Is NBA 2K21 a Make It or Break It Game for 2K?

 In only two decades, NBA 2k games have managed to trail blaze a path to become widely recognized as a  staple within the sports video game community.
In only two decades, NBA 2k games have managed to trail blaze a path to become widely recognized as a staple within the sports video game community. / Photo Courtesy of 2K Games

In only two decades, 2K Games have managed to trail blaze a path to become widely recognized as a staple within the sports video game community. The iconic series first hit stores back in Nov. of 1999, and ever since then has never slowed down by continuing to meet its deadline for yearly releases. This game not only helped to grow fans' love for video games but also propelled people's love for the game of basketball as well.

While acknowledging 2K is in the midst of a tremendous run, some players and fans have raised concerns about certain areas of 2K's gameplay in recent years. Being that the 2K community is greatly diverse, being made of both professional and casual players you would get mixed arguments about when 2K stopped feeling like itself. With many opinions that vary, a decent amount of people would like to see the franchise to make a shift in its direction.

There have been many people in the 2K community with fanbases of their own big and small, who have voiced their concerns. Even a couple NBA players themselves, have spoken out about the game too. However, there has been no one more critical of 2K than YouTuber Agent 00. Agent has been a booming voice in the 2K community since 2K17, and has since made it his duty to a bridge between between Ronnie 2K and the people.

In a video posted to his YouTube channel back in June of 2017 in preparation for 2k18, Agent says the following:

"Trying to tip toe the line between what is real and what is fake has been a struggle for 2KK all year ". He then compares 2K to the game Tekken and says, "Tekken does a good job at differentiating the casual fan from the competitive fan." Why are these two quotes so important? Because these two issues are among the core source problems that have been facing the 2K community every year since 2K17's release.

In a video posted to his YouTube channel back in August, Agent actually got a chance to sit down with one of 2K's gameplay directors Mike Wang. In the interview that was done for 2KTV, Agent was able to ask Mike a couple of questions and pick his brain and 2k21. One of the major points that Agent mentioned was the idea of more "balance" within 2K.

Agent stated, "In the name of balance a lot of times developers will ruin the fun of the game." He goes onto say that even though some of the past 2K titles were heavily unbalanced and had a lot of glitches, looking back they were still some of the most fun 2K games ever. Wang then asked Agent about what his thoughts were on competitive shooting.

"You want to have a ranked and unranked mode just like every other game" he followed up with "If you are going to have competitive sliders you are going to ruin the fun for casual people, so split it up. Have the simple sliders for the people that just want to chill and have harder sliders for the people that just want to go hardcore," Agent said.

The idea of making 2K more balanced is a very hot take that many in the 2K community disagree with. The competitive players feel like by implementing a balance, it rewards the casual players instead of taking the challenge of getting better head on. On the other side, casual players do not want to play or take games as serious. They just want to play for fun without having to worry about immediately stepping on a court just to get booted off by higher ranking players.

It is a double edged sword in which the developers are honestly placed in a tough spot, because they do not want to favor one side over the other. It is tougher to implement balancing in a sports game than for example a first-person shooter like Call of Duty. In Call of Duty there are different weapons that do different amounts of damage. In 2K it is just your character, a ball and a hoop.

There are a few areas in which players want to see 2K improve upon.


2K21's cover athlete Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard took to Twitter to express his own struggles with shooting in the latest release. Like many others, the superstar experienced the shooting woes that always seem to affect players whenever a new 2K hits stores.

The developers have taken notice of the need to try and implement a skills gap in 2K, especially after 2K16. Over the past three years, Mike Wang has worked tirelessly to reconfigure the shot meter for every release. The reworked shot meter makes players have to time their releases more, whether they shoot lay ups or a jump shot. However, by making this change, many players just end up using the same jump shot setup which can led to constant nerfing.

This is probably the smartest way to go about adding some sort of "balance" in-game that players could possibly warm up to. While some players still feel like the skill gap being the shooting is to much, many would rather prefer this over a split up of amongst skill sets.


As 2K has grown, they have begun to stress the point of microtransactions. Just like V-Bucks in Fortnite or CoD Points in Modern Warfare, the amount of players purchasing VC has seen a huge increase. By emphasizing this "pay-to-play mentality" players believe that it takes the fun out of actually grinding badges and playing the game.

Considering all of this brings us back to the question is if this a make or break year for 2K? Even if 2 has done all they can, players expect a big jump from the franchise this year. Especially with the next-gen consoles the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 soon to be released. 2K21 needs to feature 2K's absolute best and pull out all the stops. The community feels like change in-game is long overdue, and luckily for them the developers seems to have been taking notes and have tried their best to listen.

Their core fanbase is still strong and still in spite of the recent years, there are fans who will keep purchasing 2K games in the hopes that some type of change will come eventually.