Q&A: 2K Sports' gameplan for PS3

2K Sports director of marketing Erik Whiteford talks about getting PlayStation 3 launch titles ready, EA's cancellation of NBA Live 07 for PS3, and the EA/2K rivalry.

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In sports, there are established "old-time" franchises that have deep roots, a championship history, and a ridiculously loyal fan base. The same can be said about sports gaming, and without a doubt one can easily draw parallels between the New York Yankees and EA Sports. Both have a winning history, use their "brand" to fantastic results, and are willing to spend more than their competitors in order to dominate.

Times are changing however, and both the Yankees and EA Sports are seeing the competition catch up quickly.

2K Sports, the sports-centric arm of Take-Two Interactive, is elbowing its way into the market at EA's expense. With the next-generation of consoles almost in full swing there has never been a better opportunity for 2K Sports to make its move, and the company is taking advantage.

EA Sports recently confirmed that NBA Live 07 for the PlayStation 3 has been canceled, leaving the hoops market on Sony's next-gen console a one-on-one match between 2K Sports' NBA 2K7 and Sony's own NBA 07. 2K Sports is also shipping out the lone hockey game for the PS3's launch, as EA passed on making a version of NHL 07 for the platform.

In light of this recent turn of events and the impending Wii and PS3 launches, GameSpot caught up with 2K Sports' director of marketing, Erik Whiteford, to get his take on the next-gen sports-game war, the reason EA Sports shelved NBA Live 07, and the overall rivalry between the two companies.

NHL 2K7 faces off against no competition on the PS3.
NHL 2K7 faces off against no competition on the PS3.

GameSpot: How difficult was it to ensure that NHL 2K7 and NBA 2K7 made the PS3's launch day?

Erik Whiteford: It's always a challenge when you put a product on a new hardware system, especially on launch day. But the 2K Sports team is great and has experience with the Xbox 360 launch. It was difficult but not Herculean.

GS: With so few PS3s available at launch, what is the advantage of getting a PS3 2K Sports title out on day one? Why wouldn't you want to wait for more market penetration?

EW: The next gen is where the real opportunity lies for the 2K Sports franchise. It's important for any company to be at launch because though they might not sell a ton of units initially, it helps build market share, credibility, and awareness, especially for fans looking for the next killer app.

I always thought we made better games, but EA has a long brand legacy and consumers kind of follow the herd. We see next-gen is an opportunity for us to distinguish ourselves as the leader. Our NBA 2K7 sales are outpacing Live on Xbox 360 right now by almost 50 percent. Consumers are starting to see that and react. We need to win consumers with good products.

On the PS3 in particular, it's a watershed moment, because we've never been there for a PlayStation hardware launch before. We really think our titles will be a killer app for PS3, reaching to more than just sports gamers.

NBA 2K7 puts the Heat on NBA Live 07.
NBA 2K7 puts the Heat on NBA Live 07.

Also, because the development cycle for sports games is so short by nature of the industry, the sooner we finish NBA 2K7, the sooner we can start working on NBA 2K8.

GS: There have been nightmare stories about developing for the PS3. Anything to tell from 2K Sports' dev houses (Visual Concepts or Kush)? Do you think that the reported difficulties developers are having with the PS3 will last? Or is this just a new language that will take some getting used to?

EW: I'm on the marketing side, so I'm probably not the best person to ask. But for any new hardware there are new challenges, and this is fairly typical of any new hardware launch. We all heard rumors that PS3 was hard to develop for, but everything has positives and negatives and the key is to identify the positives and work with them.

GS: What are your initial reactions to EA canceling the PS3 edition of NBA Live 07, and why do you think your rival passed on it this year?

EW: I think it's a clear indication that NBA Live was not a quality product and it could not compete in the marketplace with a clearly superior title. Rather than suffer any further damage to the brand, they chose to kill the game and regroup for next year.

GS: With EA out of the PS3 basketball market for launch, you have only one other hoops competitor on the platform, Sony's NBA 07. What are your opinions of that franchise?

The BIGS looks to be the next major series for 2K Sports.
The BIGS looks to be the next major series for 2K Sports.

EW: It's sort of a wait-and-see franchise. Every new hardware platform presents a new opportunity for [a] company to establish a franchise. I haven't seen enough of what Sony's game looks like to have a strong opinion.

GS: With the MLB-licensed The BIGS, 2K Sports is heading into arcade-style sports gameplay. Any chance of a basketball game in that vein a la NBA Street?

EW: Right now we have a street mode in the NBA 2K7 game, which is our expression of street-style basketball.

GS: How bad does 2K Sports miss football? Any chance of a non-NFL licensed Blitz: The League-style game from you? It worked well for Midway...

2K Sports' NFL 2K series--R.I.P.?
2K Sports' NFL 2K series--R.I.P.?

EW: We miss our football, especially with the success of our last football game, ESPN Football 2K5. We're not announcing anything right now.

GS: Is this whole 2K Sports/EA Sports rivalry fabricated by the media? Or is it real?

EW: Yes, there's definitely a rivalry, as by nature sports is a competitive entity. Vying for marketshare in the sports video game market automatically makes it competitive. Just look at the recent ESPN, MLB, and NFL license deals. Having that competition out there makes 2K Sports better at what we do, and we force EA to be better than if they didn't have any rivals. We're essentially fighting for the same market, which naturally leads to a rivalry.

GS: Thanks, Erik.

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conca324

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I miss the 2K series too. now im forced to play madden. 2K was so much better, especially the graphics. the lighting in that shot of randy moss looks next-gen. anyway, thats my two cents

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JiveT

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I miss the 2K football series as well. It kind of seemed like in this year's version of Madden for the 360 it took some cues from 2K in regards to the feel of the gameplay.

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Gamepro2421

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2K needs to get back into football. Madden SUCKS! both the person and the game...2k5 was the #$%^

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PESon360

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EA = Eat All hope they make footy games to compete fifa and pes

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Killagorilla27

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This was a great interview, but in the end, all I found myself doing was missing the awesome ESPN 2K football series and loathing the very existence of the NFL-owning, -less Madden games...(I don't care how annoying his commentary was to some people - bring him back...)

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sieg6529

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It's news like this that makes me very glad that I don't like sports games.

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fuman3

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How many years do we have left till the Ea Deal with the NFL is Done? 3? I be t you the NFl knew they made a stupid mistake by doing that. Im more mad at the NFL for agreeing to that than EA. EA is just desperate after seeing NFL 2k5 selling more copies then Madden on the Xbox that year. Im sure the NFL will think twice about resigning an exclusive deal again. Im glad the NHL and NBA refused because they want a competative race for the better of the game. mad respect to them. Just think, 2k has 3 years to develop there football game on the side. Im sure there doing that. When the gates open, NFL 2k11 will be the best football game anyone ever played. Im still playing 2k5 and refuse to still buy madden to this day!!!

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princeofgames90

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I want Football

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KnightwingX7

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2K has always been better than EA, finally people are starting to realize it. Some games are exceptions of course.

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watercandle

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EA has two big rival. Ubisoft on FPS and action adventures, and 2K on sports. But there is one thing that 2K is inferior to EA: BASEBALL. Gimme MVP Baseball 07 back or make MLB 2K7 or The Bigs to rock.

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ebonyflame

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Speaking of license deals for sports video games, I am very curious as to why when EA Sports gobbled up the ESPN brand that 2K Sports did not immediately allign itself with Fox Sports? Just the musings of a guy tired of playing EA Sports branded games I suppose.

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spartan1308

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XOXIXO said: "I always thought we made better games, but EA has a long brand legacy and consumers kind of follow the herd." I love this guys attitude....makes me cry that he has so much respect for the consumer He's being honest and he's right. People buy what they know and if people want to play online w/friends that already have a game, they buy the game that their friend already owns. Ipods may be nice mp3 players, but there are cheaper, sturdier and more feature rich players on the market. However iPods continue to dominate, because they are what "the herd" knows.

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kuhl420_basic

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I was a die hard Madden/EA football/hockey fan, but after a few 2K football/hockey games, EA took a backset. Till EA killed it with exclusive deals (-_-) 2K needs to get back into football!!! All they would have to do is change the names of the teams and players. Kinda like the College games. They could prolly make it even better because the wouldnt be as confined or restricted since they wouldnt have to use all the rules. Common 2K give us back football and rub it in EAs face that you can still make a better game even without the "NFL brand".

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bamf03

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NBA live 07 from EA was a complete mess, there is no way they would fix the problems in time for launch. There best chance is to start again like they are doing with Live 08. NBA 2K7 is the first game that wants me to play a basket ball game since the one back on the snes. I forget the name, it was the one when it said 'he's heatin' up' and then it would say 'he's on fire' and you would set the basket on fire.

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Paul_TheGreat

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I won't NFL 2K series back.:(

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TexEx03

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Man I miss 2K football...

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CheddarLimbo

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I wish more developers had this level of candor. I'd much rather they pull the title than pollute the market with garbage.

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snarple_basic

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I want 2k games to take over sports just because im tired of hearing about Madden every year!!!

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drangel_jam

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Well spoken

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jokinjosh73

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I WANT MY 2K FOOTBALL BACK!!!!!! MADDEN SUCKS DONKEY BALLZ!!!

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XOXIXO

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"I always thought we made better games, but EA has a long brand legacy and consumers kind of follow the herd." I love this guys attitude....makes me cry that he has so much respect for the consumer

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SavoyPrime

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Erik Whiteford says: I think it's a clear indication that NBA Live was not a quality product and it could not compete in the marketplace with a clearly superior title. Rather than suffer any further damage to the brand, they chose to kill the game and regroup for next year. OH SNAP!!! :lol:

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PantsOfFury

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Carpe_Noctum - I like the idea. Work with it, and it would be better than Madden.

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KAWICE

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Leave it to the 2k nerds who want their football to be an arcade experience, to bash on Madden because the Game is to hard for them. Madden is so damn bad that there is a Madden tournament and almost everyone who plays games for competition plays that game. And you want to talk about games that EA dose better than 2k how was Baseball this year for 2k, the game sucked and EA's new franchise NCAA Baseball was another great game. Yes I do agree that 2k dose make a better Basketball game but that is about it.

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POETICDRINK2

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He should of ask about the boxing game! I want EA to really be scared...be very scared

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Carpe_Noctum

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If 2K, VC, made a new football game that was monkeys with a bannana I would buy it. NFL 2K5 was football perfection, and is the only reason my XBOX is still getting any use. A NFL 2K5 BC patch for the 360 would be sweet.

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aldrenar47

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The NFL 2K games were great.

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khamsaiumn

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yeah i gave up on ea, garbage after garbage after garbage. EA aka franshise killer. If you want to doom a franchise just let ea publish it.

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ssmrgrim

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With the exception of the NCAA Football series (when 2k tried that, they got killed), 2k has been making better games for awhile now. They also used the ESPN license much better than EA.

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Pablo620

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I Love you NFL 2K. you will always own Madden in my books

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drac989

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I Agree with thekey madden is very overrated. I miss the NFL 2k series badly as well. I had a bunch of college buddies that finally dropped the madden fanboy crap when i forced them to play both of them and judge. Most of my buddies never gave NFL 2k a chance and when the did majority hopped off of the madden band wagon. Keep up the good work 2k studios and please bring us another hot NFL game.

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eiru

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2K7 basketball!!!

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thekey

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I miss NFL 2K DEARLY. I just hope the NFL does renew the exclusive NFL license that would be disasterious. I hope 2K games is working on a none NFL american pro football game, because That would be AWSOME!!!!! And I would buy it over madden any day of the week. I HATE madden, its terrible, and overrated.

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chaduma

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I miss my 2K Football. I hope they find a way to bring it back in some form or another. And as for Basketball, Live has always been a step behind 2K IMO. But... that's my opinion alone, though sales of the two are showing I'm on the side of the majority.

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CrashSpyro123

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Basketball games suck nowadays.

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Nishua

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I'm all for whoever makes the better game, and so far 2k sports has prove time and time again they do.

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Murpheus007

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EA rules!!!! I love you EA!!!! Wooohoooo. 2K sux big ones!!!! Oh yeah!!!!! See how stupid it sounds.

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vaejas

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Great, it's been over a decade since I played an exciting baseball game. Or watched one, for that matter.

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Generic_Dude

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Follow the herd?! I bought NHL 07 instead of 2k7 because I felt it was a superior product. And biased Gamespot knocked down the rating on it because it "lacked features". If it has HOCKEY, that's the feature I'm looking for, fools. And I'm not talking arcade hockey nonsense either, Erik. Spelling his name with a "k"... what a flake. Spell it with a "c" like a real man. Oh yeah, and YANKEES SUCK!

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donscrillinger

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thank the video game Gods for 2k .i just took my wack madden 07 back .my football sprit has been taken away .plz 2k we need an football game from you guys for the 360 we will buy it plz belive it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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jojinko

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even though i no a sport person anything that forces ea to push for better games makes me happy

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RaiKageRyu

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GO 2K.

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AnubanUT

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let me second that ... DOWN WITH EA. :)

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comthitnuong

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it would feel wierd without a football one

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smiley17O

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if ubisoft and 2k games merged then EA would really be in trouble

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CoheedIV

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If EA feels like they are losing the NBA or NHL market, they will just buy the rights like they did with the NFL. In other words, they can keep making average to below average games that people will buy because they have no other choice. Sad but true...

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lakers4sheen

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2K SPORTS

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NECR0CHILD313

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Why is this showing up on the Wii page? It's mentioned like, once in the article, and just as a reference. Well regardless, more games in circulation is never a bad thing.

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masiisam

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2k all the way......EA can eat **** with there crap B-ball game..

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neoand12

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2K is BETTER THAN EA

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