NBA 2K20 has broken new ground, despite its many problems. The game suffered from a disastrous PR snafu after an influencer-heavy trailer for the game put the gambling mechanics on full display. As one could all but guarantee in this age of increased awareness and gamer outrage, the backlash was swift and predictable. The sports title was flooded with hashtags, negative reviews, and ranty YouTube videos by the hundreds, painting a seemingly grim picture for the launch of the new title.
Despite all of this backlash though, it appears as though the game is doing just fine. Even though physical sales, at least in the UK, are down by nearly 1/3 for NBA 2K20 versus last year, the overall sales numbers that include digital sales are higher than ever. There’s a lot of reasons for this shift at play here, but the chief takeaway is that the wider consumer market for video games appears at least somewhat unplugged from the controversy brewing within the more connected online fanbase that’s been lighting up social media with feedback.
It would appear as though this newer form of “slacktivism” isn’t all that effective. Because despite the glut of thousands of negative Steam reviews, sales are seemingly fine. On Steam, NBA 2k20 has over 1,300 reviews that are “Overwhelmingly Negative.” The Metacritic scores didn’t fair much better in retrospect, with hundreds of negative users scores poisoning the well. It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows though, as the game has undeniable issues.
Critical reviews have not been kind either. as one reviewer called it, ‘Microtransaction extravaganza 2020,’ with other reviews being very honest about the state of the game and the unforgivable greed on display. And given the entirely foreseeable and understandable rejection that elements of the gaming industry have shown for these gambling mechanics, it still boggles my mind that people continue to hand over their money.
NBA 2K is a franchise with little competition, which makes this whole thing even more sad. As 2K and EA have been firing billions of dollars at major sports entities to secure exclusivity, and having sold tens of millions of copies of their various yearly games, they still feel the need to shove in the overt and predatory gambling mechanics into their games. But that’s without even talking about the technical problems.
These issues have spawned a glut of Twitter threads alleging a variety of issues. Long loading times between games, a staple of 2K games in my experience on consoles with wrestling titles, are back once again. UI bugs seemingly litter the experience. Players in the MyTeam mode commonly experience problems with progression, having team members locked in unusable states.
Even one of the influencers featured heavily in promotions before release, YouTuber Kris London, chimed in. He claimed that the build he was shown promoting at the games’ event was not “what got released.”
There are some other elements added to NBA 2K20 that aren’t just straight gambling, like the new version of online and event-driven Neighborhood mode that pairs 3v3 matches with tons of mini-games. It’s likely that some of these additions helped buoy support for the 2K effort, but it’s easy to question by how much.