For the past few months, EA Sports has been pushing its NBA Live 18 quite heavily, hoping that it will mark a big comeback for the troubled basketball franchise. But there are a couple of problems that stand in the way of its success.
The first is that I’m not sure the development team understands what the game needs to be. I played the demo for quite a bit and I just can’t feel the vibe that it’s going for. Shooting feels way off and unnatural; the whole team play just doesn’t come together like I think it should; and it looks a few notches below what NBA 2K18 has to offer.
On top of that, NBA 2K18 just has everything going for it right now – robust features that players want, strong gameplay that’s been part of the series’ backbone for the past few years; and impressive visuals that get better with each new entry. That’s a lot for NBA Live 18 to go up against.
And I think EA knows it, which is why it’s already lowered the price of its basketball game to $39.99. While that may be a bargain for some, there’s a reason that the team marked it down in price – it just can’t hold its own against the superior NBA 2K18.
I’ll admit, the team is giving the best effort to bring back the NBA Live franchise the right way, and it’s seen its fair share of troubles over the past few years, including outright cancellations (remember NBA Elite 11?) and many delays.
So enough is enough. Here are a few reasons why EA Sports should pretty much call it on trying to do a simulation basketball game, and instead focus on something else that it managed to do well over the past few years – arcade-style.
Let’s be honest, nothing is going to stop 2K Sports’ momentum when it comes to basketball. It’s just too good. Visual Concepts has the gameplay completely dialed in when it comes to nailing the sim style of play, and has even given players a taste of what’s to come with The Prelude demo that dropped last week.
So EA needs to stop trying to reinvent sims and work with arcade games instead. NBA Street was a staple in the developer’s line-up for many years, back when the EA Sports Big label meant something. And the publisher made the greatest decision in the world when it opted to bring back NBA Jam – not to mention the producer behind the series in the first place.
Both of these series are pivotal to EA’s success in the basketball world, and they both have merits that I believe would become beneficial for it keeping its NBA license. Let’s look at the positives of each.
Remember when Saber Interactive tried to bring back the arcade-style basketball game with NBA Playgrounds? It came so close to nailing the formula, but couldn’t quite execute the gameplay or the visuals needed to succeed. That said, I believe a comeback for NBA Street would work, based on previous entries we’ve seen in the series.
For instance, look at NBA Street back in its heyday. It was the go-to series when it came to building strategies, showing off against opponents with powerful sky-high dunks, and building up points to create the ultimate Gamebreaker opportunity, which could turn the tide of the match back in your favor (adding two points to your score and removing a point from your opponent’s).
This style of play would be welcome in this day and age, especially considering early reception of Playgrounds when it first released. Fans want this type of game back, so why doesn’t EA Sports deliver it?
Another huge benefit to NBA Street is bringing a different style of NBA action to the court. I’m sure the league doesn’t mind the idea of having some street-style competition going on, even if it does take away from the sim angle of the game. Hey, diversity is king here – besides, NBA 2K already has the sim side covered, so something different doesn’t hurt.
The last two games in the series, NBA Street V3 and NBA Street Homecourt, demonstrated huge leaps in gameplay that became staples to the series, including tricking out players defensively and setting up alley-oops that were the stuff of legend. Heck, at one point, even Nintendo got involved, allowing EA Sports to include Mario, Luigi and Peach in the Nintendo GameCube version of Street V3 – and we loved it.
So, yes, NBA Street deserves a comeback – and considering the dire straits of EA’s NBA division at the moment, a return would be more than welcome. But that’s not the only series that deserves some love…
Let’s talk about NBA Jam. In the 90’s, this was the ultimate party sports game, with plenty of high-flying dunks, blocks and other superb moves that make it a must for four player sessions, either in the arcade or at home (thanks to the team at Iguana Interactive). And EA was smart enough to see how well it did on the market back then, opting the rights from the now-defunct Midway and making the game for a whole new generation to enjoy.
NBA Jam initially released on the Wii, before seeing digital releases on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and mobile – and it paid off big time with a number of positive reviews and strong sales. But then, just like that, interest in the series faded, and EA went back to the sim front. And this was a big mistake.
The truth be told, NBA Jam is a perfect game for EA’s business model right now. A new release for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch would be perfectly received, even if it’s just the On Fire Edition of the game. That’s actually quite perfect, as players can get back into it by paying $20, and EA can put more cash in its pockets. Then it could work on the inevitable sequel, with even more power-up plays, more NBA players, more hidden superstars (can we finally bring Mortal Kombat’s Raiden back into the mix, where he belongs?), and more online features – perhaps even league play.
What I’m saying is that there’s room for both NBA Street and NBA Jam to shine, and if EA Sports can just forget about the sim market and bring these two franchises back, it would make the basketball community extremely happy, and provide a number of options besides just the sims. After all, who doesn’t enjoy kicking back with a good arcade basketball game? Which reminds me – I need to play NBA Jam again and dominate the court with the dude in the gorilla costume…
NBA 2K18 releases on September 19th (15th for the early edition) for Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and PC. NBA Live 18 arrives this Friday, November 15th, for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.