This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m taking a look back at the OMG Trailer for NBA 2K14.
Is there a more important and impactful trailer in the history of basketball gaming than the OMG Trailer, promoting NBA 2K14 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One? While there have been other fantastic trailers and promotional spots for basketball video games, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that turned as many heads, and that gamers still know by name. It boldly announced the arrival of a new generation, and made a statement that Visual Concepts were eager to make full use of the technology they now had at their disposal.
The OMG Trailer for NBA 2K14 is something you can still appreciate today. It still looks amazing almost a decade and entire console generation later. In a way, it’s even more impressive now that we know the game lived up to the hype; even if a few of us discovered that later than others! There’s more to the OMG Trailer for NBA 2K14 than just reflecting on how awesome it was, though. It’s had a lasting impact on the series and basketball gaming as a whole, but has also proven to be a hard act to follow. Let’s take a look back…way back…
In 2013, gamers were gearing up for the release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Over the course of the previous generation, the basketball gaming landscape had changed drastically. NBA Live had lost its grip on the market, with NBA 2K now the top-rated and top-selling NBA sim. Not only that, but NBA Live had crashed and burned, with EA cancelling NBA Elite 11 in 2010 and NBA Live 13 in 2012. The latter was set to be released for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but EA instead decided to focus on making a comeback on the next generation. Meanwhile, NBA 2K had gone from strength to strength, so gamers were eager to see what they’d do next.
You may wonder why I’m talking about NBA Live as I’m setting the scene here, but in assessing the impact of the OMG Trailer for NBA 2K14, it’s important to note what was happening with EA’s series. We actually got a glimpse of NBA Live 14 before NBA 2K14, with a tech demo and CGI teaser preceding the OMG Trailer. People forget that there was a respectably positive and optimistic reaction to what EA had shown in their early previews of NBA Live 14. It was a new generation, and though we weren’t seeing pure gameplay footage, what we saw did look better. There was a feeling that the new generation was going to be a great opportunity for NBA Live.
And then, the PS4/X1 version of NBA 2K14 was revealed in the OMG Trailer. All of a sudden, NBA Live 14’s previews looked…well, last gen. The Next Gen reveal with “Video Game James” had people excited, but there was also scepticism that the actual graphics were that good. The OMG Trailer revealed that yes, yes they were. EA had done an admirable job of generating hype for NBA Live’s return, and at that time, the series still had some enthusiastic supporters. Unfortunately for NBA Live, that hype was deflated – quite frankly, squashed – when the OMG Trailer dropped. It was a textbook example of stealing thunder, at least in the realm of sports video games.
Watching the OMG Trailer today will remind you of what an amazing promotion it was for NBA 2K14. The atmosphere was perfect, as the distinctive notes of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” are heard before there’s a glimpse of the game in action. Although Collins’ lyrics were inspired by the grief he felt after divorcing his first wife – and not a drowning incident that he supposedly witnessed, as the urban legend goes – they were oddly appropriate for a next gen video game trailer. There was a big change coming; something “in the air”, if you will. The haunting lyrics and melody, and that ethereal feeling of “In the Air Tonight”, set the tone for our first look at NBA 2K14.
The gameplay footage, which was clearly labelled as such to remove any doubt of it being a CGI trailer, was superbly edited. We could immediately see what a massive leap the graphics had made across the board. The clips of players prior to tip-off and during timeouts built up our anticipation, until the iconic “magic break” accompanies the trailer’s transition into on-court highlights. In the years that have followed, we’ve grown somewhat cynical and suspicious when it comes to cinematic angles in NBA 2K’s trailers. When we saw those highlights in the OMG Trailer however, they were amazing. The dunks, the blocks, the jumpshots, the reactions…this was Next Gen!
There’s only around a minute and ten seconds of gameplay footage in the OMG Trailer, but that was enough to get us hyped, especially knowing that it was all in-engine. The opinion then, as it is now, was that 2K couldn’t have picked a better name for that trailer. Even if your reaction wasn’t “OMG”, it was certainly a close synonym. NBA 2K14 needed to prove itself on the sticks of course, and to that end, it did still have some problems that were found in its prior gen brethren. NBA 2K13 had been an outstanding game though, so even if NBA 2K14 Next Gen had merely been NBA 2K13 with more impressive graphics, it still would’ve been a tremendous release.
Needless to say, the developers were extremely proud of the product on display. This led to some rather mean-spirited potshots at NBA Live 14 from the devs and other 2K reps alike. While these barbs weren’t inaccurate, I’ll admit that they did rub me the wrong way. They came across as bullying and unprofessional, kicking a game and their peers in the industry while they were down. It soured me on NBA 2K14 despite the OMG Trailer being so awesome, and it wasn’t until years later that I truly warmed up to the game. I’ve always respected other people’s opinions of NBA 2K14 though, and agreed that the OMG Trailer was a significant and spectacular promotional spot.
On that note, if you check out the OMG Trailer on the official NBA 2K YouTube channel, you’ll see that gamers are still leaving comments expressing their admiration for both it and NBA 2K14. The word “chills” is used quite often, as people reminisce about the hype it generated, laud the choice in music, and marvel at the quality of NBA 2K14’s graphics. There are several comments declaring it to be the best ever trailer for an NBA 2K game, some of which have been posted after the announcement and launch of NBA 2K21 for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Even after almost a decade, the OMG Trailer and NBA 2K14 are still held in extremely high regard.
Of course, this brings us to a downside of the OMG Trailer. It set the bar extremely high, and a significant number of gamers – or certainly a vocal contingent of them – don’t believe NBA 2K has reached it again since. That’s not to say that no game since has been better than NBA 2K14 – some may say that, but I don’t agree – but 2K hasn’t been able to replicate the hype and excitement of the OMG Trailer. On one hand, that’s understandable. It’s a once-in-a-generation affair, as there needs to be that massive leap to really blow us away. On the other hand, we had a new generation tip off in 2020, and while there was still excitement, the reaction just wasn’t the same.
There are a couple of understandable reasons for that. The graphical improvements between the seventh and eighth generation consoles were more noticeable than the jump from eighth to ninth; at least for NBA 2K. They were already at a level where wowing us was going to take a much bigger improvement than what we’ve seen so far. I imagine that the difficulties in obtaining the newest consoles have dampened enthusiasm for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X version, and the PC version remaining a PS4/X1 port has definitely diminished interest in Next Gen within our community. NBA 2K21 also got off on the wrong foot with a very weird teaser.
Beyond that though, the elephant in the room is that there’s significant NBA 2K fatigue that’s been building over the past generation. NBA 2K doesn’t have the same goodwill that it once did, with gamers growing weary of legacy issues, certain design choices, and of course, pushy recurrent revenue mechanics. It’s not that NBA 2K14 was perfect, free of recurring problems and the scourge of microtransactions. There was definitely less frustration on both counts however, with the series being in a Golden Era. Most people felt good about NBA 2K, and anticipated the next release. The OMG Trailer excited a largely satisfied fanbase with something even better.
To that end, replicating that excitement will not only require an impressive leap and well-produced trailer, but also changing the culture that NBA 2K has cultivated in recent years. It’s not that there haven’t been any slick trailers since 2013, but now we’re more inclined to respond “OK, but what about the servers?” “Is there proper matchmaking?” “Will there be cheese?” “Have these legacy issues been addressed?” “Are we going to have to choose between a tedious grind or paying to speed up our progress?” The flash of the OMG Trailer worked because we trusted that NBA 2K14 would deliver on substance. We’re too cynical for that now, and that’s not all on us.
Hopefully, that will change, and we’ll get this generation’s version of the OMG Trailer. Until then, and even then, we can appreciate what the original meant to the series, and how it pumped up the community for the PS4/X1 launch. We thought we knew what we were in for when we saw the NBA Live 14 teasers, but NBA 2K14 showed us that it was really ready to take basketball gaming to the next level on a new generation. We all have trailers that are personal favourites for one reason or another, but most of us will agree that the OMG Trailer for NBA 2K14 is one of the best – if not the best – and probably the most aptly-named preview that we’ve ever received.
In fact, I’d say it’s worth another watch.