NBA 2K21 is facing heavy criticism for featuring advertisements for products you might find sold on sale during an actual NBA game—a worrying addition to the trend of studios treating games less like games, and more like monetization platforms that gamers pay for. Critics have lampooned this as outrageously, soullessly greedy, with little regard for the fact that it will allow developer 2K Games to make more money than they could ever even imagine. To deal with these criticisms, 2K has made it so the unskippable ads are for games that are far superior to NBA 2K21.
“We just think it adds to the reality of the experience,” said 2K21’s creative director and yacht owner Patrick Tilson. “When you watch the NBA, you’re getting ads. So when you play the NBA, why not get ads, but for games that are better in every way, that do not feature in-game advertisements?” He then showed us a loading screen that featured an advertisement for The Outer Worlds, a game that is better than NBA 2K21 by every conceivable metric.
Players were frustrated at first when their Rockets vs. the Lakers game was barred behind an ad for Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Fortunately, however, the unskippable, two-minute-long advertisement included a download link with a recommendation to stop playing a glorified commercial and play a real game instead.
The 2K developers consider this ad system a win-win, saying, “The developers get the money from the people buying the game, the advertisers get to show that they have a substantially more enjoyable product than we do, and the player gets to consider the life choices that led to them paying us sixty dollars for a never-ending commercial break.”
2K later confirmed that they will be turning every bench player into Master Chief in order to promote Halo Infinite, and will be raising the price of the game to $90.