gamers to get a head start on the new My Player career mode. The Draft Combine included drills and 5-on-5 games which were used to gain Skill Points and improve both your player’s ratings and stock with NBA teams. Much like The Prelude in recent years, it didn’t strip anything out of the career mode in the full version as such, but did offer an early preview of the game, as well as the opportunity to start with a rating higher than 39 Overall. While it was paid DLC and not everyone is into that, it would’ve been nice to at least have the option.
3. Legends Showcase and All-Time College Teams DLC
The NBA 2K10 Draft Combine wouldn’t be the only time the PC version missed out on additional content. As NBA 2K12 was also available as a disc and digital release, the Legends Showcase DLC wasn’t available on the PC platform. For many gamers, it admittedly wasn’t a huge loss, as I do remember quite a few people turning their nose up at it. Other gamers definitely were interested though, especially as it included a few Legends that weren’t present in the base game. The cel-shaded graphics and mini-games were also appealing to some people, and while modding obviously allowed us to add a lot of new content to the game, it was still something we missed out on.
More puzzling was the unavailability of the All-Time College Teams DLC for the PC version of NBA 2K17. NBA 2K PC was now exclusively available as a digital release through Steam so there shouldn’t have been any problems providing DLC, yet it was a console exclusive. My first thought is that it might have been a rights issue; one of the reasons that the NCAA games never received PAL releases is that they couldn’t be licensed internationally. It seems unlikely as both the college portion of MyCAREER and the DLC were available outside of North America, so we’re left guessing. Once again, it wasn’t vital content, but something I believe PC gamers would’ve enjoyed.
4. Patches for NBA 2K13 and NBA 2K14
There’s a reason that PC gamers get antsy whenever an official patch is announced for NBA 2K. It’s the same reason someone always asked if NBA Live would be coming out on PC after the series missed a year with NBA Live 2002: we remembered when we missed out. For the first couple of years that NBA 2K came out on PC, we had to wait until all of the patches had been released for the console versions, at which point the PC version received a cumulative update. Then came NBA 2K13 and NBA 2K14 PC, which despite being identical to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version, did not get any of the official patches. The roster updates, yes, but not the crucial bug fixes.
This marked a low point in post-release support for the PC version of NBA 2K. We were left to try to fix the game ourselves, literally filling in the blanks when a roster unlocked jerseys, but there was no official patch to add the necessary art files. We just had to make the best of the game as it was when it came to technical and gameplay issues, as it eventually became clear that no fixes were coming. Most of the time, we couldn’t even get a response from 2K regarding the status of a possible PC patch. In recent years, it has taken a while for some of the patches to come through on Steam, but fortunately we don’t miss out on any updates that aren’t console-specific.
5. Every Single Version of The Prelude
Stripped down NBA 2K demos are a thing of the past, but Visual Concepts still gives us a glimpse of the forthcoming game through the release of The Prelude. As the early stages of the MyCAREER story, it allows us to scan in our faces and get a head start on the mode, similar to the NBA 2K10 Draft Combine. It’s also included the ability to earn VC and upgrade ratings, as least in The Prelude for NBA 2K17 and NBA 2K19. That head start and early hands-on look at the upcoming game is only available to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One gamers, however. The entire contents of The Prelude can be found in MyCAREER on PC, but we have to wait for the full release to see them.
Once again, it’s a little odd given that NBA 2K PC is only available through Steam, so there shouldn’t be any issues distributing The Prelude to gamers. It doesn’t include any functionality or features that aren’t present in the full PC version, and it’s just as easy to purchase VC through Steam as it is PSN or XBL. On top of that, releasing a Steam version of The Prelude could help users benchmark their systems, and see if they are able to run the upcoming game. I have a feeling that we’ll continue to be out of luck, though. We may be getting a fully featured port of the console release these days, but the PC basketball gaming community does remain a niche of a niche.
Can you think of any other specific examples of PC basketball gamers missing out? Let me know 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.