The gaming landscape has changed dramatically over the past few seasons in regards to loot boxes and micro-transactions. So much so that governments around the world have begun to take notice with some countries enacting legislation to prevent such in-game mechanics. Unfortunately, it looks as though Take-Two Interactive, owner of both Rockstar and 2K, either did not get the memo or is simply too tone deaf to care. NBA 2K20 just released its introduction to its MyTeam mode’s newest features, and the reception has been critical to say the least.
As someone who has been a huge supporter of the 2K franchise dating back to 2006, it is disappointing to see inclusions like a slot machine and mini games focused on earning in game currency. The focus should be on the sport itself though that is evidently wishful thinking. Even modes like myGM, which is one of the most realistic and detailed management modes in the sports genre, has seen its fair share of invasive micro-transactions.
In fairness, micro-transactions in a basic form is not necessarily the problem. Sure, they are an irritating and over-zealous cash grab attempt, but as long as the products are offered in a way that enhances your enjoyment without intrusively inhibiting or forcing your participation, the final decision ultimately rests with the user. Unfortunately, a good portion of players enjoying NBA 2K20 are minors, and the micro-transactions or properly termed, gambling mechanics, are a step too far and could result in wide-reaching consequences.
Take-Two was responsible for the recent addition of a full casino in Grand Theft Auto 5 only a few weeks ago. Yet, unlike NBA 2K20, GTA 5 is rated M, albeit for other reasons. Yet, young teenagers should not be “theoretically” playing that game. As a young kid playing NBA Live 2005, it would have been unfathomable to have been interacting with the gambling mechanics that are on display in the above trailer. The most addicting aspect of NBA Live 2005, which was published by EA, was trying to properly execute a dunk in the All-Star Dunk Contest mode.
Take-Two should be truly worried about the negative backlash it is already receiving, and the chance that it is taking with regulatory bodies. Congressmen and congresswomen in the United States have already started work towards restricting such gambling and loot box mechanics in video games. An industry that has been self-regulated just might lose that freedom due to its own greed. The ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) must step up in regards to 2K’s decision with its MyTeam mode. There is undoubtedly too little being done to prevent exposure to young players.
It is disheartening to see companies be so thick-headed in the pursuit of monetary success. If Take-Two wishes to go ahead with these mechanics, then the rating would technically need to be Mature, which would be an embarrassment for a basketball simulation and could cost the company millions. There is just no need. Freedom of expression and the ability to create unique experiences in games is in part due to the legislative freedom of the industry. Now, that same industry is running the risk of losing its independence due to a select few companies needing to stretch their wallets to impress shareholders.
One saving grace comes courtesy of the video game hardware companies. Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft have all agreed to take action against loot box and gambling mechanics in the titles on their platforms. They determined to require publishers to disclose the drop rates of loot boxes, which will provide more information to the user. This step would not affect the slot machine inclusion in NBA 2K20, but the decision could lay the groundwork for future restrictions.
The most important response, however, may come from the players themselves. After all, some publishers have been forced to backpedal as a result of harsh criticism towards invasive micro-transactions. One need only look at EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II debacle.
If enough players show their outrage over this issue, Take-Two and 2K may be forced to reassess its inclusion. The chances taken by publishers is far too common, but it is no less infuriating when it occurs.
*Photo Credit- UnSplash: Alex Haney