Was NBA 2K20 A Leeway For Gambling Mechanics in Modern Games?

NBA 2K20
Photo: 2K Sports

The video games industry is flourishing and getting richer every day, but its not the only one with a sudden major growth in value. The online casino market is one of the most unexpected in terms of capital growth. So, the turnover of global gambling (for example, online casinos) in 2023 should amount to 525 billion dollars. For example, in 2014, the figure was – 450 billion. Growth of 75 billion – more than serious. No wonder someone thought that combining these industries might result in quite a profit considering how people are jumping on a few examples with eagerness

Combined with gaming-related issues, there are real ethical issues that made the 2K Games trailer for the NBA 2K20 so disturbing. And the said disturbance is completely understandable since real money slots demos from CasinoHex portal are not much different from any right and colorful video game and that blurred line between gambling games and games with gambling mechanics starting to become non-existent. Showcasing new features in MyTeam fixed mode, 2K has made gambling a central mechanics and really wants to emphasize how much fun it is.

In the trailer, you can see sets of cards with players (local loot boxes), as well as a virtual casino and related activities. Even in the video, we can see people who sincerely rejoice at the win flashed. So, was NBA 2K20 a leeway for gambling mechanics in modern games?

NBA 2K20 Trailer: Background

The NBA 2K20 basketball simulator trailer was released on September 6 on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. The game started at the top of the sales charts, although its circulation is almost three times lower than in the previous part – NBA 2K19.

The game also receives quite positive reviews from critics. In the OpenCritic aggregator, its average rating is 79%. So, Forbes rated the NBA 2K20 at 9/10, and the Game Revolution portal gave it 4.5/5. Reviewers note a good storyline campaign, excellent appearance, and an abundance of content.

But players with similar praise do not agree. On Steam, the basketball simulator was rated “extremely negative”: only about 15 percent of players recommend the NBA 2K20 for purchase. Others note that controllability has become worse, servers are unstable, and cheaters have appeared online since day one.

Some time before the release, the main criticism of the NBA 2K20 was caused by the scandalous trailer of the MyTeam mode – it was compared with an advertisement for a virtual casino. A YouTube video has thousands of times more “disliked” marks than positive ratings, and in the comments, they urge to completely remove the basketball, which looks obviously superfluous here.

However, only a part of the players reduces the NBA 2K20 ratings due to the abundance of microtransactions. Most are unhappy that the game is not taking a very noticeable step forward, compared with the previous parts of the series. The developers did not even change the NBA 2K19 icon that appears on the taskbar when minimizing the game.

As you understand, the question has become acute: is there really a consequence of putting gambling mechanics in the games?

Is It A Popularization Of Gambling?

Is NBA 2K20 MyTeam gambling? The answer depends on who you ask, but the legal regulators says no. Not surprisingly, none of the two major rating agencies – ESRB of North America and European PEGI – noted the NBA 2K20 for gambling, imitation, or otherwise. PEGI, however, explained its argument to the complainant.

The fact is that PEGI says that the mini-games included in the MyTeam NBA 2K mode are an advertising trailer that does not call for gambling. PEGI is right that this is not a game of chance in itself, because in slot machines, the Wheel of Fortune minigame, you do not have to bet, and what is won is valuable only as game content.

But for ESRB, these mini-games are not even a “gambling simulation“. Although the ESRB is an independent entity, it is also an industry entity (actually created by the Entertainment Software Association 25 years ago next month). And the position of the industry, according to ESA, is that such types of card sets and mini-games in the modes of collecting cards of sports video games and boxes with loot in other games are not gambling, because nothing valuable is played out.

Interestingly, since then, the trailer hosted on the 2K Games YouTube account in the UK has been removed. It is still broadcast on the NBA 2K main channel on YouTube.