NBA 2K players recently started sharing videos and screenshots of seemingly unskippable ads that were running before the start of games.
While the presence of unskippable ads in a full-price game is annoying enough, the frustration caused by these ads was only amplified by the fact that this isn’t the first time that the NBA 2K team has tried to pull this trick off. Actually, you might remember that last year’s NBA 2K game tried to push in-game ads and was met with equal scorn from annoyed fans. EA has also been criticized for putting unskippable ads in some of their UFC games.
In their defense, the NBA 2K team responded to the circulation of these in-game ads with a quick apology. However, the wording of this apology leaves a lot to be desired:
You probably noticed that the team says that they didn’t intend for these ads to run “as part of the pre-game introduction” rather than “we didn’t intend for these ads to be in the game at all.” The distinction between those concepts is important to understanding why you shouldn’t expect those ads to go away anytime soon.
After all, some fans previously speculated that the reduced load times offered by the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X would limit a publisher’s ability to slip these ads into a loading screen. That brings us back to the idea that the 2K team’s wording is really about how they realize that adding ads to loading screens is about to feel even more suspicious than it already is.
To be clear, we’re not saying that ads are inherently a bad thing. They’re often seen as a great way to help people create accessible content without directly demanding more money from the people who want to enjoy that content.
The problem is that NBA 2K is not a free game. It costs $60 on the PS4 and Xbox One, and the game will notoriously cost $70 on the PS5 and Xbox Series X due to what Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick described as an “experience you can really only have on these next-generation consoles.” While it’s understandable that you may assume that a unique next-gen experience includes the ability to enjoy your game without having to view ads, the fact is that recent gaming history suggests that simply won’t be the case.
As major sports games (and other notable Triple-A titles) began to experiment more and more with mobile gaming monetization concepts such as random character unlocks and multiple forms of in-game currency, it’s only natural to assume that one of the biggest mobile money makers (ads) will find their way into major console games. It certainly feels noteworthy that these ads are currently most popular in games that not only heavily feature mobile-style loot boxes (through variations of the “Ultimate Team” concepts) but are typically associated with licenses other studios can’t officially compete with.
While there are no guarantees on this subject, the history of in-game monetization and the ways that titles like Fortnite cleverly use in-game advertising to expand their reach and popularity suggest that ads and similar practices aren’t going anywhere.