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Wayback Wednesday: 1000 People Online in NBA Live 07

Allen Iverson in NBA Live 07 (Xbox 360)

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content.

NBA Live 07 is ten years old now. If you’ve been around the community for a long time and remember playing it back in the day, don’t worry; I feel old too. As I’ll be discussing in some upcoming features for our 20th Anniversary of NBA Live content, whether you’re talking about the PC/PlayStation 2 or Xbox 360 version, NBA Live 07 was a release that had quite a lot of issues. It was around this time that the NBA Live series really began to falter, allowing the NBA 2K series to not only establish itself as a superior product, but also close the gap in sales across all platforms. But that’s something I’ll cover in those upcoming articles.

Today, I’m talking about something that I feel is an interesting footnote about the Xbox 360 version of NBA Live 07. One of NBA Live 07’s Xbox Live Achievements was awarded for being one of at least a thousand people online and in the game at the same time. It’s a somewhat unique idea for an Achievement or Trophy in a basketball video game, and it’s safe to say that there weren’t a lot of gamers who ended up attaining it.

What was the deal with this somewhat unusual Achievement? Let’s take a look back…way back…

Before we take a closer look at the “Online with 1000 people” Achievement however, let’s take another look the NBA Live 07 Achievements list in more detail. The first thing you’ll notice is that there are only fifteen Achievements. Compare this to the Achievements list for NBA Live 16, which totalled 33, or indeed the 50 Achievements that are attainable in NBA 2K7. NBA Live 07’s Achievements are therefore worth a lot more Gamerscore points each, in order to reach the requisite total of 1000G. This wasn’t unusual for early Xbox 360 releases, of course, as NBA 2K6 had only five Achievements.

Tracy McGrady dribbles the basketball in NBA Live 07 (Xbox 360)

Another thing you’ll notice about those early Achievements list is a lack of creativity, and indeed difficulty, in some of the Achievements. Achievements tended to have rather straightforward and generic titles, and many of them could be attained somewhat organically simply through playing the game. As long as you played NBA Live 07 long enough to perform different Freestyle Superstars moves, you’d attain two thirds of the Achievements without any trouble. “Four users on one machine” was arguably a little more difficult to set up, but apart from that, most of the online Achievements were reasonably straightforward.

Not so much the “Online with 1000 people” Achievement, though. The difficulty here is obvious: whereas the other Achievements simply required gamers to master the controls, track down a couple of extra controllers, or play and finish (not even win) a few online games, attaining the “1000 people” Achievement required at least 999 other people to have the same idea at the same time. In hindsight, “Online Multiplayer Co-op” was probably a little tough to set up too, but still much easier than organising and coordinating 999 other gamers.

With NBA Live lagging well behind NBA 2K in sales in recent years, you may be inclined to suggest that poor sales were a factor here. I don’t think that was the main problem, though. According to VGChartz, NBA Live 07 sold around 460,000 copies on Xbox 360, while NBA 2K7 sold around 580,000 (with NBA Live 07 garnering more sales across all platforms, 2.33 million to NBA 2K7’s 1.76 million). Of course, this admittedly doesn’t account for returns and trade-ins, gamers who did keep NBA Live 07 but barely played it, and people who were simply more interested in offline modes.

Vince Carter dunks the basketball in NBA Live 07 (Xbox 360)

More than 1000 people were playing NBA Live 07, but not online, and not necessarily at the same time. Furthermore, in 2006, the online experience in basketball games wasn’t as deep or robust as it is now. The fact that the “1000 people” Achievement was featured in NBA Live 07 suggests that EA Sports intended to promote online play, perhaps making the efforts to attain the Achievement into a publicity stunt that would help promote the game. Between the poor reception for the game, the quality of the online experience, and the simple fact that everyone jumps online at different times, I’d suggest that it didn’t quite work out as planned.

Of course, many gamers are completionists, and the basketball gaming community did make an effort to try and organise some sessions where at least 1000 people would be online, earning them all the Achievement. It would seem the first successful attempt was organised by XboxAchievements.com on February 25th, 2007. The site sought to organise another event ahead of the NBA Live 07 servers being closed down in 2010, and on January 31st, they succeeded with over 1500 gamers logging in. I’m not sure if any users ever attained the Achievement organically outside of those attempts, but given the fact that such events were planned more than once, I’d say not.

As I discussed in my second-ever Monday Tip-Off column, I’m not a fan of Achievements and Trophies that are reliant on servers being active, or require gamers to jump through hoops that have nothing to do with a fun challenge. Kotaku posted a similar, but slightly more caustic take on the situation after a failed attempt back in 2009. I still believe that Achievements and Trophies can be fun, adding replay value through extra challenges and pointing gamers towards modes and features that they might normally skip over. In this case, however, it definitely wasn’t a good idea, and ultimately became the bane of completionists.

Gilbert Arenas passes the basketball in NBA Live 07 (Xbox 360)

With the NBA Live 07 servers being inactive for over six years now, this Achievement is obviously permanently unattainable. For all the completionists out there, I’m glad that neither EA Sports nor Visual Concepts have included such a difficult and contrived online Achievement or Trophy in the years since, though ironically, it probably would be easier to attain these days. As it stands, it remains a weird footnote about NBA Live 07 on the Xbox 360; an interesting throwback to a time when the online experience in basketball video games was becoming more and more prominent, and Achievements were still in their infancy.

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