Some Things Never Change: Thoughts On The NBA 2K21 Demo

It’s about that time of year again for the new batch of sports games to come out. We’ve just had PGA Tour 2K21 release, Madden NFL 21 is coming out in a few days, and soon we’ll have NBA 2K21 to go along with them. With this new NBA game coming soon, 2K Games have released a demo for both Xbox and Playstation consoles. Unfortunately, from the looks of this demo, we’ll be getting something more or less the same as the previous NBA 2K game. And that, really, is disappointing.

Same game, new cover

If you’ve heard anything of the fan outrage at the new NBA 2K21 demo, you’ll know that fans are mad about the changes. That is, the lack of any real changes. For yet another year, we were promised big changes in the next 2K game. And, yet again, we’ve come away with nothing. As many fans have said, the studio is essentially charging $60 or $70 dollars for a roster update.

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It’s not like this is anything new. As I’ve said, basketball fans such as myself have been sold the same product for pretty much 4 years now. But, somehow, this one feels like a bigger deal. Other sports games have similar issues; I know that fans of Madden or FIFA face similar problems. I think the issue here is that fans are not only unhappy with what they’re getting: they’re also sick of being lied to. Many think that there hasn’t been a great NBA 2K game since 2K17. Yet, despite this lack of enthusiasm about their product, 2K Games have rolled out a near identical game annually since 2K18. While other sports games may suffer from the same “copy and paste” issue, they’re at least transparent with their fans. Or, they don’t flat out lie.

Gaming monopolies

The big problem is, games like NBA 2K21 face little or no competition for sales. Yes, EA continues to put out NBA Live games, but these are almost hilariously under-developed when compared to any counterpart 2K game. Herein lies the essential problem. There’s a list here of some of the best sports games of the 2018/2019 season. This list contains the games FIFA 19, NHL 19, NBA 2K19, and WWE 2K19. Notice anything about that list? There aren’t any games from the same sport on the list. Games companies, as of late, seem to have a monopoly on the games for a particular sport. And this is a big problem.

There are very few sports for which EA or 2K Games, the two biggest sports game developers, face any real competition. Sure, both of these companies produce a basketball game. But, as I said earlier, there’s no real choice here: most basketball fans will pick NBA 2K. Without competition from another company, sports games can become stagnant with development. They no longer have to present new and exciting ways to play, and are instead able to make minor visual tweaks while changing the team rosters. Some of the best years of football/soccer video games were born out of the rivalry between FIFA and PES. These rivalries are now almost non-existent. Without competition, games companies are content to spend the minimum required to put out a new game, and still reap vast profits.

Hopes and dreams, for not-so-distant future

The one hope fans can have is that there’ll finally be a change. Whether prompted by a lack of sales, or by fear of an up-and-coming competitor, developers may finally be forced to start being innovative again. If fans continue to be disappointed with games, just as many of us are with NBA 2K21, then we may find some luck in forcing changes. I know this sounds optimistic; after all, why would developers choose now to make a change to their usual strategy? Hopefully, the disappointment fans have will finally translate into a dip in sales. Maybe, just maybe, this dip will be big enough for somebody to notice. It could be big enough to finally to finally bring about change.

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Will Hitchcock

Games writer. 'Nuff said.

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