The Problem With NBA 2K12’s DLC Isn’t So Much The Content – It’s The Timing

Posted October 28th, 2011 at 9:45 am

When made official last week the planned downloadable content for NBA 2K12 prompted a strong response – something that isn’t so typical these days when the topic arises. As DLC has become a staple in the gaming industry consumers now generally either find themselves interested or are simply indifferent to its existence. While 2K Sports will be introducing additional content to hopefully extend the value of the product the circumstances under which the DLC was announced has complicated matters. 

The league lockout has been the primary cloud over NBA 2K12 this year – with some having trouble justifying a full price purchase of a product representing the league (given the anger directed at the owners and players) and with the unavoidable damage it has done by making some features irrelevant and preventing the introduction of rookies or any roster movement. That could change any day now if the two sides reach a deal, however the official announcement was made at a point of extreme pessimism in the labor talks.

Now, in asking consumers to essentially invest $70, it was probably the wrong year for 2K Sports to introduce DLC. Having received a good deal of credit over the course of the generation for avoiding going the DLC route while other companies arguably have taken things too far, 2K’s shift in strategy here also included packing a code in new copies for two historic teams. Encouraging the purchase of new copies was understandable given they have yet to adopt the “Online Pass” initiative. The paid DLC though is tougher to explain right now, maybe factoring in even more than the lockout, given the post-release state of NBA 2K12 which has seen less than stellar word-of-mouth in stark contrast to 2K11.

The online problems have dominated discussion for the over three weeks since release – but that also goes along with My Player mode being severely hampered by numerous issues, the website with expected feature tie-ins still not having launched, and legitimate gameplay gripes that will vary in importance for each individual. 2K11 certainly wasn’t perfect but what it did well was so astonishingly on another level that it overshadowed the weaknesses.

That isn’t happening with 2K12. Removing popular modes like ‘Crew’ and refusing to even comment on it has not gone over well with fans – and heavily hyped new features like Online Association have been immensely disappointing (that one is compounded by having the standard leagues system taken out as well).

There has been some frustration over the content of the DLC – particularly that the “blacktop” modes and ability to edit historic team rosters were removed from the game only to have them turned around and offered for a price later. That feeling is somewhat justified though 2K made sure to make the DLC feel fresh by going with the cel-shaded art style and making the legends an important part of the package. That will help to differentiate it from anything that has been offered before plus introducing new achievements and trophies gives some extra incentive. There apparently will even be some new legends added – though they’ll only be usable in the DLC and can’t be taken elsewhere.

The other gripe is that the ability to use historic teams online should have been included in the retail package – something most would agree was a reasonable expectation. Still having that option now will be welcome and one has to evaluate what is being offered rather than what any initial hopes were for. One concern though will come with limiting the potential opponents to just those with the DLC, as the matchmaking system has struggled even with pairing opponents in the standard quick match environment.

There is enough being offered to justify the DLC’s presence as a paid add-on. Despite that the $10 price is on the surface discouraging and given the state of 2K12 – with the website that was to house advertised features still unavailable and all the online problems – there may be no real immediate desire to spend more given the experience had to this point. For those who got in on some of the pre-release deals such as Amazon’s $10 promo credit maybe that helps to soften the blow.

Should the lockout end prior to when the DLC releases and if it follows the the roll-out of a comprehensive patch all of that could lift spirits enough that it would become a much more appealing proposition – likely the precise circumstances 2K Sports hopes for in order to maximize sales.