Professional sports draws a significant amount of money through having companies advertise on their platforms. Think about how many times you’ve seen the Nike logo on your favorite team’s jerseys and footwear. Many of the arenas and stadiums that professional sports teams call home have the name of a major corporation attached to them. When it comes to advertising in video games, typically we would think that would be the case in games that are at least free-to-play. But it looks like 2K Games is looking to push that envelope in the paid game arena.
Many of the video game media representatives were aghast at the recent revelation that NBA 2K21 had started including unskippable advertisements within its 2KTV presentation as the game is loading. I believe gamers that have experienced this have every right to be unhappy about this development. After paying no less than $60 for the product, why would a gamer be forced to sit through some type of advertisement or commercial? It would be one thing to have a tile on the main menu where a gamer can select it and view the ad of their own volition. Yet as annual sports games are already earning more money than ever before with an increased emphasis on micro-transactions, it begs the question of, how much is too much?
Let’s not leave Electronic Arts (EA) out of this conversation as the company did the same thing when it released UFC 4 and placed unskippable ads between rounds of matches. Because of the backlash, the ads were subsequently removed. I find it interesting that the two sports game publishers were both thinking similarly on how to make some extra money with this year’s titles.
As I stated in the previous article this week, I can put myself in the shoes of companies such as 2K and EA to try and understanding their thinking. They are businesses first and foremost and companies as big as they are want to increase their earnings and revenues with each passing year. While there is a segment of gamers that criticize (and many times rightfully so) for developers doing what can be perceived as a copy and paste job with updated rosters for today’s annual sports game releases, I recognize that it can be a daunting task to have to push out the product at the same time every year. The Call of Duty series has the benefit of switching between Modern Warfare, Black Ops, and WWII so that the theme is different year-by-year. Not annual sports games. No matter what, Madden NFL and NBA 2K will wear the same moniker with the same teams and mostly the same gameplay. The only real significant changes are the year in the title and the rosters.
Perhaps the micro-transactions and now the advertisements are EA and 2K’s way of guaranteeing that they will be able to make more money than the previous year on their games. Personally, I feel that annual sports games have become very stale. Because I had not bought a Madden NFL game since 16 before I bought 20, the game felt a bit fresher than if I had been playing every year in between. What isn’t tiring for a good chunk of Madden fans is the online play with friends and other gamers. I believe this interaction is at the very core of what makes Madden a must-buy every year for that particular group and the fact that the newest game will incorporate the latest rosters in modes like Connected Franchise.
My solution if EA and 2K want to include unskippable ads is to release a free-to-play mode for their annual games like Warzone for Call of Duty Modern Warfare. I used Call of Duty’s model here because the base game of Modern Warfare is tremendous in its own right and then Warzone is an excellent mode that has already drawn millions of players by itself. There can be micro-transactions galore to go with the ads and it won’t suffer the same complaints because it wouldn’t have a $60 price tag attached to it. But in the meantime, trying to sneak in ads through silent updates within a game that consumers already shelled out money for will not be embraced. It’s just not a good look.