It’s easy to forget that NBA 2K18’s launch was mired in microtransaction controversy. Once Star Wars Battlefront II released, EA’s practices regarding microtransactions and loot boxes took NBA 2K18’s place under the microscope. However, the sports game’s troubling roll out does not deserve a pass. If anything, it warrants more attention.
Players earn Virtual Currency (VC) through many of the game’s play modes. VC is then spent on upgrading skills for a MyCareer character, and managing MyTEAM and MyGM. This system has been in place for many years. Last year saw the wheels fall off the wagon, though. Pay-to-win issues took their toll as earning VC grew difficult. For instance, the success of a MyCareer character relies on skills added to their overall stats. The better this character plays, the more VC players earn. But if a character doesn’t play well because they don’t have the necessary skills, enough VC isn’t earned to upgrade their stats. Such a cycle promotes the pay-to-win model.
Game Informer’s interview with Take-Two CEO, Strauss Zelnick, broached the subject. When asked about how the publisher is responding to the backlash, Zelnick says,
“Unquestionably we pay attention to consumer response because we’re so focused on engaging and captivating and entertaining the consumer. Any time we get feedback that is anything less than 1,000-percent positive, we stop and say, what should we do differently? I think there’s a small sliver of the consumer base that basically wants everything for free, we can’t really help those people. I think most consumers just want a fair deal and we do think that part of a fair deal is, you know when you get the check at the end of the meal, it’s not enough that the food tasted good, it has to be a fair deal for what you got. So we’re very focused on it being more than a fair deal; we want to give consumers much more than they paid for.”
Zelnick continues, adding that the company learns with each release. Balancing monetization with the rest of a gaming experience is no easy task.
“We do learn every time and we have to balance monetization with the experience. In our case, we sort of all regrouped and said, wait, let’s remind ourselves that we’re in the business of creating the best entertainment on Earth, across all types of entertainment. We’re focused on engaging and captivating consumers. If we do that right and that’s our entire focus, the revenues and the profits will probably take care of themselves, so let’s not overemphasize those. So I’m asking questions now like does big data and having lots of data scientists on your team allow you to enhance your monetization? And the answer is, technically I suppose that would be the case, but are you a monetization company or are you an entertainment company? We’re an entertainment company and when we get that right, everything else flows from it.”
Because Grand Theft Auto Online handles this so well, perhaps there are lessons to be learned that are worth applying to the next NBA 2K release. We’ll see how it all pans out when NBA 2K19 launches on September 11.
[Source: Game Informer]