With NBA 2K14's Huge Success, Why Doesn't 2K Make More Sports Games?

NBA 2K14 is the company's best-selling sports game ever, yet it's only one of two games coming from 2K Sports these days.

NBA 2K14

Gripes about its in-game currency system aside, there's no denying NBA 2K14 is a massive success. Take-Two announced this week that 2K14 has become its best-selling sports game ever, with more than seven million units sold worldwide--an accomplishment none of the company's past sports games has ever managed.

Despite this, Take-Two's 2K Sports division isn't as prolific as it once was, with just NBA and WWE games left after making NHL, MLB, and NFL games in the past. Given the success of NBA 2K14, why is that 2K Sports has limited itself to the degree it has? That was the question raised during a Take-Two investors call earlier this week, which CEO Strauss Zelnick answered by saying the company is "trying to grow the business." However, he noted it's "doing so selectively."

"What we found is, when we're a leader in a space, we do really, really well," Zelnick explained. "When we're an also-ran in the space, we don't do well. And one of the things we try to do around here is start from the point of delighting audiences and putting out the highest-quality products, and then thinking about making money. But equally, we really, really object to losing money."

"[A] sport is a licensed property, so we have to be exceedingly selective in our licensing" -- Strauss Zelnick

Developing a mainstream sports game involves obtaining the license for its respective professional league--the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, and so on. Doing this increases the cost of producing such a game, which raises the level of sales needed in order to be profitable.

"The bulk of what we do around here is our owned intellectual property; by definition, a sport is a licensed property, so we have to be exceedingly selective in our licensing, and the company has a history around that," Zelnick said. "Generally speaking, I think this is a very disciplined--sometimes to a fault--management team, and that applies to the sports business.

"But I don't want that to be confused with a lack of ambition, because we are very, very ambitious to grow the enterprise."

Contacted for clarification regarding what Zelnick meant about "grow[ing] the enterprise," Take-Two would only confirm that he "was specifically referring to our sports business when answering that question."

As noted above, 2K Sports used to have a much larger catalog of games. Before obtaining the WWE license last year, 2K Sports had the MLB 2K (put on hiatus last year) and NHL 2K (put on hiatus in 2011) series, as well as the one-off All-Pro Football 2K8.

ESPN NFL 2K5

Visual Concepts, the Take-Two-owned developer responsible for its sports series, is the same studio that was responsible for the beloved NFL 2K series. The series was originally published by Sega (when it still owned Visual Concepts), before Take-Two became involved with the final game in the series, ESPN NFL 2K5. That game was famously sold for $20 at launch, far below the $50 price of the competing Madden NFL 2005. (2K5, many would argue, was also the far superior game despite the price disparity.)

Following 2K5's release, Take-Two purchased Visual Concepts, while Madden publisher Electronic Arts obtained the exclusive rights to the NFL (and ESPN), which it has held onto ever since, preventing the NFL 2K series from continuing. 2K Sports tried to get back into the football business with the aforementioned All-Pro Football 2K8, which featured retired NFL legends, in 2007, but the game never received a sequel.

It's unclear how, exactly, Take-Two plans on expanding its sports business. With it having so recently exited the baseball and hockey businesses, they don't seem like obvious choices for what it could be exploring, but that's merely speculation. Going after the NFL license after EA's deal expires--something that EA said in January is a "number of years" away--would be far more interesting, if only because Madden would then finally have the competition it's lacked for more than a decade. But as we saw with All-Pro Football and, more recently, NBA Live, offering a quality game after years away is no easy task.

Chris Pereira is a freelance writer for GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @TheSmokingManX
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Written By

Twitter/Xbox Live/PSN/Nintendo Network: TheSmokingManX

Want the latest news about NBA 2K14?

NBA 2K14

NBA 2K14

Discussion

101 comments
matty1053
matty1053

I think 2k really screwed up on the MLB series....


But there is no way they can compete with MLB the show series.  I think that is a clear reason they stopped MLB series. 

OF COURSE, it sold decently on Xbox.  Since they don't have their own baseball game.  

No one really purchased it on PS3 since they had MLB The Show... which IMO is one of the best sports games made.


2k has a great franchise mode, but they lack a lot of things.  I wish they made NHL 2k series again, since EA is screwing NHL !5 up for next gen and current gen.  (NO EASHL!!!!).


I respect game makers that have good competition, but unfortunantly.... 2k is not willing to make a NHL 2k series game again.  It would be purchased by a ton of people since EA is doing horrible.  No intro's of new game modes or anything recently.

colbster
colbster

2k should make a series of arcadey fantasy style sports games like rollerball or speedball! No license required, and the ability to make the game faster and more violent!

colbster
colbster

EA games suck, we need competition to make the games better. EA just keeps coming out with another crummy game with new things wrong with it. NHL 2014 wasn't any better than 2013 etc.

SpydogK
SpydogK

To all the people that are still saying "Blame the NFL, it's not EA's fault they offered the exclusive license"... This is false on so many levels.... 

We know from company emails obtained (which you can google pretty easily now) that EA was SCARED and was BEGGING the NFL to OFFER the license up for bid. 

They made a case to the NFL, saying that Take-Two selling NFL 2k5 for $20 was going to hurt the NFL's future licensing profits because of the low price tag, and suggested that allowing them to bid for exclusivity would be more profitable to the NFL. EA put up $300 million dollars, a sum so ridiculously overpriced that Take Two didn't even bother to try matching it. And with that, BOOM! Instant Monopoly for EA... The worst thing ever to happen to Sports Gaming!

95% of the blame goes to EA, 5% goes to the NFL for being stupid enough to believe their case and not even consulting with Take-Two first to see if they were going to raise the price back up next year. 

So in response, Take-Two bought third party exclusivity of MLB games, which of course ruined EA's amazing MVP series... 

Because of EA, we lost the Greatest Football game AND the Greatest Baseball game ever made in a matter of less than one year, and only Lord knows when we'll ever get competition and variety back in sports gaming...

trejohns
trejohns

What other options do they have? Their baseball series sucked and their hockey series sucked. They made the greatest college basketball game ever and then EA bought the license. And speaking of EA, they won't release their death grip on the NFL license anytime soon out of fear. WWE and NBA is all they have unless they want to make another Top Spin.

Vodoo
Vodoo

2k does Football and NBA games the best. EA does Baseball and Hockey better. I wish these two companies could get in Harmony, recognize their strengths, and make the best product for the consumer. But it would probably take an act of God to pry EA away from the NFL license.

We all love to hate on EA, but they make a damn fine Hockey game. They always have, all the way back since its inception. Their MVP Baseball franchise was also very fun, until 2k bought the exclusive rights for it. Though even if EA did make another MVP, I doubt it would be able to compete with Sony's The Show (that game is all around perfect). But it would be nice to have a decent Baseball option for Xbox platforms as well.

daikkenaurora12
daikkenaurora12

If they did more sports games, EA would have to drop that department and people would lose their jobs and a war would break out causing the Earth to be destroyed.

kriket44
kriket44

Why not try to take over NCAA Football since EA let it go?  Arguably one of the most popular sports in the US.  College football would be a hell of a market to take over with the gameplay 2k football games are famous for.  Could make the NFL second guess renewing it's exclusive license with EA.  The whole reason why NCAA didn't renew with EA, was their mediocrity.  

DarthLod
DarthLod

Because sports games suck? Just like sports themselves.

sickbeard
sickbeard

A new Top Spin game, please, before this current batch of players retire....

ston_kol
ston_kol

How about taking over fifa soccer from ea sport...EA SUCK..!

PEs is the best period...unlucky got no licence..Dem u EA

digthat32
digthat32

I haven't played a football game since EA bought it's way out of competing.  Come back to me NFL 2k...

phenomenon1man
phenomenon1man

call me crazy but I think sony should try to bring back their nba game I think they could do so much better than their old stuff considering next gen and the success with mlb the show it would just take some work but if its good and looks like the show 14 on ps4 I would play it

blackace
blackace

What happened to the Tennis game Top Spin? The last one (Top Spin 4) was came out in 2011. I would love to see a golf game from them as well. It's obviously the reason they stopped doing NHL 2K and MLB 2K was because they weren't selling enough copies. They should have merged with Hypnotix and they could have made the golf and tennis games for them. Instead EA acquired them and of course they are no more now. All they did was make Arena Football for EA.

theKSMM
theKSMM

2K got bumped from NFL, which could be an extremely lucrative license, but they'd have to pay a grip to get it even before they started to compete with the Madden juggernaut.

They basically gave up MLB to Sony's The Show.  And I doubt NHL games were very profitable.

Infinite_713
Infinite_713

2k annihilated EA in Basketball driving NBA LIVE in nothingness. I haven't BOUGHT a single football game since NBA 2k5. It was far better than Madden 2005 and I still crown it as the best football game ever made this far. 

From what I read in the reviews, NHL games were better simulated on 2k, but EA had better gameplay. 

MLB 2k was the same every year.

So basically 2k outshines EA in Basketball and Football. Hopefully we can get another NFL 2k soon. I really miss that series..


Thesuperstar2k
Thesuperstar2k

Remember 2K used to make tennis games? What ever happened to that?

StokeMeAClipper
StokeMeAClipper

I personally enjoy the FIFA games, but EA's paying for exclusivity of licences is a dirty tactic indicative of fear of competition (I'm also annoyed at their Porsche exclusivity deal).

While it isn't the most important thing, a licence does make a difference. I played a few un-licensed games (with names like Sheallar instead of Shearer) back in the day, and up until around 2008 was a PES guy. The only reason I switched was because I felt FIFA had legitimately become the better game (not all will agree).

I wish EA would grow a pair and embrace the competition. Let the game sell itself and not the exclusive license.

oflow
oflow

NFL 2K on Dreamcast was a pretty solid game.  Pretty sure they dont make the NFL game anymore mostly because the NFL signed specifically with EA since back in the days Madden was actually still on tv and it would be hard to compete with that.

NBA 2K didnt just become great overnight though.  Back when EA wasnt phoning it in, NBA Live was actually the better game.  It took NBA 2K a few years to actually get up to speed, combined with EA turning NBA Live into a cartoon game.  (IMHO the last good Live was NBA Live 2003 with Jason Kidd on the cover. After that, the game turned arcade where you could shoot threes from half court everytime down the floor, while 2K continued to press for realism)


If they bring back NFL 2K I will support it. 

tmorri603
tmorri603

The only reason that EA paid to have the NFL exclusive is 2k was kicking their butts and they had to do something before Madden was totally out the picture. They tried to do the same with the NBA but they would not let them and you see what happened with Live. EA could not deliver the goods and it got smoked by 2K. They know the same thing would have happened to Madden.

john_matrix_007
john_matrix_007

Blame the NFL for the exclusive deal with EA. Take-Two actually offered more money for the NFL license than EA did, but the NFL chose to go with EA instead.

GSGuy321
GSGuy321

EA games have no soul. No heartbeat. It's all generic stuff. You never leap up out of your seat and pump your fist like you would with 2K or Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer. Both of which have an abundance of individuality of players. EA is all so generic. Lifeless. Feel corporate in a way. Without SOUL.

GSGuy321
GSGuy321

The truth is that exclusive deals and licensing are a loophole around a mediocre product. And that's exactly what EA produces.... mediocre products. 

The gamers suffer in the end with subpar products.

Touchdown65
Touchdown65

The best thing madden does is take a feature away and then repackage it as new a few years later. What happend to the personality like the appartments you could start from a  crappy one and have a mansion by the time you were done. the yalk show raidio show that got rplaced with the twitter feed that repeats it self.  with 2k gone they got lazy back then both games got high reviews each year like 8 and 9's now madden is content with 7's

So long story short I WANT 2K!!!!

M3o5nster
M3o5nster

Doesn't need to be said, but NFL2K put Madden to shame, EA did what they do and put their greedy paws all over the license. And once again, gamers are forced to suffer at the hands of EA.


Same reason I can't drive beloved Porsches unless I buy that failure of a NFS game they've been putting out.

videlsports
videlsports

I want 2k to bring back NHL and, College Football and Basketball. With the ED obannon ruling and the power 5 getting their way, that might be posssible

jjleshko90
jjleshko90

Here is the real reason why:


MLB -- market saturated because of MLB The Show series

NHL -- not enough people follow the sport

NFL -- expensive license, Madden series leads to oversaturation


NBA is the best bet -- a good audience because lots of video gamers watch basketball, relatively cheap license, and nothing but bad games in the market.

berzerk0912
berzerk0912

"With NBA 2K14's Huge Success, Why Doesn't 2K Make More Sports Games?" E.vil A.ssociations

Agentbling
Agentbling

I think 2K is right on with focusing the NBA series.  Savoy is right.  Their MLB series was just not very good compared to its competitor, and even though their NFL games were amazing EA now owns that.  They have a great formula with the NBA games, and by far have the edge there.  I can't wait for NBA 2K15!

Enfamous_Mr_BHC
Enfamous_Mr_BHC

@kriket44 There was a case that feature former college basketball player Ed O'Bannon. He sued the NCAA and EA for using his likeness without his consent literally and wanted to be paid for it. The ruling was in O'Bannon's favor so this case is the big reason why NCAA videogames are halted. That being said I'd would like 2k to get back into football but unfortunately college won't be the way in.

rasterror
rasterror

@DarthLod You probably hate them because it involves moving.  You sound fat, frail, out of shape, or afraid of real world interaction.

kjsfear
kjsfear

@DarthLod awww.  look at the little upset nerd who lacks any physical ability 

Slagar
Slagar

@digthat32 Basically the perfect plan for world destruction: 

1. Buy rights to everything.

2. Stop making product.

3. *world explodes*

bigrod69
bigrod69

@blackace Tennis games can be extremely fun when they're done right, and if you add in character building and RPG elements you can make the single player campaign deep enough to justify the full cost of the game. Tennis on consoles is just a descendant of Pong and the games have always worked. I'd love if they made something next-gen along those lines. Great idea.

bigrod69
bigrod69

@Infinite_713 2K was better than Madden if you liked arcade style play. While I enjoyed the early 2K games for the Dreamcast, they just got too loose with the gameplay as the series went along, so to me it was no big loss as I prefer the simulation feel of Madden. However 2K pushed Madden to improve and Madden has gotten a bit stale - although not nearly as bad as everyone claims. Madden is still fun to play, but the graphics on the next-gen consoles are not worthy of next gen games, and things like the UI are slow. The gameplay in Madden is pretty good still. Competing with 2K would make EA fix the commentary (it's terrible), the UI and make them have to do more things to change up the yearly games. I'm OK with the year cycle for sports games, if you don't like then don't buy it, but competition made EA better.

eze_sl89
eze_sl89

@StokeMeAClipper kid, pes is way better. if you play a game just because it has licences you are completely lost and know nothing about football (soccer).

That "licence" issue is easily solved by simply download a patch from the internet. Whatever version you have, ps3, or PC, there are always excellent patches around.

Its amazing how talented the patch makers fans are. If you try it, you will find PES patched is way way superior than any crappy FIFA game. Plus, FIFA gameplay is completely broken, you just cant compare the games.

PES plays very natural, FIFA is just a copy of PES's gameplay. FIFA only has fancy emblems, thats all.

oflow
oflow

@StokeMeAClipper well its not really a dirty tactic since the leagues themselves are selling it, you can blame the leagues too. Look at all the crap the NCAA is involved in now getting sued etc.  Theres a crap ton of money involved in this on all sides so with the money comes the greed.

flyinb11
flyinb11

I couldn't disagree more. NBA 2K was better from the drop on Dreamcast. Live players just wouldn't give it a chance, because the game was harder to master with the complex controls. Once forced into it, they realized how good 2K was. Live was a pick up and play arcade dunk fest.

SpydogK
SpydogK

@john_matrix_007 This is false on so many levels.... We know from company emails obtained (which you can google pretty easily now) that EA was SCARED and was BEGGING the NFL to OFFER the license up for bid. 

They made a case to the NFL, saying that Take-Two selling NFL 2k5 for $20 was going to hurt the NFL's future licensing profits because of the low price tag, and suggested that allowing them to bid for exclusivity would be more profitable to the NFL. EA put up $300 million dollars, a sum so ridiculously overpriced that Take Two didn't even bother to try matching it. And with that, BOOM! Instant Monopoly for EA... The worst thing ever to happen to Sports Gaming!

95% of the blame goes to EA, 5% goes to the NFL for being stupid enough to believe their case and not even consulting with Take-Two first to see if they were going to raise the price back up next year.

kindlewithcare
kindlewithcare

@jjleshko90 The NBA is only followed in certain areas of the U.S. Hockey is followed all around the world and is far more popular than basketball. Most NBA markets are failing.

oflow
oflow

@Agentbling Their MLB game actually had better controls than The Show which the The Show later stole and incorporated into their game.  Initially The Show used the same old interface thaat High Heat/MVP Baseball used. As far as playability it was a more fun game.  The pace was right and the games moved fast, unlike The Show which played like aa sim with 3 hour games. What killed their baseball game was the bugs, the better eye candy  and the more indepth season/career modes of The Show.


The 2K pitch stick controls where you moved the stick in a pattern to throw different pitches and the recticle shook to simulate nerves/being rattled or pressure situations was genius.  So were the batting controls where you could actually hit pitches out of the strike zone and the 'hitters' eye' feature which was more realistic than just guessing what pitch is coming randomly like The Show.

Slagar
Slagar

@kjsfear @DarthLod Calling someone a "nerd" when you're posting on a video game website never ceases to amaze me.

flyinb11
flyinb11

This is the first I've heard someone say the 2K game was too arcade. I've always felt the opposite.

StokeMeAClipper
StokeMeAClipper

@eze_sl89 @StokeMeAClipper I'm 31 (but thanks for making me feel young again for a second lol). I don't expect everyone to agree, but I personally think FIFA overtook PES around 2007-2008 (as someone that played both).

I've played a couple of PES demos since (I think 2009 and 2010 or 2010 and 2011) but I wasn't impressed. However I have been considering picking up PES again as I've heard in the last couple of instalments they've upped their game.

As I said, it isn't the most important thing, but having the proper names is nice. FIFA also has nice little touches such as mentioning players birthdays, how many they've scored throughout the season and when you smash a goal home it is more satisfying to hear the commentator shout the players real name.

StokeMeAClipper
StokeMeAClipper

@oflow @StokeMeAClipper EA are one of the most prolific for obtaining exclusivity. When it comes to sports titles they've had most of them licensed for well over a decade and they would likely describe it as a relationship in a statement.

With this long term "relationship" in place it gives them leverage. Because they have had this arrangement for so long there is likely some loyalty between them, meaning if someone else makes an offer they'll likely have to pay a big enough sum to make the sporting body overlook their loyalty to EA.

OK, it is business, but a large part of business is dirty tactics and keeping people sweet. This means that the playing field is not level for the competition, making it harder for them and making them more reluctant to try. This results in less choice for us and less competition driving efforts to make better games. In the long run it means we have less choice and worse games.

Nehen
Nehen

@kindlewithcare @jjleshko90 So not true.I live in Greece and i love nba.Many people do actually as it is covered daily by sports sites and pappers.No one ever mentions hockey in Europe.That is why NBA2k is selling 7 million units cause people all over the world buy it.Who would buy NHL except US players?

Agentbling
Agentbling

Thing about the 2k series is the game was just bland with horrible AI. Just not very entertaining and endlessly frustrating at times. The show has always been better IMO. Lots of games borrow control schemes from other games of the same genre, but 2k had many more issues.

Vodoo
Vodoo

Just because you post comments to a video game news article doesn't make you a nerd. It amazes me that you think it does.

bigrod69
bigrod69

@flyinb11 I played them both for years, NFL 2K was much more arcadey than Madden is - that's part of the reason casual fans liked it better since it was easier to play.

bigrod69
bigrod69

@Enfamous_Mr_BHC @flyinb11 Madden is considered a Sim, it always has been - that's not even a controversial statement. Games like NFL Blitz are arcade games. NFL 2K wasn't an arcade game, but it was more arcadey than Madden was since it was going for a more casual fan.