Just when you think capitalism can’t get more crass, in comes a large corporation to prove you wrong. 2K, publisher of the popular basketball video game franchise NBA 2K, has patched in advertisements for real world TV shows and products into the loading screens of NBA 2K19 Fan reaction has been…rather mixed, to put it lightly.
News of the ads were widely circulated on the NBA 2K Reddit page. It showed a 30 second ad for the show Snowfall, which could not be skipped. Players would have to wait for the whole ad to finish before moving on to the next screen. The process is technically optional, as it is part of the 2KTV mode, which can be toggled in the options menu. 2KTV would present interactive questions for players during loading screens, and would reward players who responded correctly. Now that the content for this feature has finished, and the sequel NBA 2k20 is on the horizon, 2K has decided to use 2KTV as ad space.
The specific choice of ad in this case is a bit weird. NBA 2K19 is rated G over here, which means it is appropriate for general audiences. However, Snowfall is a show about the crack cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles during the 1980s; not exactly a family-friendly topic.
Now, the use of advertising in games isn’t unheard of. In addition to the general practise of product placement, many free to play games make players watch ads instead of paying a fee. In full price AAA games, however, it is more of a recent phenomenon. One of the most egregious recent examples is Street Fighter V, which plastered ads for the then-upcoming Capcom Pro Tour all over stages and character costumes. Although the ads were optional, players who used them received additional in-game currency.
What this means for the future of advertising in the NBA series is unclear. Players online don’t seem to appreciate NBA 2K19’s ads very much, but that doesn’t mean it will impact sales of NBA 2K20. 2K’s history with obnoxious microtransactions doesn’t inspire much confidence. Hopefully this does not foreshadow a greater trend towards advertising in AAA games. It comes across as somewhat disrespectful towards the players who paid full price for a game to still be advertised at.