It’s hardly surprising whenever we see 2K negatively portrayed in the news. After all, they are by no means a company of philanthropy. Their latest slamming has come after a Reddit post exposed NBA 2K19 ‘s overly aggressive implementation of adverts.
Normally the game gives players the opportunity to watch 2KTV whilst their game loads. Once 2K has loaded, you have the choice to skip into the actual game or continue to watch. Whilst not great, it serves as an okay time fill whilst the game loads in the background. After all, console loading times for NBA 2K19 are pretty bad. Recently though this has changed.
Players now are forced to sit there and continue to watch the advert, even though the game clearly states your match is ready. We’re talking about forced, unskippable adverts in a $60 retail AAA game. Sounds bad, right? What if I was to tell you that this latest development isn’t even close to being one of NBA 2K19 ‘s biggest problems.
It’s Just Business, Kid
Let’s talk about business models. Some games rely on predatory loot boxes to make money. Others use mobile like microtransactions to punish players who don’t want to spend money with an unfun grind. The worst of all is pay-to-win models that either hard lock content behind a paywall or make it near impossible to get. NBA 2K19 does all three of these things.
Loot boxes, or ‘Card packs’ as they’re adorably referred to as, are on offer in 2K’s MyTeam game mode. To keep things simple, MyTeam is basically NBA 2K19 ‘s version of Ultimate Team but worse in almost every way. A basic pack is usually around 6000 VC (virtual currency), which is just over $2. Of course, you’re never going to get anything of value out of a single basic pack. Instead, you’d probably have to invest into the currently available ‘Throwback East Super Pack 20 Pack Box’. Not just is that the most obnoxious name I’ve ever read, it costs 175,500 VC. That’s not too far off costing $50 for a single transaction.
MyTeam isn’t even the greediest game mode either. That honor truly belongs in the hands of MyPlayer, NBA 2K19 ‘s largest and most popular game mode. It’s the standard sports game part where you make your own player and pick how you want him to be. Think about how FIFA’s Pro Clubs works for comparison sake. MyPlayer is a bigger mode though with street basketball, Pro-AM, cage basketball, and the Rec Center all tied into it. Also, with FIFA you just make a player and play the game to improve him. Progression is based on your average match rating and gaining perks the more games you play. Finally, you can change your player from a GK to RB to LW at any time and keep your core progression.
None of that is possible in NBA2K19 ‘s MyPlayer. If you want to play a different position or try a different player type, you have to start all over again. This in itself is irritating but could be understandable and actually offer a quality progression model if done right. Unfortunately, it’s done as wrong as can be. A large amount of NBA 2K19 ‘s community will never build a player up actually playing games. Especially not their first player. It’s just not worth it. The grind is brutal and most definitely deliberate. So what to do if you can’t afford the time to chore through monotonous and repetitive MyCareer games in order to get a player that is even competitive online?
Don’t worry, 2K has got you covered. All you have to do is hand them a shiny $50 bill and they’ll be generous enough to let you use a player that won’t get destroyed in every online game. What’s that? You already paid $60 for the game at launch. True, but a company has got to make their money, you know? $60 just doesn’t feed the kids in 2019 but $110 per customer should be enough. Let’s just hope you don’t plan to want more than one player for the game’s one-year lifespan as that will cost you another $50, obviously.
Whilst content isn’t technically locked behind a paywall, it may as well be. Several cosmetic items in the game that can be shown off in The Neighborhood cost beyond ridiculous amounts. A Skateboard is 60,000 VC. Scooters are 75,000 VC. A bicycle will set you back a little more at 125,000 VC. Finally, a hoverboard costs 250,000 VC. That is a $60 cosmetic that lets you move around marginally quicker than running in a videogame. I have no doubt in my mind there are people who are perhaps more vulnerable to these kinds of business practices that have flushed money buying these things.
NBA 2k19 is a Bad Game
Perhaps the biggest sin committed by the critics that review these games annually is that they convince themselves the core game is actually good. Of course, even I’ll admit the gameplay whilst you are in a match is good enough and, at times, dare I say excellent. However, NBA 2K19 is not a well-made game and this is something reviewers and big YouTubers fail to mention all too often. Let’s go over some major problems with NBA 2K19. I won’t even have to try to put this list together.
- The archetype system is badly balanced. Niche builds serve no purpose, shooting builds are way too overpowered and lockdown defenders feel damn oppressive to play against at times.
- Steals are too frequent and easy. Hold the stick in passing lanes and spam the X button as soon as someone goes to pass and you’re guaranteed the ball most of the time. Fake passes are in the game but animations are so choreographed anyone decent can tell the difference between a real pass and a fake pass.
- If you buy the console version then expect horrendous lag and input delay when playing online most of the time. If you buy the PC version expect one of the worst optimized games you’ve seen in years. Regular crashes, freezing, frame drops and platform specific bugs galore. For example, going into an online game without first completing a practice drill will cause a game crash after you finish for seemingly no reason. This is not a problem on console but has plagued PC for the last two years.
- Despite 2K’s attempts to push NBA 2K19 as an eSport, there is no real skill ceiling. The meta is to set up generic shooters around one ball handler as everyone just stands there and watches one guy carry them to victory. The center at least gets to screen for him, I suppose.
- The PC version has shocking levels of anti-cheat present. Players can run around with mutated arms, 10 ft bodies and speed that would put Usain Bolt to shame but no action is taken. However, if 2K finds someone buying VC via third-parties they are instantly permabanned without the chance to protest. 2K’s focus on money over the quality of their product is obviously the cause of this.
- Whilst most players do choose to play in the 2K camera view, those that use Broadcast are put at an objective disadvantage. Frame rates can drop by up to half when using this perspective.
- Attempting to edit kits and team identity in Pro-AM has a high chance of crashing your game. This was also a problem in NBA 2K18 that never got fixed.
- The MyTeam Auction House is broken more than its functions.
- It got removed eventually, but shoving was a stupid mechanic. For those not in the know, you could run up and push people out of the way to create space for teammates. If done right, you wouldn’t get called for a foul and there’s nothing the recipient could do to avoid it. This was a mechanic for over six months.
- The takeover system was a good idea but is not executed well. During your takeover, all primary stats go up by 10 and your secondary stats go up by 5. Your archetypes primary badges also become more effective. For some builds like playmakers and rim protectors, this works well. However, Post Scorers gain the ability to literally throw their match up out of the way for a free basket every time. Lockdown defenders only need to glance at you and you’ll drop the ball immediately. Shot creators become complete basketball players that can do everything.
- Stat boosts shouldn’t be a thing. The archetype system becomes pointless because you can buy boosts and gain the ability to do things outside of your archetype consistently. It’s not uncommon to see max height, max wingspan Glass Cleaners, and Rim Protectors shooting 40-50% from the 3 like they’re Klay Thompson.
I sit here looking at NBA 2K19 ‘s 83 on Metacritic and wonder how. Whilst an okay basketball simulator in its own right, the vile business model and questionable design choices make it a 4/10 at best. This isn’t just a blind hate piece either aimed at 2K. It’s a love letter begging for something to change. NBA 2k19 could have been one of the best games of the year with relatively minor changes. Just bug fixes, anti-cheat implementation, and laying off the scummy business practices would already put its score up to at least an 8 or 9. Sadly, this latest move to sell the game for nothing on sale and then force new customers to watch adverts summarizes the actual future you can expect for NBA 2K19 and its sequels. Until EA show real intent to compete with its NBA Live series, nothing will change. 2K knows customers are willing to pay ridiculous money into their product, even if they do nothing. There’s no motivation for them to try and be more pro-consumer. Until we put a foot down and act with our wallets they will never care.