Did LeBron James Kill NBA 2K13’s Competitive Balance?

It’s a year-round best seller and by all rights has never been better, but Ben Sin, writing for Kill Screen Daily, says NBA 2K13‘s competitive balance — online anyway — is completely thrown out of whack by the superteams that make the real league such a compelling story for basketball fans.

“Whereas the Chicago Bulls, despite having only one all star for most of the past 28 months, were able to become a top team with hard-nosed defence and grit, the digital Bulls are simply overmatched anytime they play against a team with a cache of stars, like, say the Knicks,” Sin writes.

He has a point, even if the tendency to pick the league’s best team in multiplayer is hardly peculiar to NBA 2K13. The NBA, with five players on the floor and 15 on the roster, has the smallest personnel size of the major team sports, making superstars’ acquisition a lot more impactful than in sports with 9 or 11 on a side, especially one with specialised positions.

But any football team with a talented quarterback, running back, and receiver or tight end will be favoured in online multiplayer regardless of the quality of the offensive line or the defence. The difference is that those positions are largely confined to a few interactions. Tom Brady throws the ball, Arian Foster runs the ball and sometimes catches it, Calvin Johnson catches it and then runs with it. Furthermore, in video games, their success is much more dependent on teammates’ execution than in basketball, especially considering how frequently isolation plays are run in online hoops.

There are more ways for a superstar to beat you in basketball, and a team with three of them has a huge advantage, especially in online multiplayer, which rarely looks like the sport it simulates. Even simulation quality games give a tremendous weight to offence, probably because that’s where the most fun comes in playing a video game.

I’m not sure I go along with his final recommendation for fixing the imbalance, but Sin’s correct in pointing out that NBA 2K13‘s multiplayer — almost through no fault of its own — is made very routine by the same thing that makes the real league so exciting. My recommendation: Start up a franchise in MyTeam, whose online multiplayer does a decent job of matching you to teams of similar strength. But give the essay a read, it makes a valid point that developers should consider more.

Lebron James didn’t kill the NBA, but he did kill NBA videogames [Kill Screen Daily]

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