So I've just wasted my evening reading through countless reviews... well technically, they're enumerable, I'm just not in the mood to list how many I've actually read. Regardless, the point is that I had to read through many different reviews for different platforms of a single game: NBA 2k14. That's right, the golden sports goose from 2K Sports. So why did I have to read through so many reviews for such a highly lauded and highly praised game? Because “Microtransactiongate” has seeped into the new generation of home console gaming in the worst way imaginable.
Gamers have done what gamers do best when things go awry in a game's monetary business model: complain about it online. While there are many pundits who would rather gamers stay silent and take the unwarranted butt-ramming of their wallet in silent, ill-wanted appreciation, gamers refuse to sit down and let their hobby become overtaken and buried under the same philosophy of greed that ruined our housing market, ruined our national credit rating and essentially helped put tens of millions of Americans out of work. Yeah, gamers have the back bone that apparently the rest of our society lacks (or is too lazy to adopt).
Regardless, gamers made it known that there's something terribly wrong with the highly praised but deeply flawed NBA 2K14. What's so wrong? The microtransactions.
While nothing is inherently blocked and locked entirely behind a paywall like the blatant act of anti-consumerism by Capcom with Street Fighter X Tekken, the game adopts Turn 10 Studios' recent paradigm of redesigning a game around a grind, which is exactly what happened with Forza Motorsport 5.
“What's so bad about grinding in a game?” you ask. Well, grinding in games is nothing new nor nothing so burdensome that it can inhibit gamers from having fun. However, when a game is purposefully designed around a grind that's so tedious that players become frustrated enough – either due to cutting down on time spent grinding or becoming bored with the way the game adopts an addictive measure of repetition in order to achieve "success" – that they would rather spend real-life cash than play the game, something is wrong. One gamer best described it as “Paying full price for the game and then paying more money to not play the game.”
In the case of NBA 2K14, the game has been tailored around virtual currency to do all sorts of things, from trading players to firing coaches to rearranging your team. Everything requires virtual currency, and even though it's something one reviewer from one major game site acknowledges, none of the other reviewers seem to have taken up any kind of aversion to the fact that NBA 2K14 is designed on the long haul like a free-to-play MMO.
This sort of cash-shop creep mentality seeping in from the dirty crevices of the worst kind of cash shop manipulators in the free-to-play space and into the premium, $60 retail model is an egregious and dirty tactic that works to undermine gamers by taking advantage of their eagerness to play, and their willingness to part ways with cash to support what some might consider a short form of addiction. It's the fee-to-play model and it's getting worse by the release.
We were, in no uncertain terms, warned about this sort of tactic from the AAA publishers in a trollish prophecy by Cliffy B., after Microsoft reversed their DRM policies. The Gears of War creator basically laid it out that gaming would either require relentless forms of pervasive microtransactions or gamers would have to give up their rights of ownership with equally pervasive DRM machinations.
What's funny, though, is that gamers have come to terms of recognizing these tactics – tactics, I might add, that have also helped ruin some features of games like the NHL series from EA, and, to an extent, Grand Theft Auto Online. Gamers who have complained about this issue have been told to either not buy the game or do their research about the product before buying it.
However, as I mentioned in the article about the reviewers failing at their jobs with Total War: Rome II, how can gamers do proper research when reviewers seem to be completely oblivious to these issues and fail to mention them in their reviews?
Despite having a thorough and well-rounded take on the game, the Joystiq review for NBA 2K14 makes no mention whatsoever about the microtransactions. Alex Navarro's review at GiantBomb glances over features and gameplay, focusing mostly on the revamped career mode – much like Joystiq – but still no mention of the microtransactions.