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. This week, I’m taking a look back at EA Sports World.
I’ve taken a look back at some very old basketball video games in my Wayback Wednesday features, and it’s impossible not to marvel at how far the genre has come. Of course, even in the last ten years or so, we’ve seen some big leaps and changes. The improvements in graphics and the depth of modes are obvious talking points, but the concepts that became outdated and left behind are also quite interesting. I suppose it can be said of technology in general, but it’s funny to look back at ideas that once seemed revolutionary and the way of the future, but instead quickly became obsolete.
A prime example of that is the subject of this week’s Wayback Wednesday: EA Sports World. Supporting EA Sports’ lineup of titles including NBA Live 09 and NBA Live 10, it was designed as a hub for sharing content and utilising various online features. Today however, it’s long defunct. So, what was EA Sports World, and what happened to it? Let’s take a look back…way back…
In 2019, downloading new content within a game, uploading content to use in a game, and sharing media of a game is routine. Circa 2007, it was a far more novel concept. YouTube was still in its relative infancy, and the average gamer didn’t have the means to properly capture high quality screenshots and footage; especially on consoles. The idea of adding new content to a game was mostly restricted to modding on PC, with the console versions being limited to in-game tools. The idea of putting your own face on a player had been explored on PC, but seemed impossible on consoles given the lack of accessibility and adequate peripherals. The online scene was still primitive.
Enter EA Sports World, EA’s online hub for its sports lineup. The Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Madden, NCAA Football, and NHL series were the first to feature EA Sports World integration, with the NBA Live series first adopting it in NBA Live 09. Some of the features of EA Sports World included leaderboards and tournaments, the ability to use a photo to put your face in various games using GameFace, and upload videos and screenshots that you’d previously saved, or from your current session. There was also a social aspect to it. In some ways it was a forerunner to Origin, albeit without a storefront or playable games library, as well as today’s mobile companion apps.
To that end, it was a good idea at the time. The ability to put your own face in a game was innovative, particularly on consoles where it hadn’t been possible before. The leaderboards, tournaments, and social aspects of EA Sports World are reminiscent of the online features that have become standard this generation. As I noted, it wasn’t as easy to capture footage and screenshots on consoles some ten to fifteen years ago, so the ability to save media and then share it was perhaps the most exciting and useful innovation of all. Screenshots and videos could also be downloaded from EA Sports World to your PC and then uploaded elsewhere – such as YouTube – if desired.
This was actually quite useful, as EA Sports World accounts had an upload limit of five videos and five screenshots. You were able to delete media to make room for new uploads, but it meant that you had to be judicious about what you wanted to display on the EASW site. With that in mind, for most gamers it was more useful as a way of copying screenshots and videos from their consoles to their PCs, rather than a place to permanently display their favourite highlights. If the service were launching today, then it likely would provide more space for media uploads. Of course, with all of the other options for capturing and sharing media, such a service holds far less appeal.
That brings us to why EA Sports World is no longer a thing, with the URLs simply redirecting to the main EA Sports website. On PC, software such as Bandicam and Fraps, as well as software provided for various Nvidia and Radeon video cards, allow footage and screenshots to be easily captured. Many games and digital platforms such as Steam also have an in-built screenshot button. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One can also capture screenshots and videos which can easily be transferred to PC, or uploaded to YouTube. It’s also easier than ever to stream via YouTube or Twitch, and most online features are connected to Steam, PlayStation Network, or Xbox Live.
Web interfaces are still utilised to upload content for use in games, as demonstrated by EA’s Game Face website for the FIFA and UFC series. NBA 2K’s image uploading for custom MyTEAM and team Pro-Am artwork notably also utilises a web interface. However, mobile companion apps and “second screen experiences” are in vogue, and provide a more advanced method of scanning your likeness into a game. As for the social aspect of EA Sports World, that too has been outmoded. Social media has since exploded in popularity, and along with Reddit, has become the preferred method for gamers to interact with each other and game developers.
As such, with technology and trends marching on, and online support for older titles eventually drawing to a close, the need for EA Sports World faded. Still, it would be wrong to call it a failed experiment. It filled a need when the technologies that would replace it were still being developed, and brought some of the accessibility of PC gaming to consoles. Although NBA Live 09 and NBA Live 10 didn’t benefit from features such as GameFace, the media upload facilities were very useful for the Stories section in our Forum. As a means of taking screenshots and videos on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, it easily beat photographing or recording a screen or TV!
It stands as another example of how obsolete features and technology don’t always fall by the wayside because they’re bad ideas, but rather because they paved the way for better ones. Had the next generation of consoles not provided in-built media capture, social media not exploded in popularity, mobile companion apps not become a viable means of extending a game’s experience, and EA not launched Origin, EA Sports World may still have a place in gaming today. Nevertheless, it has its place in the history of sports gaming, and within the basketball gaming community, made getting media from NBA Live 09 and NBA Live 10 much easier for the average gamer.