IGN Calls NBA Elite Cancellation Courageous

Posted November 20th, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Typically I don’t bother with articles written about developments in the sports gaming world from the mainstream media sites, however this instance just couldn’t be ignored in its audacity. It appears IGN is trying to assist EA Sports in the image rebuilding process of their NBA franchise. It reads like a PR piece prompted by EA and ends up doing readers a disservice.

I caught up with Andrew Wilson, head of worldwide development for EA Sports to talk about the decision to cancel NBA Elite. Wilson told me, “We’re proud that we made the choice to not just put something out there that wasn’t good.”….”Ultimately,” Wilson admits, “it was just going to be a bad game.”

It is interesting to see how openly they admit that Elite was going to be a “bad game”, after having touted it for months on end all the way up to the day it was pulled. The community was told to just wait and play it, that the greatness couldn’t be discovered just from watching videos. All of that is being admitted as a lie here.

Rarely do we celebrate a publisher’s nobility. But EA should be commended, not mocked, for pulling the plug on NBA Elite 11. I am certain there was a lot more to the decision than just wanting to avoid releasing a bad game, but there’s little doubt that quality matters to some of the decision-makers at EA Sports.

Bullshit. EA knew what they had on their hands. They had been shielding it from the public for a reason. Despite that the game went gold and copies were being produced. They were fully planning to release the game. It wasn’t until the demo arrived and the wave of negativity and glitch videos became overwhelming to where they were forced to make the dramatic decision. At that point EA realized they’d be doing more long term harm to themselves if they released it. Purely a business decision. It was not done to ‘save’ consumers from purchasing a sub-par product. Framing it that way is absurd.

Not many companies would have pulled the plug. After signing Kevin Durant as its cover athlete, investing considerable money and resources into building a brand new NBA title, and already investing in marketing buys, it couldn’t have been cheap to axe NBA Elite.

Releasing a sub-par product, particularly against an excellent competitor, would have damaged the brand beyond repair. Elite was never going to sell many copies anyway…we’re talking maybe 10% of what NBA 2K11 sold. However what it would have made back pales in comparison to what would be lost if the NBA franchise had to be scrapped completely. More money was on the line in the future than immediately.

Regardless of the outcome, EA should be commended for holding back something that wasn’t going to be any good. I don’t say it often, but these guys did right by gamers and ate the loss. If only more companies had that kind of courage, this industry might continue to see real progress towards being more than just a revenue driver.