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 the early Australian release of NBA Live 06 PC.
I’m a proud Australian who loves his country and its culture, and I would say that being an Aussie is part of my identity. However, there are drawbacks to living in the Land Down Under, and it’s not just about us having blistering hot summers and more dangerous and deadly creatures than just about anywhere else in the world! As a basketball gamer, living in a PAL region such as Australia has resulted in me missing out on some titles over the years that I’d have really liked to play. I’ve only recently been able to get my hands on some college games, thanks to now owning a PS3.
Even with games that were actually released here, it wasn’t uncommon for us to have to wait until the following week, or sometimes longer, before they were available in Australian stores. As late as NBA Live 16, worldwide releases were often at least a couple of days after the North American launch. However, there was a time when we got a basketball game before the rest of the world: the release of NBA Live 06 PC. Let’s take a look back…way back…
In July 2005, I’d just started what I’d call my first real job, working technical support and administration for a local Internet Provider. I had worked retail for my father from 2003 until earlier in 2005, having graduated high school at the end of 2002, but I consider my tech support job my first real gig because it’s one I actually interviewed for, and it was fulltime hours. I was earning more money than before, but I was also finding out what it was like to have much less free time. This meant learning how to juggle a fulltime job, catching up with friends, and creating content for the NLSC, which at that point I’d been running for around four years. Man, how time flies!
It also meant less time during the week to hang out in the Forum, though here I must admit that I did check in on it during the day at work. I was doing just that around lunchtime on September 19th, which was a Monday. The PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube versions of NBA Live 06 were due out on September 26th in North America. Europe and Australia were scheduled to get the game a couple of weeks later; anywhere from October 7th to October 21st. As I was actively making roster updates for NBA Live PC at the time, I was disheartened at having to wait so long to get my hands on the game, both to actually play it and to get started on my roster.
However, the night before, fellow Aussie Fitzy had posted a topic announcing that he’d been able to get his hands on the PC version! It seemed that it was already out on shelves at EB Games, well ahead of the street date. Reading his further updates on Monday, I figured it was worth seeing if any of my local stores had it in stock as well. I made a quick call to my mother, who was running some errands that day. I asked if she’d be able to phone around to see if it was available, and if so, pick it up for me while she was out and about, and I’d pay her back. It was, she did, and so a copy of NBA Live 06 was waiting for me when I arrived home from work that evening.
That topic ended up being inducted into our Hardwood Classics section, and it’s easy to see why. Looking back on it now, it’s pretty funny to see how many people didn’t believe Fitzy. I have to admit that my first reply wasn’t as enthusiastic as one might think, as for some reason I was focusing on the oddity of the situation rather than the opportunity. Some people flat out accused Fitzy of lying, suggesting that he’d faked the evidence. It’s weird that they just didn’t want to believe a game was released earlier than intended, especially when Fitzy was uploading screenshots. People will believe all kinds of crazy things, but somehow, that was apparently too far-fetched!
Another thing that stands out in that topic is just how many people were asking for Fitzy to pirate the game for them. Our rules regarding piracy have been in effect since the original Discus boards, but I’d forgotten how often people just ignored them, as well as how lax we were as far as issuing multiple warnings to stop asking. Over the years, we’ve become more diligent with warnings and bans, in part due to situations like that. Of course, it also emphasises how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Despite our rules being clearly established and posted, people will still ask for help with pirated copies of NBA 2K PC, usually with the same justifications.
So, once everyone got on board with the idea that Fitzy was being honest, and a few more of us had snagged copies of NBA Live 06 PC before we were meant to, the conversation turned to how and why it happened. Australian big man Andrew Bogut had been taken first overall by the Milwaukee Bucks that year, so there was some speculation that it played into the game being released here early. However, there was no official promotion of the early release, so that seems highly unlikely. I’ve always been under the impression that it was purely a mistake. It simply shipped to stores well before the release date, and accidentally hit shelves earlier than it should have.
Needless to say, it was a rare treat for us, especially considering we’d anticipated having to wait two or three more weeks before being able to play it. It was not only exciting to be able to get our hands on NBA Live 06 before the rest of the world, but inform our fellow Australians to check out their local EB Games if they wanted in on the action! In our excitement though, we overlooked the downside to spreading the word. Because it wasn’t meant to happen, EA Sports weren’t particularly happy about the situation. They let it slide, but it was the first and last time that we benefitted from a retailer breaking the street date on NBA Live. Perhaps we could’ve played it cooler.
Then again, we would’ve been foolish not to take advantage of the situation, and let each other know. It only happened that one time, but I have to admit that on top of really enjoying NBA Live 06 once I had the game, the excitement surrounding that unintentional early Australian release also contributes to my nostalgia for it. Back then, the preview season also held far more excitement than cynicism and scepticism for me, so the prospect of playing the game early and getting a head start on a roster update was extremely appealing. These days, I’ll admit to being more jaded, not to mention I’d expect a new game to change greatly after the inevitable Day One Patch.
On a more positive note, the situation has changed regarding international release dates. Over the years, the wait has been whittled down to a couple of days at most, and for the last few games, done away with completely. In fact, thanks to a larger number of gamers opting for digital copies, games are now often unlocked at the stroke of midnight in each time zone, facilitating earlier Australian releases (if only by a matter of hours). Stores like JB Hi-Fi have also made it a priority to deliver any pre-orders of physical copies on the actual release day, so we’ve been able to partake in the Early Tip-Off Weekends for NBA 2K with both the digital and disc versions.
It’s a much better arrangement and it’s preferable to the later worldwide releases that we and other countries had to endure, but that slip up with the Australian release of NBA Live 06 PC does make me a little nostalgic for that time. If nothing else, we’ll probably never see something like that again. Not only are most stores careful about those matters, but the move away from international release dates and introduction of time zone-specific unlocks mean that there’s little reason to hope for such a mistake. We’ll always have NBA Live 06 PC, though; the last release in the second Golden Age of NBA Live. Also, shout out to my Mum for the assist all those years ago!