NBA 2K14: Why Virtual Coins Are Ruining the Game

Microtransactions are part of gaming and they’re here to stay. As a gamer, I can accept that. Gaming is a business and developers deserve to be compensated for their work. Sometimes, game companies offer things like season passes, additional map packs, and other little tidbits as downloadable content (DLC) in order to generate money. This, I understand. What I can’t understand, however, are developers removing functionality of games and then locking it behind a pay-wall. As it stands, I have a bone to pick with the makers of 2K14 and basing the entire game on it’s Virtual Coin (VC) system.


The whole game is built on this system.

I’d like to make a few caveats. Firstly, gaming is a privilege, not a right.  Secondly, I don’t have to play video games, I choose to play them. Thirdly, one of the most annoying things of the last generation of gamers is this eerie sense of entitlement. I’m not one of those people. So when I tell you I have a huge issue with the VC system in 2K14 on the PS4, this isn’t just another gamer crying about what developers are doing. This is a person who is fan of the industry calling out 2K as a company for trying to get over on gamers. Let me take you through the scene.

So yesterday, I’m on my couch and I decide to play through the “My Career” mode. I decided I wanted to customize my player. I go to the edit  my player and noticed that tattoos are an option. Scrolling to the tattoo section I realize there’s only one tattoo available. I’m thinking, “well they’re probably going to update the game to fill in the rest since it’s a brand new version on a brand new system.” Fine. No tats. I wanted to add some shooting sleeves, a headband, and other accessories to fill my character out and realized none of these are available from the “My Career” screen either. Exasperated, I backed out to the first screen and saw another menu I have to go to, to get the stuff I was looking for. And that’s when I got angry.

VC Store

Remember when these were free? Yeah…me too.

Playing in “My Career” mode, I understand the reasoning for locking things behind this system. The mode would be no fun if I had access to all the skills and special moves at the outset. While I don’t agree with having to spend VC to change my jump shot, a layup/dunk package, or celebrations, if that’s what 2K wanted to do then that’s their prerogative. Know what I don’t understand? Why I need VC to buy tattoos, headbands, wristbands, shooting sleeves, finger tape, or anything of the sort. All of the aforementioned items were standard (re: FREE) fare as recent as 2K11/2K12 and now it’s locked behind a pay-wall. My irritation is rose to higher levels, but still, it’s a design decision. 2K wants the player to earn everything to have access to on the game? Fine. I’ll probably waste 100 hours of playtime anyway, so no big deal right? Wrong.

Here’s where things get messy. The cost of the things I wanted to buy and the amount of coins 2K dishes out are clearly done to make you purchase additional VC. Yes, you can buy VC from the PSN store. VC amounts are anywhere from 5,000 to 80,000 VC points and cost anywhere from $1.99 all the way up to $19.99. So if I wanted a pair of Jordans (7,500 VC), a tattoo, shooting sleeves and socks, we’re talking about at least $10 extra to be spent or an untold amount of hours in-game playing time.


Want to change the prices of what’s on this screen? Prepare to pay VC to to do it.

Moving over to My GM mode, the amount of things locked behind the pay-wall in THIS mode are criminal. The mode tasks you with being a GM of an entire organization. Not unlike a similar “owner” mode found in Maddens from two generations ago, the player is in charge of ticket/parking/concessions prices, advertising, trades, hiring staff, etc. Instead of tying all of this stuff to the ability of the player, all of the skills are stuck behind the VC system. Want to change your lineups? You need to pay VC. Want to change concession stand prices? There’s VC again. Want to hire/fire a trainer? Negotiate a trade? Have better luck with a free agent? All of these things need VC. At this point, I have to wonder if I actually bought a basketball game or did I spend $60 as an entry fee? I hate to seem like I’m complaining, but this is a weak way to do business.

In conclusion, I love the 2K series. I understand gaming is a business. I understand people have to make money. More importantly, I understand the thought process. 2K is likely thinking, “we can do whatever the hell he want with this game because, there isn’t an alternative. What else are they going to play? NBA Live?” I get it, but I don’t like it. The best way I can speak is with my money and while I’m only one person, 2K can be damned sure that if they don’t fix this on the next go round, they won’t be getting any more of my money.


14 thoughts on “NBA 2K14: Why Virtual Coins Are Ruining the Game

  1. Personally speaking I’ve attempted playing mycareer and I can’t look past the fact that I have to earn much VC just to improve my ratings, get gear, etc. it has ruined my experience to the point that I don’t even play the game mode, I would like 2K to at least give y

  2. Your player start out with higher ratings for your skill set to make earning VC less of an adventure in mycareer, and make much more enjoyable.

  3. Paying for this type of content after shelling out 60$ is almost as bad as paying for Hulu and still having to watch commercials. Are fans of this series really this stupid? I also love how the author spends so much time talking about how gamers are entitled… yes how dare someone feel they should get a full game worth of content after paying triple A prices. Companies such as this and Hulu, and EA with the Sims, 2/3rds the apple market et al should be dragged out into the proverbial video game street and shot because clearly the greed has driven them insane and it is more human to end their suffering.

    • Well for one, I hadn’t bought the series in a couple years, so I had no idea this was what the game turned into.

      To your 2nd point about spoiled gamers, you’re off base. 1. I didn’t spend “so much time” talking about spoiled gamers being entitled. That was used to provide context for this post. 2ndly, gamers complaining and having a sense of entitlement extend far beyond this post and was a critique of what the culture of commenters on video game sites had become. Apologies if that wasn’t clear.

      In any event, thanks for your comment.

    • Your right on the money, this article is almost as irritating as the game itself. If you play this game for its trophies the real crap comes to the surface.

  4. What did you expect? You seem to be fine with the industry’s exploitative business practices and writing off critics of the industry’s shameless money grabs as entitled complainers. But what did you think would happen? There is an obvious incentive with microtransactions to find novel ways of beating customers like a pinata full of pennies because they know there’s an insufferable contingent out there that apparently doesn’t mind paying twice, once full retail price for the game itself, and twice for any “additional” content that you’re lucky you can get alternatively only by suffering a soul-crushing grindfest. The amusement park industry already solved this problem by realizing that you can either charge admittance and ride everything free, or grant free admittance but then charge per ride, but not both. But apparently in the video game industry you can have both, and to complain about it is just entitlement. Why be surprised then when that “additional” content gets lumped in with vital gameplay mechanics?

    Because really, what’s there to stop them from doing it? You can’t say the customer can just stop buying the games and the problem will solve itself, because you said yourself that you’re fine with things like map packs, microtransactions, and “season passes”, because you think these things are necessary to sustain and grow the businesses that make them. In other words, you think that without these business practices, they wouldn’t make enough money to make a game the size of NBA2K in the first place. So what else can you do to get them to stop? You can’t complain, like I am, because then you’re just entitled apparently.

    The casual acceptance of microtransactions has lead the industry to realize that it’s more profitable to design games around monetization schemes rather than simply make good games and then sell them. It seems that some people are reluctant to admit that you can turn a healthy profit without maximizing it to the detriment of the game, and like to entertain the idea that all of these exploitative strategies to keep your credit card on tap is somehow necessary rather than optional. But I guess this is what happens when you demand more and more content at the expense of gameplay- content that can only be reliably produced by huge companies with armies of artists and shareholders to please, whose executives will stop at nothing to extract as many shekels from you as humanly possible.

    • There seems to be a real comprehension problem going on here. I’m fine with microtransactioms so long as developers are putting out additional content. I don’t like microtransactioms when developers are locking things behind a pay-wall to squeeze money out of gamers. Skyrim, is a full game that uses DLC packs to add content to a fully featured game. I’m OK with that. NBA 2K14 purposely nerfed their game so people would spend more money after the 60 dollar buy in. I’m not OK with that. There’s a difference between the two.

      As for entitled gamers. Again. I never said that people who complained about microtransactions
      were entitled gamers. I said gamers since last gen have shown a weird sense of entitlement. That wasn’t specifically limited to complaining about microtransactions. Not to mention, I just said that two comments ago. I admire your passioned plea but you seem to be basing it on something you think I said. And not what I actually said.

      • That’s the problem with microtransactions though, that there’s an incentive for the companies to purposely nerf their own game and arbitrarily slice up content and put it behind paywalls because they know they’ll make more money that way, even if it means sacrificing the game design’s integrity. It shouldn’t be a surprise then when you see core features gradually make their way behind the paywall. The moment you accept microtransactions, corrupt gameplay is right around the corner because it would be foolish of the executives to not take advantage of what they see as free money.

        NBA2K14 is far from the only game abusing microtransactions. Even the more honest games with microtransactions like TF2 have gambling elements that prey mostly upon young kids in an attempt to get their parents’ credit cards hooked up and ready.

        As for additional content, if done honestly (which of course is rare) it can be an awesome thing. But that’s also another thing that used to be the domain of actual sequels and expansion packs, where you got a load of new content for one purchase price, unlike this death by a thousand cuts DLC that seems to be so popular. There were also modifications available where people would create their own content, but because of the popularity of DLC, now games are also being purposely nerfed in terms of moddability, because they would rather you purchase their polished extensions for more money than download custom content for free. The tools required to make that content is now being held private to the companies, making mods much more difficult to make.

        I’m just not in favor of trying to reward and punish games based on how much they abuse the business models that, in my opinion, plague gaming. I think the incentives are too strong to do the wrong thing.

  5. The incentives to do the wrong thing have to be bolstered by people making the purchases. If you want something to stop happening, you’d have to hit the developers where it hurts. In others words, if gamers who purchase 2K want 2K to stop nickle and diming them to death, they should probably stop buying additional coins because all that signals to 2K is “people will pay for this stuff so we’re going to keep charging for it.”

    This is a business. The point of this business is to make money. Developers, with the increasing costs of technology, labor, size of teams and such, need to be able to gain profit from their games. I’d blame this age of microtransacting less on developers and more on the technology. There used to be a time where you released a game and that was it. If it was buggy, it sucked, it lacked features, whatever the case, you couldn’t do anything else with it.

    Now, we’re asking developers to make games and keep supporting the game they’ve made long after release with bug fixes, updates, additional DLC and other stuff. Gamers are impatient and were tired of waiting for full blown sequels so developers decided that instead of going back to the drawing board and creating whole new experience, they can simply add on to an already good product to keep people engaged with the game longer. There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is, as you said, them abusing that. But if everybody is buying it, then they’re only doing what the consumers are telling them to do with their money.

    There are plenty of games that do the DLC thing the right way (i.e. Burnout Paradise, Borderlands, Skyrim, etc.) But of course, people who suck at it (like 2K and EA Sports) get all the press. There’s a good and bad to this and I’m willing to see the good while pointing out the bad.

    • It’s not as simple as ignoring the microtransactions, because when core features are locked away in a game that you already invested $60 in, it would be foolish not to pony up the extra couple dollars to progress. Otherwise, you just wasted $60 for a game you can’t enjoy or play. That’s why I suggest ignoring the game completely, not just the microtransactions. Any game with that business model should be avoided and shunned.

      And the profit incentive is one of those things that is the realm of apologists for exploitative business practices. You can turn a healthy profit, enough to sustain and grow, without exploiting the hell out of your customers and players. It has nothing to do with technology costs. The games industry is experiencing unprecedented growth and profit. They’re not hurting for money.The problem is that because gamers have become infatuated with bigger and better to the point of absurdity, giant companies with non-gaming oriented management and influences in the form of business executives and shareholders now determine game designs because of their insistence on profit-maximization schemes to the detriment of their own industry, as exploits like these can’t last. But in the short terms they rake in the cash.

      It’s no different than a CEO gambling away his companies future because he knows if it pays off, he’ll bring in a ton in bonus cash, but if doesn’t, he’ll still get away with a cushy severance. The incentive is just bad for the industry, much less the gamers.

      The only horrible thing about this in the particular case of NBA2K is that making an authentic and licensed NBA game is so ridiculously expensive, both legally and technically, that only a huge developer can make it, and because the biggest companies obviously want the biggest payoff it’s no surprise they went for the most profitable monetization scheme gamers are willing to accept. It’s just too bad that Live can’t really compete and lessen the burden yet.

      • There are no core features in 2K that you cant access without paying. The problem in this case is 2K took things that were previously available to you upon bootup and now made them cost VC (such as arm sleeves and headbands.) Everything on 2K14 needs VC, previous.versions didnt suffer from this decision. Before, VC was primarily used to improve your myplayer character. Now its used for that, as well as improving your GM for the myGM mode, as well as buying cards for myTeam mode, as well as buying clothes and kicks and accessories, as well as……Well you get it. You can get all of these things for free, but it will take forever and most gamers with extra income would rather just pay to save time. And here we are.

  6. Personally I have enjoyed MyCareer on PS4 and haven’t minded the VC system. Yeah it is stupid that you get like 200VC for playing a game and a pair of shoes cost 7500, but it makes it special when you earn the endorsement deal and get the shoes for free. I think that is part of the point and looking back now, I actually like that I didn’t have access to anything at the start.

    That said, I took a look at GM mode and couldnt even be bothered playing past an hour. The way they have set that up is beyond stupid and a clear money grab. I can see here how they have geared it towards players paying for VC which is just criminal when it stops you actually playing the game mode properly. In MyCareer the setup works, as you get better you get more rewards, in GM mode however, you can’t do anything that a GM would be expected to do from the outset. Shit… you can’t even change your lineup. That is where my issue is and THAT is the clear money grab from 2K.

  7. Basically you have to either play a ton of games or fork over more money to make GM mode fun. I do GM mode because I like to build teams, sim the regular season, and play in the playoffs. Not because I like to play a lot of meaningless regular season games (that I should probably lose to get a better draft pick to build my dynasty) just to be able to do something basic. KILLS the mode. Probably won’t get another 2k game. This was my first and I bought it on reputation. Very disappointed. MLB: The Show can’t get here soon enough (then again, maybe they will do the same).

  8. I got this game free from PS plus, I don’t usually play NBA games. while I love the game itself the fact that they make us purchase coins for items and attributes makes me never want to buy a NBA 2k game ever. I will never ever buy coins. And also never buy an NBA 2k game.

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