I want to preface this opinion piece by stating I’m not going to write this and pretend that I speak for all gamers. I speak for only one gamer: me. So the opinions in this article are my own. Feel free to counter my opinions with your own. I am a big NBA fan and I am a big NBA 2K fan. I remember getting NFL 2K and NBA 2K when I got my Sega Dreamcast and putting hours and hours into these games. My friend Josh and I would play NBA 2K at my grandmother’s house every single day. We would make the most outrageous created players with awful attributes and try to outplay each other. I have purchased every single NBA 2K game when it launched. Typically when they announce the new edition of NBA 2K, I am excited. Not this year. When this year’s edition of NBA 2K21 was revealed, it came with a catch. Next-generation pricing for this game would see a price increase of $10, bringing the game to $70. As of this opinion piece, Take-Two is the only company to commit to the new $70 price tag. In fact, Ubisoft has gone on the record saying their upcoming titles this fall would be priced at $60 but they did leave the door open for price increases in the future.
Take-Two CEO, Strauss Zelnick, said the price hike “reflects the quality of the experience.” Well if I’m going to be honest, the experience with NBA 2K and other Take-Two titles have been lacking in recent years. I’m not saying they are not successful because from a monetization standpoint, they absolutely have been, but from a gamer satisfaction standpoint, I would argue they have been unsuccessful. I’m also not saying the actual quality of the gameplay mechanics have not increased, because they have. However, from the overall game quality, I feel it has been lacking.
As I stated before, I look forward to each release of the NBA 2K franchise. My go-to modes are MyCareer and MyLeague/MyGM. I like taking ownership of a team or a created player. I do not play the MyTeam mode. In fact, I stay away from this type of game mode in every sports franchise. I understand it is popular, but it does not interest me. For the most part, MyLeague and MyGM can be played and be enjoyable without any additional purchases. MyCareer however, has been ravaged by microtransactions. When you create your MyCareer player, you suck. You are no good. The game doesn’t force you to pay to make your player better, but paying certainly increases the amount of fun you will have.
Let me make this clear: I am out of shape and short. I have a very limited set of athletic skills. I should not be better at basketball in real life than my NBA 2K counterpart, but more often than not, without paying for skill upgrades, I am better than my NBA 2K counterpart. If that bar was truly that low for getting into the NBA and there was a team in need of a 5’7” out of shape dude, I’d go for it. Dallas Mavericks, are you reading this?
In this career mode, I am expected to believe that my newly created player is ready for the NBA but I can’t even make a layup or simple jumpshot without boosting my attributes first. Sure, I can play the game and unlock the in-game currency, but the rate of progression is so slow that it is truly a grind. It would take me almost an entire season or longer just to get to the level of some of the other rookies in this rookie class. Not every new player is going to be Luka Dončić or Zion Williamson, but can’t my new created player in this MyCareer mode at least be as good as Adam Morrison or Anthony Bennett?
What I am trying to say is, the CEO of Take-Two believes the price increase is justified because the quality of the experience has gone up. I would argue the experience has gone down and this is not limited to just NBA 2K. This applies to other Take-Two games such as Grand Theft Auto Online and Red Dead Online. I am fully aware that people love and play these games. There is no way I can convince you these games are unsuccessful because they are very successful both critically and financially. However with a broken in-game economy and the need to grind to purchase the “free” updates makes it a chore. I’m not sure if this price increase means we will see less in-game monetization and I am not going to begin to speculate. I have no idea what the executives at Take-Two are planning behind closed doors. However, what I can say is, if prices do increase across the board and in-game monetization remains the same, I will be more selective with my game purchases. $10 is not a lot, but over the course of a console generation, it can really add up.