The uproar over VC in NBA 2K18 has now reached the mainstream

Posted September 25th, 2017 at 1:00 pm

It took long enough to get to this place from a coverage standpoint, but NBA 2K is starting to be recognized as a real video game that sells eight million copies and generates hundreds of millions in digital revenue annually and not “just a sports game.” Major media websites and Youtube personalities with massive followings have jumped all over NBA 2K18 for its aggressive implementation of Virtual Currency and for the first time in recent memory publisher 2K Sports is taking fire from all directions. 

VC goes all the way back to NBA 2K13 but it was with the disastrous NBA 2K14 that 2K Sports had to make their first course-correction. Due to unreliable servers and a push to make the game “always-online” with VC in mind, consumers went weeks at a time where the game was largely unplayable. After that at least the likes of MyLeague were left uninfluenced by VC but its role elsewhere has stayed the same or grown.

Consumers have grumbled about VC and its impact on the games but ultimately the masses have expressed either indifference or acceptance. That is, until now, with NBA 2K18.

The Metacritic score for 2K18 is lower than both 2K17 and 2K16, due in large part to just a handful of outlets that have penalized the game over it’s microtransaction-heavy design. It’s the user reviews however which demonstrate a greater wave of objection. The PlayStation 4 version has a user-score of 2.1 and Xbox One is at 1.6. It’s also getting hammered on Steam where reviews are “mostly negative.” This is all based on anger over VC and/or the loss of MyPlayer characters which have cost them time and money.

It’s fascinating to see mainstream video game websites and Youtube personalities (examples here and here) that don’t even play sports games now covering the situation with VC as though it’s something that was just discovered. What made it easier this year was the more absurd examples, such as hair styles costing up to 1500 VC without even the ability to preview how they look and with the loss of any styles purchased prior when a new one is bought. Make no mistake about it though, VC has heavily influenced the game’s design for a number of years now.

If 2K only cared about creating a compelling and fun career mode, they wouldn’t start players at 60 Overall where they’re lucky to even make layups. They do that because it pressures players into paying to make their character fun to use. If 2K only cared about balanced competition, they wouldn’t place low rated characters into online games against maxed-out characters. They do that to create the situation where you need to pay in order to even compete online. If 2K cared about a realistic experience, they wouldn’t pool together VC to be used on both attributes and cosmetic items or across multiple modes. They do that to create conflicts that are more easily resolved by spending money.

2K Sports will definitely be making adjustments after all this but VC is here to stay. Features like The Neighborhood have been built as a longterm play to encourage more spending. What 2K has to do is get back to making fun the priority, instead of penalizing people who don’t pay extra money by making the game less enjoyable at the start. They can accomplish that while still finding ways to generate digital revenue.

What’s also certain though is that reviewers and consumers are very aware now of the tactics being utilized by 2K Sports and the harm that has been done to the game in the process. Next year NBA 2K19 will be scrutinized far more heavily leading up to and through its release, as the company’s response to the backlash will be watched closely by all.

  • MoneyMayweather

    Hungry andrew any words?

  • alex

    2K thought they were invincible and could get away with anything. Good to see people finally saying enough is enough.

    • Keith.

      Pasta’s been writing these scare tactic stories on 2K for years. Meanwhile, 2K’s sales keep going up, from 1-2 million per year to 8.5 million last year. My guess is they’ll hit 9 million this year when all is said and done. So you might want to wait a bit before celebrating.

      • Yes, god forbid someone hold companies accountable for screwups and not just pretend they are perfect.

        • Keith.

          Ask Rich if he considers VC being used to fund development of all of these different, fully featured modes to be a “screwup” and get back to me. When sales/revenues keep going up, seems like the market is happy with the approach.

          Maybe I’m the idiot here, but neglecting your career and franchise modes to the point where sales decrease or remain flat every year, sure seems like the bigger “screwup” to me.

          • Even Rich admits there’s a line that can be crossed (talked about it in the review roundtable episode from Friday) and that line is determined by consumers and it appears we’re seeing it drawn now. If they push too much, they risk pushing people away not just presently but from future purchases/spending.

          • Keith.

            I must’ve missed Rich’s comments. I thought I heard him say he didn’t have a problem with it (consistent with his free market attitude in general), but after he was given only 30 seconds or so and the mic got passed back to Owen Goode or Millenium (can’t recall which), I realized I’d heard enough and shut it off. If Rich said something critical later, then my bad. But I’d think he’d let the sales numbers do the talking.

          • Keith.

            And as far as letting the “consumers” do the talking, EA employs more than 500 Game Changers at last count, none of whom ID themselves as GC’ers here. How many of those guys do you think are making noise about VC?

          • Glen Willett

            LOL @ 500ish Game Changers not only being solely focused on pushing this issue, but being enough to get it to the level of exposure it’s gotten to now. Pasta linked two mainstream YouTubers who don’t even play sports games. Are they secret EA operatives too? How about the multiple thousands of upvotes those videos have on YT and Reddit? Is it that same team of 500 that’s boosting those numbers too?

            Get your tinfoil hat out bruh, the sky appears to be falling.

          • Darrin

            What I’ve been saying for years! Once the line has been crossed (it now has) people will stop buying to product. I for one am not buying NBA 2K or any company that puts items that were already in the game behind a paywall. I hope 2K can change it but the damage has already been done. I don’t play online at all in any game but this it just ridiculous. Why have a paywall when I’ve already spent $60 on the game? Do people just not realize this at all? I understand the free to play games charging but AAA titles like this I already spend the better part of $100.. Micro transactions is ruining gaming and if it keeps getting worse well I guess I’m going to have to find a different hobby and it kills me to say because I love gaming.

      • HG

        I don’t frequent these pagers daily but when I’ve been on I’ve generally agreed with you when the trolls would go after you…but you’re acting as if extorting customers is not bad for the game, in fact you seem to suggest that it’s great because it funds innovation in the game. Really? So no innovation before VC arrived?

        You’ve crossed the line from passionate fan to irrational fanboy so I’m off the Keith bandwagon

        • Darrin

          I think you forgot to mention that us consumers have already spent $60 on the game which is a lot of money. I’ve lowered my new game purchase to 2 a year because it’s becoming to much to enjoy a full game now. I don’t buy micro transactions or anything and the games are having less and less content for that $60 price..

      • Khadeem

        You contrarian SOB. Shut up. That is all

    • MoneyMayweather

      well the fans made em feel that way all the live hate all the 2k is best game ever notion that most people had in their minds don’t be mad at 2k for the fans bending over for 2k and proclaiming the heavyweight champs. I always loved 2k but you got rabid fans like hungry andrew who trolled EA sports and NBA live and put this air under 2k like they were gods gifts to NBA basketball I never opened my ass hole for them but a lot of fans did it’s their own fault for thinking a company is invincible and the best thing since slice bread.

      • HG

        Most of us used to be NBA Live guys but their games towards the end of their monopoly days were obvious crap and a ripoff. EAs efforts since that have not been much better. 2K on the other had have picked up the baton and run circles around EA. Why go after people for pointing out the obvious?

  • connor

    We got to this point because the media wouldn’t acknowledge or knock off any points on their scores for the VC and because so many people kept buying it so each year 2K made it worse and worse. They will continue to do the same thing until the media starts criticizing 2k and we stop paying for the BS microtransactions. The media is doing their part so its on us to either not buy this years game (you can find updated rosters to download) or try to do myplayer w/o buying VC. Lets hurt 2k enough so they stop this.

    • It’s a tough situation, because I wrote about VC in my review but did not factor it into the score. My belief was that consumers had clearly shown they accepted it over the years. Sales of 2K have continued to rise every year, digital revenue has skyrocketed along with it. When the masses either show indifference or approve of it, who am I to say they are all wrong?

      Now that we’ve seen a change in the way people are reacting to it, the way VC is handled will become a big part of reviews going forward for sure.

      • connor

        Thats a good point. While I disagree with the direction 2k took with the microtransactions, the past games were great and I could definitely progress through all the game modes without buying any VC so the games up until 2016 shouldn’t have any points docked. But like I said, so many people paid for the microtransactions that 2k was going to keep pushing it more and more and this year I think we finally reached the tipping point where the VC was pretty much mandatory to enjoy the game.

  • Keith.

    Meanwhile, EA’s career and franchise modes go unchanged every year, with no uproar whatsoever from Pasta, Kat Bailey, Owen Good, etc. SMH

    • You’re kidding right? We talk about all those things, every year, when necessary. And lack of improvements in certain areas does not equate to the backlash 2K is getting over VC, which is designed in a manner to make a game that costs $60-$150 also host a free-to-play model in its most popular mode and beyond.

      • Keith.

        Kay Bailey gave M18 a 9, and NBA 2K18 a 6 (on Switch). So, a game that hasn’t improved its career and franchise mode IN YEARS gets a big thumbs up, while a technical marvel gets panned due to VC? C’mon, Pasta — maybe if you media types wrote these kinds of articles about EA’s lack of career/franchise mode improvements, they’d have listened and we’d actually have non-UT modes worth playing by now.

        • I believe her score on the Switch version was related to technical issues specific to the version for that system. I also remember her doing a standalone article on lack of Franchise improvements for Madden. As you know review scores aren’t as simple as just judging a product on a single mode.

        • Just a guy

          I’m still wondering how NBA Live and 2k18 both received a 7/10 on Polygon.

          There’s no possible way VC alone brings 2k18 down to Live 18’s level in terms of review rating.

          i’ve played both games. They are not close whatsoever in terms of gameplay and content delivered to consumers. Yet here we are.

          • Keith.

            And then you have IGN, which had former EA employee Chase Becotte handle the 2K review this year. A former EA guy reviewing their competitor’s game for a major gaming news site, and nobody cares.

            I’ve never seen such a $&@$&$-up industry anywhere else in life. Never ceases to amaze me.

          • Keith.

            Three years ago, Owen Goode/Polygon gave NBA 2K15 a 6.0. Two years ago, they didn’t even bother to formally review 2K16. What’s that tell you about their views regarding 2K?


          • Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If Owen thought 2k15 wasn’t good then that is his right to review it as such.

            Personally I haven’t played enough NBA to agree or disagree with your view on this. You seem to love 2k which is fine. I am happy you get personal enjoyment from the game.

            As for Madden? I agree Madden at 9 is way too high. I did a review ( and cited the my main focus for the 7 I gave it due to the lack of advancement in Franchise mode, it has been the same for years and really a mess since merging with the player career mode.

          • Ghostie

            Most likely because if it game has great content but you hide that great content behind paywalls, that’ll make it worse than a game with bad content to me.

            It’s crazy to me that anyone whether it be Keith or you, thinks it’s acceptable to have an extra $40+ be necessary to spend to make a mode central to the NBA 2K experience be playable.

            NBA 2K18 isn’t delivering much to consumers who just pay the base $60 is what I’m getting at.

            And don’t even get me started on the shitshow that’s MyGM mode. Yikes.

    • SockfulOfNickels

      Keith, why can’t anyone point out a negative on a non-EA game without you having a temper tantrum? Do you honestly think there’s nothing wrong with the VC situation?

  • HeatFan786

    I made the mistake buying this game on the Switch. It’s worse than playing on a regular console, especially considering the bugs are possibly worse with bad choppy frames and dialogue.

  • ClubSteve

    the game is already $60 bucks…..VC shouldn’t be so dominant in the game. i was really looking forward to trying the neighborhood, but now it’s questionable to say the least. what made no sense to me is that you could buy the dream team in 2k17 with earned VC but you couldn’t buy the all time college teams with earned VC. and where are the all time college teams this year? there should be more teams as well. they took away the euroleague teams too. smh.

    • The Neighborhood isn’t anything special.

      • Keith.

        It is if you like the idea of practicing with or playing against other people, or just want to feel like your Career is part of something bigger.

        • Skopin

          It doesn’t add anything new. All it does it make it so you have to “run” to each thing instead of accessing it quickly through a menu. It’s an annoyance more than anything else.

        • Okay there was practice in other games. You aren’t playing against or practicing with others because ppl are just standing around. It’s not about something bigger because it makes the story aspect of My Career worst.

  • Glen Willett

    KeithAnne Conway is more of a shill than any EA Game Changer I’ve ever come across.. This is just bordering on sad now.

    /r/NBA2k has been killing this game since The Prelude dropped, and I’m glad it’s finally getting the exposure it needs to possibly affect some change in the future.

  • Jeff

    With all the backlash over vc couldn’t the nba step in and force them to change it since its using there name and players

    • I’m not sure that’s something that would happen directly, but bad publicity/lower review scores is something that would get their attention eventually.

  • NELL86

    That’s the problem with sports gaming now a days every company should be held accountable for lazy and crooked tactics but every year people want to praise 2k but teardown EA hold both game companies accountable you have people saying 2k18 is the best 2k ever but the game has serious frame rate issues and the clipping is terrible i never been a fan of my player but the VC thing is the biggest robbery In gaming since capcom charging for content already on didc they need to push these games release dates out farther to get more time to polish the game

    • jbstoner43

      On its worse day, Take Two Studios is better than EA Sports on it best day.

  • Kid Fleetfoot

    I have NBA 2K18 for PS3 and it isn’t much different than the 2K17 version except the Euro teams are gone and a resemblance of of the teams greatest players are in the game along with some made up players. It does have George Mikan and Bob Cousy. but not Reggie Miller or George Yardley. Mikan and Cousy names were pronounced on made up teams last year but not in regular season or exhibition.

    It has VC currency as before which I’ve never used/bought.
    It still has the ASSOCIATION which I like.
    A few gegular players like Fultz names are not announced.

    The servers are not accessible except for a few minutes but not usable.

    Were it not for the Legends teams the game would absolutely terrible.

    I do have NBA Live 18 for PS4 which I’ve played just a little so I can not comment much on that one. Competition for NBA 2K18 if not this year maybe next year.. .

    • jbstoner43

      You’re playing on the ps3, you have no voice in this chat. Get a job and move out of your mommas house.

    • Kid Fleetfoot

      Servers working at the moment on PS3 version of NBA 2K18. Someone made a roster based on PS4 rosters and there are at least fewer bald heads but no Reggie Miller on Pacers All Time Team. An improvement to be sure.
      The names like Fultz and Markkonen are still just numbers. (I’m sure in very near future we can use VC Currency to buy correct names. ~Sarcasm~)
      I’m getting curious enough to _maybe_ buy the PS4 version of NBA 2K18 just to see if it’s works better than previous years.
      Sometimes I’d sure like to know how some people’s minds work, companies and programmers included.

  • Ant McLeod

    Players turn down the difficulty, get 100points, 57ast, 8543rebs a game get ton of VC and hit the park.

  • The Neighborhood is dry. Nothing to really do in it. They also don’t reward you with a lot of VC after games because they want you to purchase. Your game salary is only 500 VC. I had a 20-20 game and got a lil over 200 VC.

    • ClubSteve

      was it overhyped?

      • Yes it was. It’s easier to get into everything but really you just see people standing around. The 2K zone be empty. The exercise place is not really helpful unless you need to get your energy back.

      • Ant McLeod

        Nah its not. Allow me to be the voice of reason. Check my Steam account OldManMcNasty over 2000 hours on NBA 2K. This is the best 2K in terms of gameplay EVER. Period, the VC thing is ULTRA shitty. So while the gameplay is super tight, the obvious choice to add VC makes it unplayable. Sony’s MLB The Show does the MyPlayer the best. If you only play franchise & play against your fam it’s cool. Wait for a sale & buy it on Steam for 30 bucks & don’t buy ANY VC. If MyCareer, MyTeam, or MyGM is your thing skip it, its unplayable do to the VC.

    • Keith.

      Are you playing on Rookie level? Might want to bump it up. I play on All Star or Hall of Fame level, I think, and get 600-800 VC per game.

      • You don’t earn extra VC this year by playing on a higher difficulty in MyCareer. They got rid of the multiplier that would give you more for doing so.

        • Keith.

          Well something doesn’t make sense then, if Khaleel is only getting 200 VC for a 20-20 game and I’m getting upwards of 800 VC per game, and I’m not close to 20-20.

          • Skopin

            He was likely referring only to the stats bonus. Your contract starts at 500, and you get a certain amount for your grade, and a certain amount for your stats. All three are very low in relation to how much things cost.

          • Exactly, thanks for understanding. I think your contract should be worth a lot more

  • Keith.

    Lol…who says I don’t like PastaPadre? Just saying it as I see it.

    Life is full of opposing viewpoints. You better get used to it.

  • WilsonRamos

    Forget this crap this years Fifa is quality especially the career mode

    • SockfulOfNickels

      I was sooo disappointed in FIFA 17 but I am in love with FIFA 18. They made so many strides IMO.

      • WilsonRamos

        Same I thought 17 was one of the worst ones especially in terms of gameplay

        • SockfulOfNickels

          I barely played 17, it just felt awful. Played a ton of PES instead. But this year I tried FIFA thanks to EA Access (trademark Rich Grisham) and it got me to preorder the game Monday night. It’s fantastic. The league specific presentation packages are awesome. The game feels fun again, the locomotion of the players is much improved (less getting stuck in an animation). Right now it is my sports game of the year which I never thought I would say (I assumed it would be The Show but man did they ever choke this year).

        • SockfulOfNickels

          And how about the FIFA career mode? Loving it. The real time transfer negotiations are mint for me.

  • Glen Willett

    I used to be a Live guy until the notorious “Jesus Bynum” clip and the beginning of the cancellations. I fell in love with 2k right away and MyCareer was a big reason why.

    Ever since Spike Lee and the story lines took over it’s basically become an unplayable, Disney ride of a game mode where you’re stuck to the rails the designers have given you.

    The base of a great game is still there.. I don’t know why they have to layer on all this BS that just makes people less immersed in their creations.

  • Smsixx

    Can someone explain to me how VC is different from the stub system in MLB and the point/coin system in Madden?

    This is an honest question, as I have yet to play the game.

    • Glen Willett

      Stubs and Coins aren’t necessary in every game mode the same way they are in 2K.

      For Madden I don’t play MUT, so I’ve never used a single coin in any version of Madden I’ve played. I just stick to CFM, and $60 gets me through the year.

      For The Show, you can use stubs to buy some equipment upgrades in your RTTS, but their mostly for Diamond Dynasty. You can still upgrade your RTTS player’s attributes the way you have for a decade, without spending any additional currency. The amount of points awarded for playing games has actually increased over time, rather than decreased as is the case for 2K.

    • Skopin

      It really comes down to the in-game economy more than anything else. You need VC to just about everything, from buying clothes and accessories to changing hair styles and hair color, to upgrading attributes, to unlocking animations.

      You can do very little for your player without VC, and everything uses the same pool of VC. Additionally, your player also starts off with he skill and athleticism of a high schooler who has no business being in the NBA.

      The problem is the horrible ratio of VC earned to the cost of things. You earn roughly 500-1000 VC per game, assuming you play well enough to earn an A+ teammate grade. To put that into perspective, a t-shirt costs 1,500 VC. So you would need to play up to three games just to have enough to buy a shirt.

      Couple that with the fact that a very large portion of buyable items are locked until your player reaches a certain rating (new free throw routines are locked until you’re a 65-70 OVR, most clothing options are also locked until you reach 65 I believe), and you are very limited in what you can do. Attributes also get exponentially more expensive as you upgrade.

  • Once VC and other microtransaction-fueled tactics creeps its way into regular franchise modes, then I’m done with these games altogether. It does seem that there is a declining population of purists who just enjoy playing a sport sim with their favorite teams and real rosters and can care less about MyPlayer or Ultimate Team and what not. I’ll never drop a dime in any of these modes. Can’t believe some people funnel hundreds or thousands of dollars each yearly cycle into this stuff. Heck, take a vacation to Tahiti instead…

    • Darrin

      Yep you said exactly what I was thinking all along! I never bought card packs, VC, etc. in these games and once these become the normal thing well I guess I’m cutting sports games out of my collection. I just buy sports games to play with my favorite teams and do a season with them. I couldn’t care less about MUT and Diamond Dynasty. I feel like it’s not going to go away sadly because people are idiots and spend money on players and in game currency that doesn’t even exist! Guess what you’ve already spent $60 on the game and that in game items and currency doesn’t carry over to next years game.. Ugh people this is why sports games are dying…

    • Hoops

      Exactly. If I buy a NBA game, I want to play with the NBA teams and players. I have never had any desire to be a player and ascend to the category of the greatest of all time. That for me sounds very stupid and childish. Haven’t spent a single dime on VC, never will.

  • Keith.

    Drama Queen.