NBA 2K20's MyTeam Trailer
NBA 2K20 is the 21st entry in 2K Games' annual basketball franchise, NBA 2K. The last two entries in the franchise, NBA 2K18 and NBA 2K19, were both criticized for their underhanded monetization tactics by basing progression around microtransactions. On August 30th, 2019, 2K Games published the trailer for the game's MyTeam mode, which is basically the 2K equivalent of EA Sports' Ultimate Team modes.
Why This Trailer Sucks
- The elephant in the room is the mode itself, which revolves around opening card packs, aka the game's version of loot boxes.
- The trailer is basically advertising virtual casino themed mini-games, like a pachinko, slot machine, roulette wheels, ball drops, etc. This is literally glorified gambling!!
- As a result of this, some people jokingly described NBA 2K20 as "a casino game with a basketball mini-game inside it!"
- Out of the 1-minute 48-second trailer, only one-third of it shows any kind of actual gameplay.
- Though card packs and microtransactions are nothing new to the franchise, here it is far less subtle and more on-the-nose.
- There are two guys featured in the video (one of which is a basketball-centric YouTuber known as Cash Nasty), promoting the act of opening card packs. What's really deceptive though, is that 2K increased the odds of obtaining desired rewards for these two guys specifically to promote the fantasy of winning big. Not to mention that, upon looking closer at the game controllers, they appear to be turned off, implying that they're not actually playing the game in the first place which makes the trailer even more deceptive.
- The timing of this trailer is incredibly tone-deaf in the sense that earlier in the month, consumer advocates discussed with gambling committees the realization that influencers are being paid behind the scenes to promote modes like the one in this trailer. Not to mention that we are currently in an era where loot boxes and microtransactions are under heavy scrutiny from government bodies around the world.
- The way in which MyTeam mode will be set up pretty much expects players to make NBA 2K20 their full-time job in order to participate in these mini-games. This still ties back into the microtransactions the game will inevitably have when it launches.
- The trailer also makes it clear that the game itself will carry a PEGI rating of 3+/ESRB rating of E. In other words, 2K Games is selling glorified gambling mechanics to children, which should be illegal.
- The worst part, however, is that Strauss Zelnik, the CEO of the Take-Two Interactive (2K's parent company), is also a chairman of either the ESRB or ESA (one of those two). It is possible that he either bribed or convinced the rating boards to let the depiction of simulated gambling (and real gambling) slide with an E/3+ rating.
- Simulated gambling should be treated with a T/12+ rating, and real gambling with an AO/18+ rating, and yet here we are: a basketball-themed casino is considered "kid-friendly" by the rating board.
- Even more insulting is that Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow was released on the Virtual Console and slapped with a 12+ rating for a slot machine mini-game that cannot be fueled by real cash, is completely inconsequential to the overall narrative (unless you really want that Porygon), and is a small optional part of the game, yet a game depicting real gambling only gets a 3+ rating, showing just how irresponsible and apathetic they are towards the issue of gambling in video games.
Reactions from gamers were universally negative, with the ire being directed at the greater focus on the card packs themselves while the gameplay was being sidelined, and the portrayal of gambling mini-games to earn some of these card packs. Yongyea made three videos on the subject, the first analyzing the trailer itself, the second pointing out the ESRB's double standards when the Gen I Pokémon games were ported to the Virtual Console, and the third was on PEGI's weak attempt to justify the 3+ rating.
Angry Joe and Other Joe both decried the trailer for promoting the fantasy of winning rewards and slammed 2K for defying the current climate of loot box scrutiny. Joe also called for anyone who watched his video to boycott NBA 2K20 because of the trailer, something he has never done before until now.
The reactions were so overwhelmingly negative that 2K Games' official YouTube channels unlisted/took the trailer down. The only one remaining can be found on the official Xbox channel on YouTube.