NBA 2K22 is still a few months away, but continued leaks and bits and pieces of news about the title are only fueling the excitement of fans.
Unfortunately, that excitement could crash and burn if NBA 2K22 makes the mistake of neglecting players on PS4, Xbox One, and PC in favor of next gen.
NBA 2K22 will undoubtedly bring the heat on next gen
NBA 2K22 will be the first game in the franchise to simultaneously release on current gen and next gen platforms, but they did already dive into next gen last year.
When the next gen edition of NBA 2K21 was released, it brought a flurry of upgrades including MyNBA, The City, and all-new MyPLAYER builder system, and even new badges and takeovers.
These were all big steps for what many consider to be the leading sports gaming franchise today, and there's no doubt that 2K Sports and Visual Concepts will continue to build upon that this year.
With a full development cycle that included next gen now under their belts, it's likely that we'll see more improvements to each of those features from last year and some more new upgrades.
The introduction of the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S created a massive opportunity when it comes to the sheer power and technology that can be harnessed, and NBA 2K22 is sure to continue using all of that to the fullest extent.
PS4 and Xbox One players are still the majority
As exciting as all of these potential next gen improvements have been and will continue to be, they take the risk of neglecting a major chunk of the NBA 2K22 player base.
While the latter three make up a relatively small percentage of the NBA 2K player base, PS4 and Xbox One are a massive part of it.
Since the introduction of the Xbox Series X|S and PS5, they've struggled to take a significant chunk out of the console market due to a combination of economic and production issues that were all exacerbated by the global pandemic.
Whether it's because they can't find the console they want in stock anywhere or simply can't afford it, many players can't make the jump to next gen even if they want to.
Finding exact figures on what percentage of the market is taken up by current gen consoles is difficult, but a recent report by Finbold indicated the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S had sold just 13.72 million consoles combined.
Meanwhile, an analysis of all-time console sales by VGChartz showed that the PS4 and Xbox One alone have sold 165.91 million consoles in their lifespan.
Even without exact numbers, that potentially means there are over ten times as many gamers with access to the current gen NBA 2K22 than will have access to next gen NBA 2K22.
PC remains the black sheep of next gen
On top of the way PS4 and Xbox One are being left behind as things step forward, one unfortunate side casualty has been PC gamers who are enjoying titles primarily built for consoles.
When next gen started to take hold and the precedent was set of adding extra features to a next gen version of a game that launches on both current and next gen consoles, somehow PC got bundled in with the past rather than the future.
This has been understandably frustrating for PC gamers, especially those that take PC gaming seriously, as the average modern gaming PC can easily be as powerful as the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S, if not more powerful.
PC technology and capability has outpaced consoles for years, which makes the decision to restrict games like NBA 2K21 and potentially NBA 2K22 to only getting the current gen features on PC all the more baffling.
There are really two approaches that could've been better on PC during this transition period: you either only release the next gen version and increase the system requirements for the title or you release both current gen and next gen versions on PC with different system requirements.
Either of those choices would've been better than the alternative, which has further alienated the PC player base for NBA 2K21 and may continue to do that with the launch of NBA 2K22.
Many next gen features can work on current gen
The argument against bringing any of these next gen upgrades to current gen isn't a difficult ones, as developers simply insist that they were only possible due to the improved power of next gen consoles.
Unfortunately, that logic doesn't hold up for long under scrutiny, as very few next gen features seem truly handcuffed to next gen processing power.
Looking at Madden 22, they've littered it with next gen exclusives like Dynamic Gameday, but it's hard to argue that a momentum meter and Home Field Advantages inspired by an NCAA game from nearly a decade ago wouldn't work on current gen consoles.
MLB The Show 21, on the other hand, made their primary next gen feature a Stadium Creator, which is actually an understandable thing to require the processing power of the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S to run properly.
Stadium Creator needs the power not only to render and create these stadiums from scratch, but to load them in even when playing online against others using next gen platforms.
The City is arguably the closest to a feature in NBA 2K22 that might be difficult to pull off on current gen, especially without the introduction of crossplay, but even it feels manageable if the commitment was there to make it available on all platforms.
Even without that, the introduction of MyNBA balancing MyLEAGUE and MyGM, the added MyPLAYER builder system, and other new additions in NBA 2K21 all feel like things that NBA 2K22 can absolutely include for current gen gamers.
We should know more soon about NBA 2K22 once the trailer is revealed and details start to filter out, but it will be very telling whether they've chosen to simply forget current gen gamers and leave them behind.