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EA and 2k are Killing the Sports Genre

In my 20+ years of gaming, I have known some pretty hardcore sports gamers. Back in the days when the Fight Night games were still a thing, I knew guys who would play the Career/Legacy mode of those games until they became undisputed world champion. Of every weight class.

I have never been one such hardcore sports gamer, but I definitely enjoyed sports games growing up. Part of this had to do with all the options that I had as a kid. Basketball games are my favorite sports games, and as a kid, I had NBA Live, NBA 2K, NBA: Inside Drive, AND 1 Streetball, Backyard Basketball (Believe it or not, the Backyard sports games were actually fun), NBA Hoopz, NCAA March Madness, and NBA Ballers.

The good old days when basketball games were all basketball and no gambling.

Fast forward to 2020, and we have NBA 2K and NBA Live. NBA Live has lived in the shadow of NBA 2K for years now, so basically, you just have NBA 2K. Which, you know, sucks.

Football games aren’t doing any better. When’s the last time you heard of a football video game that wasn’t Madden? I think that MLB The Show isn’t as horrible as its’ basketball or football counterparts, but it’s still pretty bad.

Whatever your sports game of choice may be, there are four constants in the modern sports genre: Microtransactions, stagnation, EA, and 2K. And these four things are making the sports genre arguably the worst in gaming.

$60 is a lot to ask for a video game, so it had better be worth the money. And modern, annual sports games honestly aren’t. As Angry Joe very furiously puts it in his recent rants about NBA 2K20 and Madden 20, modern sports titles are largely copy and paste jobs. Lazy ones at that, since they can’t even be bothered to fix the shortcomings found in last year’s entries. The only things that change are the microtransactions. Sports gamers are essentially paying for the “privilege” of resetting their accounts so that they can start at the bottom of the microtransactions, grind-fest ladder once again. Repeat ad infinitum.

Welcome to the new norm in sports games.

And since we are on the topic of sports gamers, we need to talk about the role they play in the downfall of the genre that they love. Because sports gamers are indeed enablers of video game industry villains like EA and 2K. A lot of these guys are hardcore sports gamers, but casual also gamers. What do I mean by that? I mean their investment in the gaming industry as a whole is very minimal. If they played Game Dev Story, chances are, they’d get zero of the gaming references. They don’t know about the way that Konami has treated Hideo Kojima since his departure from the company, or about Blizzard’s plummet from grace. They sure don’t care about these things. For a lot of sports gamers, gaming is just NBA2K and Madden, and that’s it.

It’s not really a surprise that people with very little investment in the video game industry aren’t as inclined to care about what happens to it, but you would think they’d at least care a little more about the game they pour hundreds of dollars and hours into right?

I was into a lot of trading card games as a kid and teenager, but folks like EA and 2K have caused me to despise even hearing the words card packs now. I guess that we should be thankful that the extreme sports genre has been long dead; otherwise, they’d ruin that too. I don’t even want to know what microtransactions in a skateboarding game look like. New deck tape for the low price of five dollars?

At the pace it is going, the sports genre of video games is completely doomed. The sports games put out by EA and 2K share the same harmful qualities that atypical mobile games do. They are very profitable for the developers, but extremely detrimental to the industry and consumers. One of the most effective ways to push back against developer overstepping is with your wallets. But a significant portion of gamers in the sports community don’t know or care how bad it is getting. Combine this with the ever-growing problem of pig consumer culture and gamers just accepting whatever it is developers give them, and I worry that these terrible digital casinos will permanently solidify themselves as the new norm of the sports genre.

There is a little ray of hope, though. Governments around the world are taking notice of the monetization practices of companies like 2K and EA. Last year, Belgium made loot boxes illegal, and despite some initial resistance, EA was forced to remove sale of FIFA’s currency to continue selling the game in Belgium. You may not like governments stepping into this matter for fear of oversight, but their actions at least bring more attention to the issue.

Even prominent figures in the sports community have spoken up and voiced their displeasure with the numerous problems in the most recent annual entries in the NBA2K and Madden series of games. If even more of them were to continue to take a stand against the severe decline of the sports genre, then maybe the average sports gamer will finally take notice of the issue and realize that they deserve so much better. There is only so much that we outside gamers can do. If real change is to ever happen in the sports genre, sports gamers are the ones who need to lead the charge.

Unless they start doing something to invoke change, and soon, what we have now is all we will ever have. And what we have now needs to die in an Amaterasu dumpster fire.

Even people in the sports community aren’t too happy with the numerous problems in NBA2K20. If the prominent figures of the sports community were to collectively take a stand against the severe decline of the sports genre, then maybe that will wake up the average sports gamer and get them to realize that they deserve much better. Because unless they start doing something to invoke change, what we have now is all we will ever have. And what we have now needs to die in an Amaterasu dumpster fire.

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  1. After the microtransactions that have been implemented into these games and then spread like an infection to every other genre thanks to the sports gamers’ support, I have no sympathy for the crowd.

    • Sadly, I agree. They really have messed this up for the rest of us. Almost every genre of games have been impacted by this mess. Nothing seems sacred anymore. No wonder people are starting to abandon this garbage and spend their time and money elsewhere.

    • Harsh as that may sound, I understand, and I can’t blame you either.

  2. Kevan St John on January 4, 2020 at 9:21 pm said

    I always thought the right model for sports games was a subscription model. There’s no need to rerelease the same platform all the time with cuts and additions. Unlike other genres that don’t need it, a subscription would allow them to release content, maintain player rosters and stats, and consolidate their player base.

    In return, they’d have to either cut the microtransactions, or have a tiered subscription – say $5.99/mo base (or $59/yr) and $9.99/mo for Gold (or $99/yr) which would include something like custom jerseys/skins/teams and maybe an exclusive game mode.

    These gambling mechanics are eating into our good will.

  3. I think you’re right but maybe not seeing the larger looming issue over all of gaming and that is chasing whales. The whole gaming community suffers because 1% or so of gamers will spend hundreds of even thousands of dollars in these stores and in the end the math makes it more profitable to chase after that 1% at the expense of the 99%.

    What makes it worse is that is why the “don’t buy it” arguments don’t really work. Most people don’t buy Microtransactions as it is now but its still hugely profitable because of just how much the whales spend. Also chasing whales isn’t just killing sports games, It’s also killing games like Destiny 2 and honestly threatens all of gaming. It’s why Konami has parted with Kojima and isn’t pursing AAA games like metal gear anymore.

    Finally I personally think it’s somewhat unethical chasing whales. Many of the whales aren’t even rich, they’re addicts spending money on credit and it’s ruining lives. Just because companies can make money this way doesn’t mean that they should.

  4. I think the sports genre exemplify that the people who keep buying these games are the core of the problem with the gaming industry. Publishers will put as many anti-consumer practices as they can as long as people continue to support these products.

    Plus when it comes to sports the brands have shown to be more important than the game itself – EA and 2K managed to create this duopoly, because they are the only ones who can afford the licences to the different teams/players. Sports fans want to use their favourite athlete and not somebody generic. The same can be said about many other video game IPs, who continue to sell regardless of how bad the newest entry is. Contrary to Capcom’s assertion characters are not functions.

    I personally don’t care all that much about sports games outside of the Mario ones, but it’s sad that these games are funding monsters like EA and 2K.

  5. The problem here is simple: exclusive licenses. And that translates into monopolies and lack of competition. This is especially apparent for games like FIFA, where they hold exclusive license for Premiere League and Konami is forced to use generic names for teams.

    Unfortunately, there is no solution in the foreseeable future, all you can do is vote with your wallet. And judging from the 1+ billion FIFA gets in every year, the vote is clear.

  6. “Combine this with the ever-growing problem of pig consumer culture and gamers just accepting whatever it is developers give them”

    Isn’t this the root of the problem? The egg before the chicken? Companies have always just followed ‘what works’. You can’t fault them for doing that, but can admire those that don’t give in, even though they’re shooting themselves in the foot. For every gamer that withholds their money (that’ll show ’em) there are tens that throw their money at these practices.

    But as Jim Sterling, for one, has often mentioned ad nauseam: companies care about maximizing profits, and will continue to toy with these ideas. The streams of “bad” reviews and comments make it look on the surface that gamers are sick of it, but it seems this is a small minority.

    As for the games: they honestly don’t feel that different from their 2000 counterparts. “NBA 2k” for Dreamcast was a dream to play imo. ISS ’98 hasn’t lost its tremendous gameplay. WWF games… Graphics and presentation have made strides though.

  7. Far be it from me to absolve the players of any responsibility for contributing to this trend, but there’s something bigger looming over the games industry that you sort of hint at but don’t directly address. It’s the whole concept of catering to whales.

    Essentially, the entire industry is starting to cater towards the top 1% of spenders to the detriment of the remaining 99%. The average user actually likely doesn’t spend that much on microtransactions, if anything, but the 1% will spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a single game and it’s actually MORE profitable to target that 1% and basically ignore / dismiss the 99%.

    It’s not fair to the average player and it’s highly predatory. Right now, gaming is basically the casino industry minus any regulatory oversight and without any risk of the house ever losing anything. You could argue it’s the whales’ right to spend their money how they want, but the thing is, a lot of these people aren’t actually that well off. Many of them are problem gamblers and / or minors the industry is targeting and exploiting to the fullest. That kind of practice shouldn’t be allowed, quite frankly.

    • Yeah, I am a pretty big mobile gamer myself (For shame, I know), and whale chasing is a problem I know all too well. Maybe I didn’t directly address it because I prefer to pretend it’s not too big an issue yet. We both know that is not the case.

      Even with how commercially successful mobile gaming is, at the end of the day, it’s still just mobile gaming. Even popular games like Marvel War of Heroes (Which thankfully died) and Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes, all die eventually. But when is console gaming going to die? Never. When are sports games going to die? Never. Juxtaposing the mobile game monetary systems onto an industry that isn’t going to die just spells doom for us all.

      In mobile games, we non-whales do have a significant amount of “power” in protesting BS that these mobile devs implement. And when we rise up in sufficient number can enact some change, but I don’t see that working as well with console games.

      Look at how FIFA went. When the Belgium government made microtransactions flat out illegal, EA initially refused to abide by the new laws. If they’re flipping the bird to governments, what can we consumers do to stop these awful companies?

      I know people don’t want the government to step in any more than they have already, for obvious reasons, but what alternative is there to keeping these sharks from ruining the industry we love with their greed and predatory practices?

      Another problem is how the younger generation of gamers seem to care a lot less than gamers of past generations. Once these norms set into place, then that’s it. It’s all they will have ever known so they’re never going to protest it.

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