2K Sports' flagship basketball sim franchise is renowned for its flagrant use of microtransactions and gambling-esque mechanics, but NBA 2K20 could be the straw that broke the camel's back. While the latest entry is looking to up the ante in all areas, from character creation all the way through to Hollywood cameos, a recent trailer for MyTeam has been pulled from the series' official channel after attracting over 16,000 dislikes.
The reason? Well, frankly it looks like a casino game. Depicted in the video are slot machines, Wheel of Fortune-style games of chance, and plenty of fist-pumping as rare cards are pulled from loot box-ish packs. It's a tone-deaf trailer that deserves the level of criticism it's attracted -- especially when you consider the wider context of the microtransaction conversation that's been going on elsewhere in the industry of late.
In fact, the backlash has been so bad that it's prompted European ratings board PEGI to comment on the situation, considering the title has a family friendly age rating of 3+, which many feel is inappropriate given the content of the release. "A video game gets the gambling content descriptor if it contains moving images that encourage and/or teach the use of games of chance that are played/carried out as a traditional means of gambling," the group explained.
In other words: the minigames in NBA 2K20 don't necessarily resemble real-world gambling, therefore they are fair game. It's an explanation that PEGI itself appears to recognise as a cop out, as it continued that it's conducting an internal review on its policies: "We are very aware that it may get too close for comfort for some people, and that is part of an internal discussion that PEGI is having for the moment. The games industry is evolving constantly. As a rating organisation, we need to ensure that these developments are reflected in our classification criteria."
It's unlikely this will affect NBA 2K20 in the short-term, but who knows what the future holds? For now, we think it's fair to say that whoever cut a trailer glamourising gambling mechanics and loot boxes at a time when government intervention is seemingly right around the corner must have been out of their mind.