NBA 2K is a series of high resolution basketball sports simulation video games developed and released annually since 1999. The premise of each game in the series is to emulate the sport of basketball, more specifically, the National Basketball Association. The series was originally published by Sega Sports, and is now published by 2K Sports. All of the games in the franchise have been developed by Visual Concepts. The series consists of eighteen main installments and several spinoff-style titles. It has seen releases on eighteen different platforms. The NBA 2K series has also been used in eSports.
Each installment in the NBA 2K series emulates the National Basketball Association, and present improvements over the previous installments. As such, gameplay simulates a typical game of basketball, with the player controlling an entire team or a select player; objectives coincide with the rules of basketball and presentation resembles actual televised NBA games. Various game modes have been featured in the series, allowing for gameplay variety. Numerous elements of the games feature customizable options. Each game features the teams and players from the current NBA season; historic NBA teams and players have also been featured, as have EuroLeague teams and (starting with NBA 2K20) WNBA teams. Fictional players and teams can also be created and compiled.
A staple of the series is its career mode, which has been described as a sports-themed role-playing video game. ESPN NBA Basketball was the first game in the series to feature such a mode, but it wasn't until NBA 2K10 and its successors that the mode became a more integral part of the series. The mode was initially titled 24/7, before being changed to MyPlayer, and settling on MyCareer. The modes center on the basketball career of the player's created player; the player customizes several aspects of their player and plays through their career in the NBA. Key events in the player's career are depicted, such as the draft and their retirement ceremony. A storyline is often present in the modes, and high school and college-level basketball has also been depicted. The player upgrades their player's attributes as they play, and can participate in off-court activities.
Another mainstay of the series is a mode allowing the player to assume control of an NBA franchise, acting as general manager. The mode has been featured in numerous NBA 2K games and is often titled Association; the most recent games in the series feature the MyGM and MyLeague modes. In the modes, the player controls virtually all aspects of a team, rather than just playing games with the team. As the player simulates through seasons, they must satisfy the needs of the team's personnel and the owner.
MyTeam mode, which was introduced in NBA 2K13, focuses on building a team of players and competing against other players' teams online. The player's primary venue for acquiring players for their team is card packs; the player purchases a card pack, which features random items the player can use in the mode, including players. In addition to compiling a select group of players, the player can also customize their team's jerseys and court, among other things. The game mode progressed even further on NBA 2K19, with a MyTeam tournament between the best Xbox and PS4 players for a prize of $250,000 occurring. Other online-focused modes have also been featured in the series, such as Pro-Am, which focuses on players building a team together with their custom players.
In addition to regulation NBA games, street basketball has been featured in numerous games in the series. Created players and real players can be used in such modes; additionally, some celebrities have made appearances as playable characters in the series. In more recent games, the street basketball modes are titled Blacktop and MyPark. Blacktop is structured in the typical style of street basketball. MyPark consists of an open area filled with players who can join different games on different courts. Several games in the series feature a mode which allows the player to hold a slam dunk contest.
Several games in the series have featured game modes that are exclusive to that particular game. NBA 2K11 featured the Jordan Challenge mode, in which players are tasked with recreating some of Michael Jordan's most memorable feats, such as scoring 69 points in a single game. NBA 2K12 featured the NBA's Greatest mode, where the player can play with past NBA players, such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, and Bill Russell. The PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Microsoft Windows versions of NBA 2K14 featured a mode titled Path to Greatness; similar to the Jordan Challenge mode, it focuses on the career of LeBron James.
The NBA 2K series has achieved consistent critical and commercial success. Elements of the series that are frequently praised include its presentation, specifically its commentary, attention to detail, and soundtrack, its abundance of content, its overall gameplay, and its consistency in terms of yearly releases without any drastic dips in quality. Technical issues have plagued many of the releases, however, particularly in regards to the online components. The introduction of microtransactions into the series has also been scrutinized, while the story-focused incarnations of the MyCareer mode have received mixed responses. Numerous games in the series have been lauded for being among the highest-quality sports games available, especially in comparison with other basketball games, such as the NBA Live series, published by EA Sports.
Specifically concerning sales, the NBA 2K series has established itself as one of the better-selling video game franchises. A May 2014 earnings call reported that games in the series have sold over 17 million copies worldwide. A report in February 2017, however, suggested that games in the franchise have sold in excess of 68 million copies. According to one analyst, the most recent entries in the series average at least four million copies sold. The best-selling game in the series is NBA 2K14, which sold over seven million copies; it is also Take-Two Interactive's best-selling sports game. NBA 2K16 holds the distinction of being the fastest-selling title in the series, shipping over four million copies within its first week of release. NBA 2K16 sold over 10 million units in 2017. As of December 2018, the series has sold over 90 million units worldwide, making it the best-selling NBA video game series.
Games in the NBA 2K series have been nominated for multiple awards, from events such as the Spike Video Game Awards and The Game Awards, usually related to being the best sports game of the year.
Two separate lawsuits have been filed against Take-Two related to their recreation of tattoos on NBA players recreated in the series. The first suit was filed by Solid Oak Sketches, filed in January 2016, after trying to seek a US$1.1 million licensing agreement to use the registered copyrighted tattoos with Take-Two. LeBron James had submitted a statement supporting Take-Two, in that he asserted he has given the company the license use his image in their cases, which included his tattoos from Solid Oak Sketches, but this conclusion was thrown out by the judge. The case currently remains pending as of September 2018. In March 2020, a federal District Court judge ruled that while the tattoos were copyrighted elements their use in the games were small enough to meet de minimis considerations, and that further, due to the nature of tattooing, an implicit license to use the tattoos was granted by the license granted for using the players' likeness. The judge summarily dismissed the case, as well as asserting that broadly, video games using licensed likenesses of players with their tattooes will be using the tattoo art within fair use.
A separate lawsuit was filed by tattoo artist James Hayden in December 2017; Hayden asserted that Take-Two's recreation of his tattoos designed for NBA players like LeBron James within NBA 2K16 and onward were copyright infringements. Take-Two sought a summary judgement to close the case, but by March 2019, the preceding judge gave partial summary to Take-Two but left the main question of copyright infringement open. Hayden has failed to register the copyrights until after NBA 2K16 was released, leaving 2K17 and onward potentially liable to be determined in a court trial. One question raised by the judge was whether the NBA 2K series was an ongoing game with annual updates, or if each release was considered a substantial new work, meaning that any copyright violation would apply repeatedly to all three post-2016 games in the series or as a singular violation.
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