Could NFTs Come to the NBA 2K Franchise?

In March, we ran an article on ways to take NBA 2K23 to the next level.

One of those ideas was working within the metaverse or exploring the NFT space. This has been controversial in gaming, with NFTs provoking quite aggressive responses from some sectors. For example, Ubisoft cancelled plans for NFTs in Ghost Recon Breakpoint after a strong rejection by gamers. Indeed, Digital Trends lists multiple examples of gaming developers having to cancel planned NFT launches or projects due to severe negative reactions from consumers.

However, the same is not to be said for the sports industry. They have largely embraced digital assets such as NFTs and fan tokens. Many major soccer teams worldwide offer Socios fan tokens to their supporters, and the list is growing by the day. They deliver digital influence over the club for those who hold the tokens, and they’ve proven popular enough for the company to expand into the US and Mexico. Sports NFTs have also sold well, suggesting that the industry is receptive to technological advances.

Where does that leave sports video games? They don’t always appeal to a traditional gamer, and their fanbase tends to have a foot in both camps, sports and gaming. Does that mean there’s scope for NBA 2K, and other sports franchises, to explore NFTs?

The answer, for now, is unclear. In November 2021, EA Sports, the one-time developer of the NBA2K rival NBA Live, seemed fixated on developing NFTs and exploring how to integrate them into their games. They described the digital asset as the industry’s future, but just four months later, they’d cooled on the idea. Andrew Wilson, CEO of EA Sports, admitted to Forbes that it was “something that we’re driving hard against”, which seems to be in direct contrast to his earlier comments.

While of course EA Sports are not involved in NBA 2K, they are a leader in the sports gaming field and tend to set the trends for others to follow. If they’re shying away from such projects, then others would have to be very brave indeed to give them a try. That does seem to suggest that we won’t see NFTs or digital assets in NBA 2K.

However, that could change if they were to offer an asset which had little environmental impact and delivered a takeaway for the gamer. If we go back to fan tokens, they seem to have been a success in soccer because they offer a tangible benefit, something real-world-based that fans can engage with. That might be a poll to determine the color of the club’s new jersey, but it is a physical benefit. It’s why we’ve seen some rock bands release new material using digital assets; the end user still gets something in return, rather than an image on a screen.

If digital assets were to come to NBA 2K, perhaps they’d need that type of reward for the gamer; it could be a tradeable in-game reward or something physical to complement the game, such as access to DLC or unique characters.

Certainly, while sports fans continue to accept digital assets, sports video game developers will tentatively explore the possibilities, and it could mean that done properly, they have a place in the NBA 2K series in the future.

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