I Feel Gross Just Watching NBA 2K20’s Loot Box Trailer

I Feel Gross Just Watching NBA 2K20’s Loot Box Trailer

NBA 2K20 is supposed to be a game primarily about playing basketball, but you wouldn’t know that from the game’s latest trailer, which makes the game look like something you might see in a casino.

Released on Monday, the “MyTeam” trailer for NBA 2K20 shows off all the ways you can recruit better players and win prizes through randomised games. As in games prior, the whole system revolves around card packs. Open more packs, get (hopefully) more rare and more powerful players.

Players can even evolve now, sort of like Pokémon. Doesn’t that sound fun?

Then there’s the “reimagined Triple Threat” mode with “tons more prizes!” At this point, only 30 seconds in, the trailer shows what players can get for racking up wins, including in-game currency, more card packs, and even a chance to “spin to win!” further jackpot prizes.

There are also ball drops—you know, those minigames like on The Price Is Right where you watch a ball randomly fall through a series of pegs hoping it hits one of the colour-coded platforms on the way down. The trailer even shows NBA 2K streamer CashNastyGaming bobbing back and forth between anguish and excitement while watching it unfold.

And, of course, there’s a literal slot machine you can pull to match three gems and potentially win back your self-respect.

The series’ My Team mode has been trending toward being a microtransaction-stuffed nightmare for some time, but rather than try to temper that at all, the latest trailer appears to be an even further embrace of that business model.

Fans on the game’s subreddit immediately roasted 2K Games for highlighting a literal slot machine in the mode’s latest trailer, despite that 2K had claimed to Belgian and Dutch officials in the past that there’s no gambling in the game.

Of course, whether or not mini-games involving wheel spins, ball drops, and slot machines qualify as actual gambling if they don’t involve actual cash, it’s still a grim way to pitch the biggest basketball game around.


  • Forza Horizon 3 and 4 have slot machine graphics after almost every race – where you get that addictive ‘near miss’ feeling even if you win nothing.

    The look is misguided of course, particularly given the current debate about loot boxes, but the context is just as important. Are you paying for each spin, and if so what kind of currency and how is it earned? And what can you win from each spin?

    We have to be careful about fallacious reasoning though. Just because something “looks like” a poker machine, are we creating kiddy gamblers? Think of the debates about depicting smoking in videogames or censoring of drug use… the same individuals will throw a fit over that yet also criticise this. Do you agree games have an influence or not?

    • Difference between smoking, drug use and ‘gambling mechanics’ in games is that there is no separation between the gamer and the ‘gambling mechanics’. By exposing kids directly to ‘gambling mechanics’ we are allowing their brains to adapt to ‘Skinner box’-type stimuli. Whether or not they are addicted to ‘gambling mechanics’, they will learn the behaviour and more readily engage in it, which is the entire point of the mechanic: get more participation as a gateway to purchase of microtransactions.

      • Not true at all I’m afraid – and again the parallel is with the ‘violent videogames don’t cause violence’ literature.
        I recommend the work of Assoc Prof Sally Gainsbury from the University of Sydney. This question “does gambling in games lead to gambling in real life?” has been well tested.

        “prevalence studies indicate that the level of gambling problems in the adult population has
        remained relatively stable over the past 30 years, despite the introduction of new games.”


        It doesn’t mean loot boxes don’t suck – but it does mean it is flatout hypocritical/nonsensical to strongly oppose government intervention for one category but encourage it for another.

        • The problem I have with that article is that she insists on separating traditional gambling (she doesn’t define this but I’m assuming she means casinos and pokies) and “social casio games and loot boxes” (which I’ll refer to as video game gambling) when discussing the trends of gambling behaviour. The argument that she is making is that video game gambling hasn’t lead to an increase in traditional gambling. That’s a part of the story, but it’s likely not the whole story.

          If you don”t classify video game gambling as gambling then you’re only trying to draw conclusions between engaging in video game gambling and the transition to traditional gambling based on this exposure.

          If you accept that many of these games incentivise using real-world currency to purchase in-game currency to use in chance based mechanics, then it’s not unreasonable to classify this as gambling mechanics. If you then approach this argument with the idea that video game gambling is a form of gambling, then you would absolutely see an increase in gambling behaviours in adolescents and adults. This demographic may not make the switch to “traditional gambling” as that article suggests, however it doesn’t change the fact that these people are engaging in gambling behaviour, the negative effects of which may take several years to develop (again, as the article states).

          Suggesting that, just because prevalence of traditional gambling hasn’t increased, then video game gambling is not having an effect on increased prevalence of gambling behaviours (and thus an increased subset of problems), feels like a far too narrow scope from which to draw any conclusions.

        • You’re doing a bit of false equivalence there yourself with this statement –

          “Think of the debates about depicting smoking in videogames or censoring of drug use… the same individuals will throw a fit over that yet also criticise this”

          The argument for drugs/smoking is the fact it is censored for a game aimed at Adults. A well adjusted adult should be able to recognise the fiction and inherent negative impacts of such acts in real life and make decisions accordingly. At no point has anyone actually advocated for drugs/smoking/sex be available in an all games just for ones aimed at the adult audience.

          • So you think that violent videogames do have an effect on children? (but not adults)

            Sure…. but then that view is still at odds with the view that games with gambling elements are bad for everyone? (so adults are impervious to violence but not gambling..)

            Do you see what I’m getting at? A community that is basically at odds with itself over whether videogames have any effect on real life or not.

            Here’s a longer quote from the same paper anyway (each citing a separate study) discussing the benefits of gaming to prevent gambling – and again the parallel in the violence debate is claims that ‘letting off steam’ on a game actually reduces real world violence.

            “An Australian study found that nine percent of adolescents and 17 percent of adults surveyed reported that playing social casino games decreased how much they gambled,12 which is consistent with qualitative reports that the games reduced urges to gamble.13 Engagement with gambling within games may be educational to teach people the low chances of winning, the impact of spending money and not receiving the expected benefits, and to allow people to engage in gambling-like scenarios with lower costs than actual gambling.”

          • I think it would be a bit arrogant to say any stimuli negative or positive would have no affect on a minor. Why do you think there was a big push to remove smoking in cartoons? There are reasons that we have a ratings system as some content is inherently not appropriate for minors.

            Also I think you are conflating multiple different arguments/viewpoints against gambling mechanics in a game into just one handy dandy argument via that study.

            The reasons for not wanting gambling mechanics on a game liable to be played by a minor (ie. potential normalisation of a bad habit for life) is completely different to the reasons for why an adult would not like gambling mechanics in a game (ie. existing gambling addiction or the prospect of value loss of a product). Each negative stance is diferent and nuanced.. its not as simple as “think of the children” argument.

            I would like a deeper dive in that paper myself but I am unfortunately at work so I cant do a full dive. However from initial impressions the study is sounding more like a sponsored “gambling is ok folks” kind of “research” that tobacco companies used to pull out… I mean the fact it is posing gambling mechanics as a “learning experience” is such a massive stretch unless its done ata very specific scenario

          • Video games HAVE an effect on people. The difference though between violence in games and gambling in games is the disconnection. The distance a player has between the actions they take.

            Violence in video games is done at arm’s length. You, your self, are not the one doing the shooting. Rather, you are controlling a chapter that is doing it. Even First Person Games are still like that. The only thing we should really be watching with this is VR.

            Gambling, on the other hand, is DIRECTLY you doing it, and the publishers market it as YOU getting cool stuff. The same disconnection does not exist, and so it’s essentially the same as a kid using a pokie machine or a roulette table in a casino. This ad proves that is the intent in the way they show real people reacting to winning. There is no disconnect. No ‘This is not you. This is a character in the game’ bit. So YES, gambling is different and should be looked at differently to violence in games.

          • There is a disconnect though, jagji. There is no money involved. Part of the addiction with gambling is the risk of real assets, and thats not the case. Until there is and the player is risking something of actual value, you’re at arms length to the event. Same as violence being at arms length in shooters.

            The original arguments against lootboxes were because you were using real money to access them. And thats gambling and needs to be shielded from kids, I dont disagree. But you take the money side of it out and its not so black and white. Because the disconnect is there thanks to there being no real risk.

            Dont get me wrong, I see the argument, especially with this one. This game is presenting itself as a pokie, very clear. But the issue behind it still has the disconnect because theres no real risk, and hence no adrenaline rush to create the addiction. Same as the disconnect with shooters and being a character.

            By the way, that same argument you’re using isnt all that far from how they argue movies being OK and games being behind shootings. Movies have the disconnect, while apparently games dont.

          • So you don’t think the striped amount of grind they make people go through why having the ‘handy’ option of buying the currency does not count? If it was ALL in game, and no out side money then yeah, sure. But that’s, not the case. The option of real money is there, and the grind will be geared towards pushing people to get it. That’s how the games have worked for the past 2 or 3 of them.

            And why I do see your point on how my argument is along the same lines as used between movie and video game violence, the difference I think in this case is that Pokie Machnices are video games already. There all digital now, and there regulated. So how is the same thing being just a part of a video game like this any different?

          • @jagji its an option, NOT a requirement. You’re arguing that one genre has a disconnect and the other doesnt, when it does. Spending money is a choice, nothing more. Cant you see that the choice disconnects the player compared to the real thing?

            To play pokies, theres no choice. You put money in and risk it from the first press. With this, there is always the free option these days. The developers have learned that mistake. You’re risking nothing you dont want to. So when people decide the free option isnt enough, let them. They need to be responsible for their actions and people need to stop giving them excuses to blame others.

            And that choice is so important. I’ve paid $10,000 to play a poker tournament, I fully understand the thrill of the risk. Its not there if theres a free option, its not gambling. Its a choice that so far nobody has shown to have had a negative effect on someone. I’m not talking about gambling in general, thats destructive, but I havent seen any stories where a game has caused the problems.

            Every time its come up, its someones stupid choices, not the game. A person putting $1000 into an Apex skin, or a parent leaving their credit card around (or worse, linked to their account) for the kid to abuse. Those arent gambling/gaming problems, they’re bad decisions that those people need to be responsible for.

            So I say enough of trying to nanny people when theres no real evidence its causing problems. Let them live with their choice. Which pretty much every player will be satisfied with. Actual gambling in games through lootboxes is not a problem so big it needs legal intervention. The hype over the past 2 years has caused enough change to avoid that.

          • @grunt I am NOT saying people don’t have a choice, what I am saying is that its not a fair choice. You and I both know that the game mechanics to get the currency by playing will be, as they are in mobile games, geared towards making it take who knows how long to grind that coin. If, IF the game was made to be a decent feed of the currency for free via gameplay, then sure. But I doubt it will be reasonable. And if it’s not reasonable, then it’s a weighted choice in favor of paying to overplay, one that 2K intentionally do. I am NOT saying people don’t have a choice, what I am saying is that its not a fair choice.

            IF the game was rated for Adults only, then fine, I would be more ok with this than I am. But its not. In the USA its rated 3 and up. It’s said it’s ok for kids to play it. Yeah, no…

            As for devs learning, maybe MAYBE if this was EA I would agree. But this is 2K Games, a company whose CEO has said he wants to find as many ways to make people pay as possible. 2K is worse than EA with this shit, but there sports games are the lesser, so they get away with more. They put ads in 2K19 at loading screens. Unskippable ads. In a game that you have paid 60 or more for? Fuck off.

            As to the Pokies, there is a choice. You do or you don’t. The choice is putting the money in. Simple as that. Same goes for Poker and all forms of gambling. The choice is whether you put the money down or not.

            As for parents, at this point, I will half agree with you there. Personally, I don’t think any company should be allowed to keep your credit card info at all, just on a hacking level, but in terms of vid games, I think the problem is that there is not enough info out there, and in fact its actively being hidden in places people don’t or won’t see it, which includes the ratings giving or not giving that info.

          • @jagji What you’re saying now is different to what I was arguing against. Lets break down what I was disagreeing with.
            The difference though between violence in games and gambling in games is the disconnection. The choice is a disconnection. Its that simple. You were arguing that the immersion, or apparent lack of it, was the disconnection for FPS games, but that its not there for lootboxes. I disagree.

            I’ve heard that argument repeatedly for far too long. More specifically when comparing games to movies, but its the same thing. Its done to push an agenda. In the games v movies, to push the guns arent the problem argument. Here, you’re biasing your claim to push an anti-gambling agenda.

            Violence in video games is done at arm’s length. I agree. But so is any semblance to gambling until money is involved. In more ways than one, we’ll get to that. But, that arms length violence in games doesnt make someone a criminal as we all know. And neither do lootboxes give someone a gambling problem. A pokie, you’re there to do one thing. Risk money in the hope of making money.

            Gambling, on the other hand, is DIRECTLY you doing it, and the publishers market it as YOU getting cool stuff. This is the big part we’re getting stuck on. Until money gets involved, its not gambling whether you want it to be or not.

            THATS an argument I’ve had over tournament poker for 15 years, and why I mention poker. Until those poker chips have actual value, its just entertainment with an entry fee. Thats backed up by court decisions.

            By the way, you made the assumption its gambling as well. Part of the problem that people assume something when they dont actually understand what the criteria is. And hence, dont actually understand the real issue.

            Gambling has more than just one aspect to it. There needs to be risk, and there needs to be reward. Specifically with the issue with gambling in gaming, both need to have a monetary value. And thats not the case now. It hasnt really been a problem for 18 months.

            Those parts are what I was disagreeing with. There IS a disconnection, it IS done at arms length, and the risks v rewards parts dont make it gambling anyway. When its presented as gambling, as it is here with NBA 2K19, the visuals make it a problem, not the actual risk of gambling.

            I had more (lots more), but its time to sleep. End of the day, we arent going to agree on this. But please, dont get me wrong. I do actually understand the issues you’re trying to get across and agree. I just dont think this is one of them.

            I dont want kids gambling online any more than the next guy. But we also dont know if this is even a problem, so why punish every adult playing a game, or risk pushing every free game into 18+ territory, just to block what might not even be a problem.

            The nanny state attitude happens with too much of society now, we dont need it in our entertainment as well.

          • You are doing the shooting? Game controllers have “triggers”, and I can tell you I do a lot of shooting in VR in the London Heist – it is shooting. And there is a primal pleasure in that shooting that no doubt activates many neurotransmitters in our brains associated with violent impulses.

            – but I see your point, a real gun nowhere in the real world, is firing.

            So if the gambling is within the game and you cannot spend real money to access it, then how is that any different to “firing a gun” in a virtual world? Because the gambling resembles real life gambling (so do the guns…?), or because you believe that the in game gambling will lead to real life gambling (but apparently firing guns virtually does not) ?

            I don’t feel the need to repeat the contradiction any more, but the self-serving bias and hypocrisy is dripping from the walls. How many people in the violence and videogames threads wrote of the scientific research: “I would like a deeper dive into that paper… but it seems like a stretch” ?).

            I say drop the censorship “think of what this is doing to us” argument altogether and stick with “this just sucks – publish the odds – we are adults and can decide to avoid your stupid game!”.

          • I would agree with you on the odds stuff, but the problem is, at least in the USA, this is a 3 and up game. They think it’s OK for 3-year-olds. I am HOPING we get a better rating than that, but I doubt it will happen. The rating on the game needs to match the content, and THEN we can start talking about disclosing odds and the like.

    • “Where is the addiction”?
      In drug use examples, your not getting that chemical high running through your brain. your getting either a dramatised or neutered experience. The seperation is virtual vs reality is very clear. They are only banned in Australua due to the depiction of criminal behaviours ti close to real world pharaphenalia.

      In gambling, you are getting that chemical high running through your brain from the endorphin experience it stimulates. The only seperation is what you win, a real world cash prize or an item of intrisic value and even that line is blurry as all hell as some people value a shiney legendary more valueable than the money they sink.

      The alarming thing is the code and design that goes into a poker machine is exactly the same as loot boxes… all down to the colour choices, slow reveals, splashing animation and the victory sound of coins, even logic processes. The wierdest thing to me is all that stuff is Copyrighted Intellectual Property and Trademarked held by the two largest poker machine manufacturers in the world… and they havent even raised a submission in court. They have sued the hell out of online gambling sites and mobile apps, but not once challenged the video game industry.

      Why? Cause they believe its a Fischer Price “My First Slot Machine” and they cant wait for you to turn 18 and walk into a pub or casino.

  • How the hell do they explain its not gambling? They are not even trying to obfuscate its “surprise mechanics”

    At this stage, only way would be a social media backlash from Basketballs biggest stars refusing to have their likeness on that trash… but they too greedy and addiction ridden to care for exploiting fans.

  • GTA Online has a literal casino in it… But meh, who cares. Open the floodgates I say. Once Governments wake up and see this type of crap for what it really is then maybe they’ll get serious about banning all microtransactions, card pack/loot box mechanics, etc and force the gaming industry to go back to doing thing like they used to: Creating proper content at a higher overall price but at least you get everything in one shot (aka expansion packs or what season passes used to be)

    • GTA is the 17+ rating in the USA, as far as I remember. NBA2K is for 3 and up in the USA. That there, to me, is the biggest factor here.

  • Bugger. I wanted to buy nba2k20 this year as it’s been a while. But I distinctly remember after nba2k18 saying I’d never buy that greedy scummy shit again. *sigh

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