NBA 2K20, The Basket of Gambling


Alexander Gray

A person throwing ball of money to 2K Games implying throwing money away (Photo credits Alexander Gray).

When you think of 2K Games as a company, you probably think of them as the publishers of the Borderlands franchise and the makers of the NBA 2K franchise. In my opinion, however, they are actually one of the greediest companies in the gaming industry right next to Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard. NBA 2K20 is  the proof of their greed.

 “The game is just microtransactions,” said sophomore Jacob Groome.

“It’s expensive for no reason, you’re already paying $60 for the game, you shouldn’t have to spend extra money just to have a decent chance,” said Xbox user Jamal Parker, also known as Truly Sunny.

For NBA 2K20’s MyTeam mode, you can purchase loot boxes called “Card Packs”  which contain variants of cards and characters. The variants affect how powerful your team is in the game, which affect your overall performance in multiplayer matches. The more money you spend, the more likely you are to have a stronger team. Along with these loot boxes, MyTeam also added in Pachinko, The Wheel of Fortune, and a literal slot machine as login bonuses.

You purchase these loot boxes by buying card packs with VC (Virtual Currency) which are available to purchase from ten to one hundred dollars. “[VC is] negative, one hundred percent. VC only affects the game in a negative way,” said Woodmont High School junior DJ Smith.

“They’re probably going to update the game later, change the login bonuses, and make them pay to win,” said Groome. His theory isn’t far off from the truth. Other games, such as the Call of Duty franchise, wait for all the reviews of the game to come in. Once that is done, they insert the loot boxes and microtransactions. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if 2K Games followed suit with NBA 2K20.

Can you get addicted to loot boxes? Yes, you can, but we have to understand how loot boxes work. To do this we have to understand an important feature of slot machines, the lights and sounds. The lights and sound are very important to the machine as flashing lights and sounds produce a chemical called dopamine from neurons in the human brain. Dopamine causes feelings of joy, pleasure, excitement, and can potentially motivate people to take actions to rewards over and over again, resulting in gambling addiction. The exact same principles are applied to loot boxes with the lighting and sounds by developers and usually enforced by publishers.

While the card packs for MyTeam are toned down in the effects category, players still gain that level of excitement, lighting, and sound that keeps the players hooked to the card packs, convincing them to keep paying and trying their luck.

To make matters worse, the game has been marketed for kids. The ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) has rated the game “E” for ages ten and up, while PEGI (Pan European Game Information) has given the game a “PEGI 3” rating. Yes, ages three and up, which is outrageous since the game has money-required loot boxes in it.

During a legal battle in the United Kingdom with Electronic Arts (EA), they labeled loot boxes as not gambling. You aren’t Technically betting with real money since you’re converting your money into a virtual currency and gambling with that, which bypasses the gambling laws. 

While the UN and EU haven’t fully banned loot boxes, governments are taking steps to declare loot boxes gambling. Belgium has banned loot boxes, something 2K Games wasn’t thrilled about, and has led to them begging fans to talk to their local governments about making loot boxes legal through an in-game message. 

This problem doesn’t just stop in NBA 2K20 sadly. Almost every AAA game has started to adopt this tactic of monetization from Call of Duty to Fallout 76. If developers and publishers keep injecting these forms of monetization in games, there could potentially be a rise of gambling addicts in our society.