If you would have told me a year ago that EA Basketball would have an in-road to the most hardcore of the basketball gaming crowd without releasing an NBA game in roughly 24 months, I would've called you crazy.
But here we sit, 2K Sports' flagship (and really just about only) title still has proven it can't do online well. While fixes are abound, we all know the most important period for the game is in the first few weeks. After all, what happens to Battlefield 3 or Call of Duty if it's game servers continually crash the first week after the game is released?
Yeah, that wouldn't be pretty either.
I've written extensively about how 2K Sports is in a precarious position -- and I don't like to say that -- but they're one great NBA Title from EA away from being out of the game for good. 2K Sports has always set the sports simulation bar (and they're good for business here at OS), but I'm officially putting them on the endangered list after the events of the past week.
2K Sports flagship title promised huge updates to My Player (underwhelming), Online (non-functional at least half the time), and to the Legends mode (a second dip into novelty, can't last forever). A lot of the focus this year has gone by the wayside because a lot of the new additions have basically fallen flat on their face.
The lockout has something to do with a bit of a cold attitude among many about 2K12, but also creating such a good game last year is something else you can't discount as a reason for the discontent this year.
NBA 2K11 was the pinnacle of this series, and the follow-on attempt was going to be met with huge expectations. In many ways, 2K12 delivers but in many others, it disappoints heavily. Some gamers are saying the game is a huge disappointment -- it's not because the gameplay or presentation are lacking.
The gameplay and presentation this year are unmatched in our genre. Actually get into a game of basketball in 2K12 and you'll find an experience more enjoyable than most any other games out there. It's to the games credit that with some of it's game modes essentially broken, the game STILL got an 8.5 on our new scoring scale.
That's a HUGE accomplishment all things considered.
At the same time, gameplay and presentation are things which can always be improved but eventually -- especially if you have competition -- people are going to grow tired of it. It happens with real broadcasts much less in a video game where the rules are more static. Watch an NBA broadcast from 5 years ago and one from today, there are several subtle if not outright differences in how games are presented. Narrow the ability for variety and you'll see why video game presentations are always in constant danger of becoming stale.
While 2K12 offers a gameplay/presentation package pretty much unmatched, the rest of the game is completely vulnerable, especially the online modes. The folks at EA Tiburon have to keep that in mind. EA's new NBA Title set for release next year should focus on Online Play. Thus, a smooth and balanced gameplay experience with a solid presentation should be their primary focus. You don't have to beat NBA 2K13 in quality to be a success -- but you do have to offer an alternative to the marketplace people will find value in.
The door is wide open. If EA succeed where 2K fails time and time again -- with online -- then the NBA 2K series' fate will already be sealed.
If EA gets that in-road into the hardcore basketball gamers heart next year, NBA 2K will simply biding it's time until EA overtakes them in sales. 2K has to fix the servers this year ASAP to just get some goodwill back. And next year, they have to deliver from day one. Another year of failing at online, especially in the face of a competitor that is serious about winning the digital NBA arms race, will spell total disaster.
NBA 2K, you've been put on notice. You are basically the Lebron James led Cleveland Cavaliers, good enough to win and win big in the regular season -- but when the playoffs come around, you've got some serious flaws that your competition can take full advantage of.
If NBA 2K's vulnerabilities aren't solved and soon, the 2K Sports brand isn't long for this world.
Chris is the Executive Editor at Operation Sports and hosts the OS Radio show. He is a Jesus-Freak, Entrepreneur, Speaker, Stom Chaser, owner of the Tornado Titans Brand, and generally an incredibly busy man. You can follow Chris @ChrisSnr on Twitter.