NBA Live 13: What Went Wrong? - Prima Games

NBA Live 13: What Went Wrong?

by Prima Games Staff

Whoa…is anyone else experiencing déjà vu?


Let’s rewind to two years ago: EA Sports, looking to put a dent in the basketball video game market that 2K Sports has so easily dominated over the years, prepares NBA Elite 1 for release. However, a week before the game is set to hit shelves and following a controversial video showing a player stuck in a Jesus-like pose at center court, the company decides to shelve the project and later cancel it outright. This paves the way for 2K Sports to dominate the paint on store shelves with its Michael Jordan-endorsed NBA 2K11.


Fast-forward to this week and EA Sports is once again treading into this territory. Months after announcing the long-awaited comeback of the NBA Live franchise, the company responded to stories reporting the game’s delay with a confirmation that it was, like Elite, canceled prior to release. This leaves 2K Sports’ NBA 2K13 as the only true basketball sim to hit store shelves when it comes out this Tuesday.


So, we’re left with a situation that’s pretty close to what unfolded two years ago, and it’s got us wondering…just what the heck happened?


Well, we’ve decided to explore a little bit here, and figure out why EA Sports deemed that their basketball sim just wasn’t ready for prime time…


First, let’s look at the game’s introduction, which took place during the NBA All-Star Weekend earlier this year. However, the way it was introduced was rather awkward. Rather than going all out with a full game trailer and reveal to compete against NBA 2K13, EA Sports instead just released shots of a pair of basketball players taking on each other with a build of the game, not even revealing what the new engine looks like or what new features were coming. They were basically saying, “We’re back,” but not indicating to what extent. It didn’t exactly start off on the right foot…


Now we’ll jump ahead to a few months to the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the premiere place for EA and its sports division to show off its upcoming products to attendees. Most of their annual sports franchises were there in full force, including Madden NFL 13, FIFA 13 and NHL 13. However, NBA Live 13 was nowhere to be seen on the show floor. Rumor has it that it was tucked away in one of the private suites, but we didn’t even get a taste of the game through a new trailer or anything like that. So it continued to be shrouded in mystery, with players wondering just what new features it would bring…

Fast forward again, this time to an EA-hosted media day at its headquarters in Redwood City. Peter Moore and his teams went all out to showcase a number of new products, including FIFA 13 for the Nintendo Wii U (which, on a side note, looks amazing), Madden NFL 13 and NHL 13. And, you guessed it, once again NBA Live 13 pulled a no-show. When we asked about how the game was coming along, all we were told is that development was moving forward, though a release date – and a cover star – were still pending.


Now we’ll move ahead just a little bit further, to around the middle of last month. Within the same 24 hours, EA Sports did two things. On the one hand, it announced that NBA Live 13 was delayed while not indicating any sort of reason as to why. Then, for some strange reason, was decided as the perfect time to show off a teaser trailer for the game. Though the footage was as authentic as you can get for a basketball game, keep in mind it was put together under the watchful eye of a savvy editing team. Who knows if this was how the final game would’ve looked…


Now we come back around to this week. EA Sports’ division, probably fuming with frustration over the fact that NBA 2K13 once again had its number with a dynamic new animation engine, gameplay improvements, an All-Star Weekend and the 1992 Olympic Dream Team (including Allen Iverson and Charles Barkley), caved in under pressure and canceled its second major basketball sim in a two-year span. While they stated that the franchise wasn’t dead yet, you can tell that there are problems when it comes to putting it together the right way – even with months’ worth of development going into it.


Sometimes a sports franchise just loses its luster, and as a result, the developer and publisher lose interest in continuing to make it. It happens; just look at 2K Sports and its NHL 2K franchise. After trying to make it work exclusively on Wii, they opted to simply “take a year off” then mysteriously never returned to development. (Rumor has it that Major League Baseball 2K could be heading in that same direction, since 2K didn’t renew their deal with the league.)


But still, to fail not once but twice? You have to wonder if EA Sports just can’t dial in the proper feeling to making a basketball simulation game work, or if they’re just waiting for the next generation of consoles to roll around so they can try and make it right again. Regardless, we can’t help but feel bad for what the Live team is going through, to see their work scuttled away after coming so close to a release.


Now, basketball fans are easily taken care of at this time with the forthcoming NBA 2K13, which will still arrive this Tuesday for various platforms and the Wii U later on this year, so don’t worry about them. As for EA, maybe they should take it easy on the sim development for now and maybe seek out an alternative to work on. NBA Jam: On Fire Edition worked out really well for them last year, so a follow-up (or update to the original game) would be in order. For that matter, a new NBA Street would work too, provided the right team works on it.


Nevertheless, EA Sports can’t afford to make another mistake with its sim series. It should either swallow its pride and roll its dice with its franchise or just put it away and work on something else. But whatever they do, they simply need to do it right.


Now then, on to NBA 2K13 and some slam dunks…

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