NBA 2K19: Money Over Everything

I’m not the best 2K player, but I do feel like my progress, and my enjoyment is being crippled by a greed to sell me microtransactions with in-game currency. The game has become a grind. I did not play much of the 2K series from 2K6 – 2K17, only a few hours from a couple of them. Last year however, I put in over 150 hours into NBA 2K18. I became aware of the grind for VC (Virtual Currency) then, but it appears to be even worse in 2K19.

Virtual Currency is used for a lot of things in NBA 2K19, some of it cosmetic, some of it important to the gameplay, but it is all over the game in every mode. I have yet to spend time in MyTeam or MyGM, but I know VC is pushed in those modes too. I have spent all of my time in MyCareer mode, and I can tell about the grind that has become.

MyCareer is essentially a Create-A-Player mode where you develop a player and as their career progresses you obtain VC, you use that VC to upgrade your player. When you play a game, you get graded on your performance, the better the grade, the more VC you earn. You can also purchase VC with real money, and that is what creates a dilemma where the developers/publisher has chosen money over the player’s enjoyment.

When playing a video game, I expect to feel joy, I look for some gratification in pulling off some sort of crazy combos, getting bonuses, slaying enemies, unlocking items, and progressing through the game. However, 2K has put that gratification aside in order to charge the player more money on top of their $60 game. The same game that will be tossed aside next year, without allowing any progress to carry over and will be disconnected from online servers in 2 years. This game makes you grind very slowly to progress, they want to encourage you to buy VC and avoid the grind. The part of the game that’s supposed to be fun, the part where you play it, is being held back to make you pay to skip further along.

I previously mentioned that in MyCareer mode you get graded on your performance, and after playing close to 20 hours of the NBA Season in MyCareer, I’m 99% sure this game grades you much harsher than the previous NBA 2K18. It was still a grind back in 2K18, and even if things are the same, this game punishes the player way too hard. This harsh grading results in less VC awarded to the player, it makes you think “maybe if I bought some VC and upgraded faster, I’d be able to play better and then not grind as bad”…it’s always a grind.

It’s simple as this, the game is cheap and full of bullshit. I’ve noticed this the whole time I’ve been playing 2K19, and I noticed, but ignored a lot of it in 2K18, but today I got fed up. I was playing a game where I felt like I had a great performance, and I was barely holding a C+ grade, it was aggravating me. Then with 47 seconds left in the game, my team was winning by 3 and the other team called a timeout. The game announced I was the “Player of the Game”. Then I got sent to the bench, I only had 1 foul. The game then proceeds to simulate to the end, and the game finished with my team losing by 1point in 2OT. So tell me, why would the hot-hand, “Player of the Game” sit out the final possessions of the 4th Quarter, and not play ANY of the 2 OTs? I missed out a chance to rack up more stats (VC), improve my grade (VC) and win the game (VC bonus). This was bullshit.

So I decided to record another game, and break down some of my positive and negative actions. I’ll post the full game video at the bottom, but I think an example of the harsh grading can be shown in my first half quarter of play (3min 17sec).

When i enter the game I have a mid-C rating. I’m at 50% through the C grade. After 7 straight positive actions, and 7 points on 100% shooting, I still sit at a C, on the cusp of a C+. My 8th straight positive action is a screen (39.7 – 1Q) , and it pushes me to C+. With 2 more positive actions after my C+ grade, I space the court well on offense and score another basket, I barely move up at all. 10 straight positive actions, and 9 points on 100% shooting, 60% of my teams points, and I’m BARELY a C+.

  • Good Screen (2:11 – 1Q)
  • Made Shot (2:08 – 1Q)
  • Post Move Score (1:36 – 1Q)
  • Good Pass (1:05 – 1Q)
  • Draw Foul (59.3 – 1Q)
  • Made Shot (59.3 – 1Q)
  • Make Free Throw (59.3 – 1Q)
  • Good Screen (39.7 – 1Q) – Upgraded to C+
  • Good Spacing (26.4 – 1Q)
  • Tireless Scorer (26.4 – 1Q)
  • Good Pass (4:30 – 2Q)

Since all my positive actions were on offense and don’t need much explanation, I compiled them all in 2 GIF highlight reels just to show/document them. Again, the full video is at the bottom of the page if you’re interested.

Now I only had 5 total negative actions, and they also happened consecutively except for 1 “Good Pass” in the middle. 3 of these negative actions occurred on 1 defensive possession in a 5 second span, where my man didn’t even score. I’ll break these down with more detail below, and you can see the grade pull down so far, so fast, that there’s no way this can be seen as fair.

  • Call for Pass Ignored (5.4 – 1Q)
  • Defensive Breakdown (4:48 – 2Q)
  • Bad Block Attempt – (4:14 – 2Q)
  • Leave Assignment – (4:13 – 2Q)
  • Leave Assignment – (4:10 – 2Q)

Call for Pass Ignored (5.4 – 1Q) – This is such a minor negative action, I don’t believe I’m even deducted anything in my scoring for this. My assignment was slashing to the hoop and when the ball was thrown to him, another player on my team stole the pass. I was anticipating the ball to come through, so I had hit the steal button, but since we changed possession it made me call for a pass from my teammate instead. So when I list 5 negative actions, this one shouldn’t even count because I don’t get deducted, it’s everything else that kills me.

Defensive Breakdown (4.48 – 2Q) – All of my good deeds of the 1st Quarter wiped out. 10 Positive actions, 9 points on 100% shooting, and I’m back to the starting grade of a C because I let a defender get past me.

On this play, I switched assignments with my CPU teammate and sometimes it’s difficult to know if they’re going to switch or stick with the defender, there’s no communication like real life. The only reason I believe we even switched is because my assignment set an illegal moving pick on him (that the ref AI isn’t smart enough to call) so I had to take his assignment. This took my C+ back to a regular C

In this series, I get deducted more than an entire grade, I drop from a C that’s around 185% to a C- that’s about 50%. That’s 135% drop.

Bad Block Attempt – (4:15 – 2Q) – As the fast break reaches the hoop, the CPU with the ball has 2 defenders in front of him. I decided to attempt a block from behind since there were already 2 players in front, it wasn’t a great decision but it was low risk as if I were between him and the hoop. I get deducted about 25% for this.

Leave Assignment – (4:13 – 2Q) – As the ball carrier went towards the hoop and pulled me and 2 defenders inside, our defensive assignments were scrambled since 2 of us helped the triple team on the fast break. I was assigned responsibility for the player on the near perimeter almost as soon as he received the ball, I was hit with a “Leave Assignment” penalty, which is fair, I left my assignment to stop the fast break (which we weren’t awarded with “Stop the Fastbreak”). I was deducted about 33% for this.

Leave Assignment – (4:10 – 2Q) – As the other defenders stepped up to help with the player on the perimeter, I was switched back to my original assignment, in the far corner, and immediately docked for “Leaving Assignment”. This penalty wiped me out the remaining grade I had in C, and down to 50% of the way through C-. It’s gonna take a lot for me to dig myself back to the starting point (mid-grade C). It wasn’t even my assignment that scored.

I’m not even saying I played this great. I tried to stop the fastbreak, which was stopped, and no positive gain was given (it is an actual bonus given out). When the fastbreak stopped, the triple team caused assignments to scatter. In this instance, my defensive assignment didn’t score, but I understand being partly to blame for others being out of place, but that’s a tough defensive transition. In 5 seconds, I dropped from a high C to a mid C-, it’s impossible to have an upward swing that fast.

11 Positive Actions (9 pts, 100% shooting, only gave up 2 defensive points)

5 Negative Actions (3 which happened in that 5 second span).

As a whole, my team has 15 points, and the opponent had 22 points

My Grade was a Mid C-, a full grade deduction from when I started the game without doing anything. That’s why this is bullshit despite my few mistakes, my positive actions had a much bigger impact on the team, I had 60% of our points!! How does that outweigh those negatives!?!? I was never able to dig myself out of that hole, I ended the game with a mid-grade C, right where I started.  Another thing to note, once you start falling into a bad score, players tend to try to play more aggressive and overcome the bad grade, it usually doesn’t result well.

How could something like this not get caught in feedback in regards to balancing the game? No tin hat, but it’s impossible this wasn’t brought up, it HAS to be intentional. I can guarantee crap like this is all about grinding the player and pushing them into not being satisfied with their progression, hoping they’ll pay for VC microtransactions to get further in the game. The mechanics, and the game of basketball in 2K is actually well-done and fun, but this grind really spoils the experience. I question how reviews can continue to be so high year after year, are reviewers given a large amount of free VC to avoid experiencing the grind of a customer that only spends $60 on the game?

I know I’m not the best, and there are probably more egregious examples then what I showed here, you could probably also make some explanations for it too, but I overall do not have a good feeling about this. This just smells of greed. I’m sure there’s also a select few players that play so flawlessly that this doesn’t become an issue. I figure I’m an average player, right in the majority, a gamer and basketball fan looking for a good simulation to play in the modern era and have some fun with. Unfortunately 2K pretty much has a monopoly on basketball games, and with that dominance they’re trying to squeeze players dry.

Posted on February 24, 2019, in Thinking Outloud, Write-Ups and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Agreed, 2k has had a monopoly on these games, and they have been in their bag of deceitfull, unfair and greedy tricks over the past few years.

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