NBA 2K has long been the unquestioned leader among basketball games as NBA Live has failed to keep up with 2K’s popularity.
Of course, NBA Live hasn’t always helped itself in delaying games, cancelling them altogether in order to focus on making one really good game, and then failing to make progress after a promising release. Take NBA Live 16, 18 and 19 for examples of that.
Now, we’re meant to be playing NBA Live 20 alongside NBA 2K20, but where is the game? EA said it would be delayed in July, supposedly until sometime between October and December, but since then we’ve heard nothing and have been left to wonder whether we’ll even get the game this year.
Be that as it may, we can still look forward to the next NBA Live game, whenever that may come. If EA are going to take their time, they should spend some of that time finding out what makes 2K so popular, and unpopular, in order to make a true competitor.
So, what can NBA Live learn from 2K?
1. Give the player more options
One of NBA 2K’s calling cards is the number of game modes available and the level of customization to your player in game.
This could be a knock of multiple EA sports titles, in that they are all limited, pretty much, to Ultimate Team, online head-to-head, and franchise/career modes. While 2K provides a host of game modes exclusive to just your player’s career, alongside online play now, franchise and a collector mode.
What’s more, the depth of character customization in 2K is unmatched in virtually any game and it significantly sets the franchise apart.
All in all, giving the player options to really customize their experience in terms of what and how they play and the physical appearance of the game is key. Basketball gives the player a huge amount of customization to let your unique personality and style shine, and EA must harp on that.
2. Off-field depth in ‘The One’
For a long time, NBA 2K’s ‘MyCareer’ mode has stood out from all career mode games with its level of gameplay and off-field depth, making you feel like a true NBA player and giving you a glimpse of life as a professional athlete.
EA has made a very concerted effort, and done a pretty good job, of creating similar experiences across their titles, most notably ‘The One’ in NBA Live. The one shortcoming is the off-field experience.
The One just can’t match the depth of MyCareer. Admittedly, it would be hard to find new ways of adding significant depth without seemingly copying what 2K does, but this should be a top priority. The One was a huge step for NBA Live but still feels a little too shallow and the progression is too linear.
3. Improve the A.I.
Another huge draw for 2K is the on-court experience. It really feels like a balanced basketball game thanks in large part to the adaptive, smart A.I. that learns your tendencies and strategies to adjust to your play style and give you a legitimate challenge.
While that is a feature that is better suited to experienced users and hardcore basketball gamers, it represents an important step for NBA Live if they are to compete to be the number one basketball sim on the market.
Their A.I. is clumsy, slow and sometimes downright stupid. While this makes it easier for beginners to settle into the game it gets frustrating in single player and makes the game feel clumsy overall, ruining the experience.
Making an effort to improve the play and intelligence of the A.I. is a critical step in improving the franchise.
4. Make it more real
This ties in with the previous point but is focused more on the appearance of the game.
In terms of player faces, save a few horror shows in both titles, it is a case of splitting hairs to separate them. Where 2K shines in comparison is the players’ bodies and the uniforms.
Players’ bodies look real and accurate, their uniform looks independent to their body and like a real uniform being worn. NBA Live struggles to make accurate and diverse body types and the jerseys almost look like part of the players’ bodies at times.
What’s more, the physics and mechanics of the ball and players are better in 2K. Overall it makes 2K feel like a real basketball sim and like you’re on an NBA court.
NBA Live’s shortcomings in these areas make the game feel more like an arcade game and it dampens the user experience looking for a true basketball sim. If they can clean this up that would be a huge step.
5. Stay away from microtransactions
NBA Live has already removed a virtual pay wall in microtransactions and allowed players to progress and improve in the game without spending more money. This is great.
Meanwhile NBA 2K still have the same issue of having immense pay walls up that make it almost impossible to avoid paying something extra.
EA must ensure they continue to stay well away from this and find as many ways to give players the ability to progress on the court and off the court in a natural way with gameplay.