I started playing basketball video games around 2013. Y'know, the one where MJ was the cover star? Started with a game between the '92 Bulls and the '92 Hornets? That was when the games used SP, or skill points, and not the VC, or virtual currency, that we know and occasionally criticise today. Those were the days. I also got introduced to Madden around this time as well. These games use buttons you never seemed to use. Like the square was shoot, the triangle was a lob pass. It was like PES had taken the wheel of American Sports games. I knew Live was a game in the 00s, but was way too occupied with the entire FIFA situation from 03-09. Then got bored of it all and ventured into the land of adventure games and mobile RPGs. However, with the emergence of NBA 2K18 and Live 18 around the same time last year and the hype for 2K19 just beginning, let's take a look at how the two have contrasted over the years and what it means for the basketball video game community.
NBA and Football (or Soccer, ugh) simulators have become a big talking point for the gaming community, but with the FIFA community taking other roads with their hard-earned coin money, the time for basketball games to take the spotlight is now, what with the growing popularity of the Basketball video game leagues, which I will talk about later in this post. With FIFA YouTubers/Gamers becoming a dying breed, getting into NBA might be a good choice for the gaming community, like TBJZL, look him up. This guy has two channels and dedicates one to FIFA and daily vlogging, whilst the other looks after the indie gaming and non-FIFA games, like NBA 2K. Now this may be his game of choice compared to the recently re-ignited Live Series, but don't be surprised if you see a bit of NBA Live content and the career mode it will eventually announce at either E3 or EA Play this month.
Live was such a juggernaut for basketball in the late 90s and 2000s. What went wrong?
Between the years of 1995 and 2010, there was real chance that the Live franchise was going to overtake the 2K franchise with their smooth and modern gameplay. However, Live didn't really start until 94 and, previously, there wasn't really a basketball game that could rival for the King of the Mountain. It's predecessor, NBA Playoffs, was a single series with the two teams that happened to be in the NBA Finals at the time, each year boasting new and revolutionary concepts which included signature player moves, co-op play, instant play and player licenses, something that wouldn't even be worth thinking about in today's Current Gen console discussion. With the Live series forever growing into the new era, it took a long time, for me, to see if ANY game could rival that of the Live series.
Then, along came 2K Entertainment, and, as you can expect with a new company, it took quite a while for the franchise to be the juggernaut that it is today. So new was the game, that they had to make up fictional names for the commentators on the game because of copyright. It wasn't until 2K5, and a failed ESPN one off series later, that that game had decided to find it's feet in the gaming world, with actual genuine commentators and sports personalities being available, without the need to go all JK Rowling in a basketball game. Between 2K7 and 2K10 is where the takeover for 2K would begin, with the introduction of new game modes, original soundtrack choices and cover athletes that were relevant to the game at the time, like Derrick Rose as part of the Draft Combine cover with Kobe Bryant in 2010 when he won the MVP.
This would then sky-rocket the 2K brand to parts unknown, from the introduction of Ronnie2K. This man's new approach to getting the games into the public eye have revolutionised how we see the 2K games. He has introduced new ways of playing the game with mobile apps and online adjustments, an idea that EA's Live didn't even perform until Live 16 came out in Mid-2015, where Mr 2K was performing this in 2012.
The final nail in Live's coffin would be the cancellation of one of their new era games in 2012. 2K was so Live at this point, that EA saved themselves a lot of marketing overhaul. This particular year involved three cover athletes (Harden, Curry, and Davis) and involved a lot more PR and Promotional content with the three superstars. Now, EA have stated that it was due to the game's "disappointing development" that this particular game was cancelled. However, with Ronnie now at the helm of the 2K ship, new game modes and teams added every year and the addition of socially relevant sports athletes, it seems like there would have been no slowing down for 2K, even if Live had performed the best PR, Promotional, and Development campaigns of which it had lacked in previous years.
Personally, I will see how both games coincide with one another. How they will differ. How they will see in which to overcome each other's best shots. One thing is for certain, however. With the World Cup just around the corner, how many people do you think are more interested in the NBA Offseason?