If you are one of the roughly 12 million people in the world that buys 2K’s simulation-style basketball game each year, you were likely anticipating the Sept. 4 release of NBA 2K21 like I was. But, as what seems to have become a yearly occurrence, this year’s game lacks significant improvement from last year’s, a major disappointment. For a while now, fans of the NBA and its most popular game have wanted more yet have regularly been let down by 2K’s creators.
There are four main modes in NBA 2K: Play Now, MyCareer, MyTeam and MyLeague. Play Now is relatively standard and has limited complaints. In this mode, you can play with or against friends and as your favorite teams. The simplicity of the mode allows it to operate smoothly and with little issues. The other game modes, however, exhibit flaws that are difficult to ignore.
Within the first month of the game’s release, users contacted the 2K support line about numerous glitches and bugs which included freezing, corrupt files, unsuccessful saves and laggy servers. None of these, however, hold water to the most significant issue of 2K21 so far. For the last six years, the company has dropped two versions of the game: a $60 version and a $100 version. The main incentive to buy the $100 copy is additional virtual currency (VC), used to upgrade your MyCareer player, as well as other minor incentives. However, the additional VC was not applied to everyone’s account in NBA 2K21, so until this is fixed, users wasted $40.
In the MyTeam online game mode, you start with a roster of low overall NBA players, both active and retired. The goal is to build up your team to compete with other players by playing and acquiring better players. This mode, while not as popular as MyCareer, brings in the most money. Players worldwide swipe their credit cards daily to open new packs of player cards to see if they can get the new players the game releases each week, but unfortunately, most do not succeed. Even YouTubers who make their living off of the game have found it frustrating. One of the more popular 2K YouTubers, DBG, who currently has over two hundred thousand subscribers, posted a video highlighting the mode’s flaws, including the absurd level of gameplay difficulty, rarity of cards and infuriating servers. Luckily, these issues are easily fixable through game updates, so hopefully there are hotfixes en route.
And then there’s the MyLeague mode, which undoubtedly has the most issues. Speculation suggests that the issues are not to be fixed due to one key factor: 2K does not make any extra money off of MyLeague. In MyCareer and MyTeam, people can spend money on VC, but this is not the case in MyLeague. In this game mode, you can take control over any team you want, do a league-wide fantasy draft or even create your own custom roster. With your team, you can make trades, sign free agents and simulate and play the entire season. However, annual redundancy and lack of improvement have made it stale and aggravating to use.
For starters, simulation speed is slow, downloading data is broken and the lack of variety since the game mode’s creation in 2015 has left players wanting more. Another popular YouTuber, KOT4Q, has made his living off of MyLeague. KOT4Q is so successful he has even been hired by Bleacher Report to co-host a podcast and occasionally co-host a House of Highlights show called “Talk Tape.” He has gained over 800,000 subscribers, mainly by posting MyLeague videos. KOT4Q owes everything to 2K, but the lack of improvement still aggravates both him and many players. After the release of 2K21, he made several videos criticizing 2K21’s MyLeague, like “2K Just Destroyed the MyLeague Community” and “The Tweet That Proved 2K Hates MyLeague Community.”
With all that said, Xbox and PlayStation are both releasing new versions of their respective consoles. 2K has been promoting the $70 “Next Gen” copy of the game to be released along with the new consoles. There is always the possibility that 2K has decided to put all of its effort into perfecting the Next Gen game, but with its track record, the third version of the same game might just be another money grab.
NBA 2K21 clearly has its fair share of problems, so is it worth buying? The answer depends on how much you play the game. If you frequently enjoy online gameplay, then 2K21 is probably worth the investment. But if you’re a casual fan and just like to play with friends, the buggy gameplay offers little incentive to buy the newest 2K.