There's finally a reason for WNBA fans to buy NBA2K
It’s been a little bit. Sorry for that. It’s been a busy few weeks since the end of the W season for me. I’ve been applying and interviewing for full-time jobs (a few leads sound promising, so let’s hope), and I moved into a new apartment.
But today I’ve got some time, and this week is going to be huge for the W.
I’ll shut up now.
NBA2K finally did it. FINALLY. We’ve been yelling for years about the lack of WNBA incorporation in the most successful basketball video game franchise in the world, only to get a lackluster first edition in NBA2K20, and a disappointing clone in NBA2K21 for PS4 and Xbox One.
But this week, the franchise will introduce a helluva lot of new WNBA game modes for the new 2K21 version set to release for PlayStation 5 (Nov. 12) and Xbox Series X (today).
I’ve written about my frustrations with 2K in the past (which is linked here), so I’ll keep the ranting to a minimum, but the early additions of the WNBA into 2K were so bare-bones that they were boring as hell. 2K tried to get us excited for merely the existence of WNBA players and teams into the new game, but that was never going to be enough. In 2K20, users couldn’t create female players, the game used generic coaches to replace real-life ones (including generic men replacing female coaches), player ratings were off, and the gameplay was stale. There were no online features for the W, meaning the only way you could play against a friend was if they came to your house and uh… there’s a global pandemic happening now so...
But for the next-generation consoles, 2K gave W fans the real shit.
Here’s the trailer, featuring Candace Parker:
Now, let’s talk about what’s new.
The biggest new addition to the game is what 2K is calling “The W,” where users can FINALLY create a female player, and play through a campaign mode where your trash player slowly develops into a WNBA superstar. You can face scan yourself if you want your character to somewhat resemble you, or you can create your own player using the dozens of base heads and hair styles and body types available. After your aesthetic is complete, you can choose a skillset for your player which 2K details more here, but examples include Slashing Point Forward, 3&D Point, Lockdown Defender and Paint Beast.
After your dream player is created, you’ll play for a real-life WNBA team against real-life WNBA players while focusing on a few different categories including your popularity within the league, popularity at large, progression as a player, wealth and team chemistry. Your choices on off-days will influence your standing. This looks fun! And it’s a mode that’s been offered to NBA fans for years. Finally, W fans will have the same access.
Here’s a quick video from someone who got the game early:
The thing I’m most excited for in this game is the improvement to the game’s WNBA franchise mode, which gives users the driver’s seat as the chief decision-maker for a team. In previous editions this was dry as hell, with only a single-season mode available, meaning you had 34 games to figure your shit out. It disincentivized playing with a rebuilding team and going through the slog of losing games to rack up top draft picks. That sucked out most of the fun of being a GM.
Now, this mode seems worth playing. You’ll get to control a franchise for as long as you want! With create-a-player available, you’ll also get to add your college faves to the game (hi Paige Bueckers) and draft them as your franchise progresses. Users will be able to customize the league’s finances, CBA and draft, which seems fun AF, too. This is another HUGE improvement that’ll add infinite hours of gameplay.
The last big addition for next-gen WNBA play is “The W Online” which — HELL YEAH. The W Online will let you take the player you created in The W, and play with them online. Here you can play in 3 vs. 3 games against friends or strangers to earn additional points to help you in the career mode, and unlock fits to wear in the game.
I’m so excited for this HUGE and NECESSARY step-up in gameplay for the WNBA modes in 2K because 1) there’s a pandemic and I’m bored 2) I miss the WNBA and most importantly 3) this is how new fans of the league are created.
NBA2K21 on next-gen consoles is a huge opportunity for the league to gain exposure with an audience that’s likely to catch on, and for people who want to support the W to educate themselves while having a shit-ton of fun. Watching a new sport is really intimidating. Jumping into a new league of faces you don’t recognize is hard! Video games are an entryway for fans to learn who plays where and who’s skilled at what. And to give you an idea of how popular this franchise is, twelve million people bought NBA2K20 last year. 12 million!
I haven’t seen this game in action yet save for the few YouTube videos published by 2K influencers, and probably won’t for awhile considering the inaccessibility of PlayStation 5’s and Xbox Series X’s, which are super expensive and hard to find (and just releasing this week). It’s also unlikely any of these game modes will be added to the already-released NBA2K21 games for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. So we’ll have to wait and see online from others how these new game modes actually look and feel. But I’m excited AF for there to actually be a reason for WNBA fans to buy a 2K game.
Maybe next year we can get Maya Moore or Sue Bird on the cover, too.
(Also, for those curious, 2K has already announced a few ratings for W players. Breanna Stewart will be the highest-rated player at 95 overall, A’ja Wilson is a 94 overall, Candace Parker is a 93 overall, Diana Taurasi is a 91 overall and Sue Bird is an 86 overall.)
Thanks, friends! That’s all I’ve got. Hope you’re doing well without hoops.