NBA 2K19
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Few publishers are quite as knee deep in the seedy world of microtransactions as 2K and its owner Take-Two Interactive. The latter even announced its intention last year to include microtransactions in all of its future games. On this front, they’re certainly succeeding, much to the dismay of fans. But those aforementioned microtransactions? They’re just “an unfortunate reality of modern gaming”, says 2K.

“Every game, at some point, in some way has currency and they’re trying to get additional revenue from each player that plays the game,” said Rob Jones, senior producer on the upcoming NBA 2K19, in an interview with Trusted Reviews. “You know, the question has to be when does it feel like it’s a straight money grab versus when does it feel like it’s value-added, right?”

We have to presume he’s totally oblivious to the thousands of games which don’t do this, including plenty in the AAA space. For example, The Witcher 3, Zelda: Breath of the Wild, God of War, Doom, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Wolfenstein, Divinity: Original Sin 2, Prey, or just about any of the most highly regarded games of the last few years. Nevermind the indie scene, where microtransactions get even less of a pass. But of course, ‘every game’ is out to get additional revenue.

Despite the above critical and commercial successes, from 2K’s point of view, it appears there is no choice but to compromise their vision of a game for the purpose of selling loot boxes and consumables. It is a necessity, apparently.

We’ll give Jones a pass for now though, because he at least recognises if microtransactions are in a game, they shouldn’t be “straight money grabs”, right?

“We know nowadays that most people don’t have the patience to work their way to the top,” Jones goes on to say. “They just wanna be there right away. So we look at it as an opportunity for us to allow you to skip the grind, but then if the grind is too long, like some people felt last year, they’re gonna sit there and they’re gonna go ‘well, you knew the grind was too long to begin with.” OK, perhaps he doesn’t get it then.

The message implicit in this interview is that 2K games wants there to be a grind in their games. A grind that isn’t too long but also isn’t too short. Just long enough to make paying to skip it a tempting proposition, but not too long to the point where it’ll piss a lot of players off. If they can’t see the compromise they’re making in their game design right there, that’s a little worrying. There are scales and 2K is actively weighing up milking more money versus the quality of the experience. If you’re wondering why the most critically acclaimed games in the world are where they are, it’s not because they play a deadly game of chicken with users’ wallets. They deliver a complete experience without compromise.

Who knows though, perhaps NBA 2K19 will right all of the wrongs of NBA 2K18. It’s not off to the greatest start but 2K Sports could yet spring a surprise.

NBA 2K19 is out on September 11th for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.