It’s somewhat startling to look back just a few weeks and see evaluations of NBA 2K14 that did not mention alarming tactics instituted by 2K Sports that would greatly affect consumers. The game for all intents and purposes requires an online connection and VC has been baked into almost every mode in a way that detracts from the enjoyment of the product. Of course reviews also didn’t bother to check how worthless the Online Leagues were and whether online even ran properly, and they wouldn’t have caught a roster that went nearly two months without an update and crashing problems that began occurring for many a week or two later.
The way VC has been implemented has brought about the most outrage and those feelings are justified. 2K14 is a full retail $60 purchase that is designed in a manner to push consumers to spend additional money on it. In many cases it is not optional, forces gamers to decide on a single mode to fully invest in rather than being able to play in the fashion they so choose, and ultimately appears to determine where 2K directs their development resources.
VC, which stands for Virtual Currency and drive’s the game’s economy, has always been problematic ever since it debuted in NBA 2K13 and continued to 360/PS3 2K14. Now it has gotten even worse on the Xbox One/PS4. The currency system extends to the new Association mode, known as MyGM, while still being at the heart of MyTeam and a major factor in MyCareer. VC is universally pooled so spending VC in one mode will harm potential in another, and payouts for completing games and tasks organically have been restricted further.
Its effect on MyGM is immediately evident. VC must be spent to unlock abilities – even the most simple of things like changing the team’s rotation. More VC then has to be spent to utilize those abilities. Fail to meet a goal or do what the owner asks because you don’t want to spend the VC or don’t have it on hand and you’ll struggle and risk getting fired. Those who like to sim portions or all of their seasons will be unable to play the mode without spending money as simming does not grant any VC besides the minuscule amounts awarded for meeting season goals.
MyTeam of course is built around the VC model, in similar fashion to Ultimate Team modes in EA Sports titles, and if it were isolated there fewer would complain about it. That’s exactly what EA has done by not instituting a way to pay-to-succeed in its Franchise modes with the community wholeheartedly supporting that decision. It was actually a big point of contention a few years ago with the company assuring that microtransactions would not become a part of Madden’s Connected Careers. Here though 2K Sports chose to ignore consumer feedback and do what they thought would generate additional revenue without a care to how it would be received.
The Park, which can house 100 MyPlayer’s just walking around while a portion play on blacktop courts, was designed with VC in mind. Want to be able to compete in the setting? Spend money to upgrade your player. Want to avoid looking like a default scrub? Spend money and show off all your gear and accessories in front of others! In MyCareer why would anyone spend their hard earned VC, a year’s worth of games that might barely cover a pair of shoes and outfit, on such pointless things when they can use it to upgrade skills? Again a choice that has to be made or money that will be spent.
Design decisions have clearly been influenced by the presence of VC. Needing to constantly contact the 2K servers, to the extent that many of the features of the game can’t be played offline, is because of VC. Features like Online Leagues take a back seat because the company hasn’t figured out how best to monetize it or didn’t have time to implement VC in the fashion they would like just yet.
Forza 5 recently faced blowback on its microtransaction model, which was anything but “micro” considering one of the cars cost over $100 to purchase, and Turn 10 announced changes to the game’s economy would be made. 2K14 has not gotten the same level of publicity but discontent has begun to spread. Over on Reddit there is a huge discussion taking place about VC. Then there are even articles like this one from Cinema Blend that illustrate how reviewers either didn’t care about how VC is being put into use (which is distressing) or simply didn’t recognize what it meant for consumers (and that may be even worse).
Between complaints about the servers, crashing, rosters, and VC no sports game in recent years has generated such a conflicted reception from consumers as next-gen NBA 2K14. That an excellent game is buried under a multitude of serious problems and design decisions has elicited a very emotional response from those who purchased it. As it relates to VC the concern is about more than just this year with the direction of the series clearly becoming troublesome for fans. Without viable competition it could get even worse but fans now do have a way to voice their displeasure and hopefully that can be enough to enact change going forward.