Why NBA 2K’s popularity is balling

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NBA 2K has been popular since 2001. The video game continues to grow and has gained global popularity.  Photo courtesy of    2ksupport.com

NBA 2K has been popular since 2001. The video game continues to grow and has gained global popularity. Photo courtesy of 2ksupport.com

On Nov. 10, 1999, Sega Sports published “NBA 2K” on the Sega Dreamcast. From there, Sega would publish a new entry every year until developer Visual Concepts was sold to Take Two Interactive. Since 2005, all NBA 2K games have been published by 2K Sports, a division of Take Two. The franchise has sold over 90 million units across various platforms according to venturebeat.com.  

So why has the NBA 2K franchise been so popular? For starters, there are not a lot of competitors to NBA 2K in terms of basketball video games. The only other major company that is producing NBA video games is EA with their NBA Live Series. However, the franchise has been shaky in terms of releasing yearly entries and according to Polygon, EA will not be releasing NBA Live for this current NBA season and the reasoning is unclear.  

The 2K franchise has also been popular since it has been available on multiple video game consoles for a majority of its history. In 2001 with the release of “NBA 2K2,” Sega decided to release its games on other systems besides the Dreamcast. The Playstation 2, Gamecube and Xbox all got ports of “2K2,” and the game series has been multi-platform ever since.  

Online play has also been a major reason why the 2K series has been so popular. Starting with “NBA 2K1” in 2000, online play has connected millions of fans across the world and has allowed NBA fans to play against each other as their favorite players.  

In recent years, there have been complaints of “loot boxes” or randomized boxes with digital goods that can be purchased with real world money being a part of 2K games. In these loot boxes, gamers can collect playing cards of NBA players for a feature called “Ultimate Team.” In “Ultimate Team,” players can collect various cards of NBA players to build a customized team. Loot boxes are seen as targeting gambling to younger gamers, and it is a problem that has plagued other games such as “Overwatch” and “FIFA 19.”  

There was also criticism toward “NBA 2K20” when the launch of the game was buggy and needed to be patched. Online play was having errors at launch which caused fan outrage.  

Despite the controversy, NBA 2K is still a very popular gaming franchise. Take Two Interactive has started an esports league devoted to NBA 2K which can be streamed on Twitch. There also seems to be a correlation between a player’s rating in a 2K game and their on-court performance during the NBA season. According to an article from Complex, Portland Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside started playing better on the court when he was disappointed by his player score in 2K. 

With 2K’s popularity continuing to grow, it is hard to think of any other sports game franchise that has the global popularity that NBA 2K does. According to NPD, “NBA 2K20” was the best selling video game across all platforms for September 2019.  


Ian Ward is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at ian.ward@uconn.edu

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