I’ve always been a fan of 2K’s NBA games, so much so that every time a new one is announced I preorder it on the spot without thinking, NBA 2K18 included. I think this is mostly because 2K is the only option on PC when it comes to basketball games, or maybe I really need to work on my self control… Either way, let’s talk about NBA 2k18 for a minute.
This year, 2K18 took things to a whole new level… Of microtransactions. Buying in-game currency has been a given in 2K’s NBA games for quite a few years now, but it’s never felt as forced as it does this year in NBA 2K18 and especially in MyCareer.
Basically, without spending real money to buy VC, you’re simply not going to progress without investing countless hours of relentless grinding and missing wide open layups.
Why am I just writing this now? Well, I actually wrote it the day after 2K18 released, but never got around to publishing it.
If you are playing anything other than quick games, the need for VC is real. Using MyCareer as an example, it costs about $58 worth of VC to level your character from 60-85 (the first level cap, requires more grinding to increase). Once you’re up to rank 75 or so it becomes a lot easier to earn VC by playing games, but getting there is the problem.
Personally, I was going to try and grind the VC needed to rank up by playing NBA games, it wasn’t too difficult to earn VC in 2K17 so I didn’t think much would have changed in that regard. But after I had played roughly 10 MyCareer NBA games and earned a max of maybe 500-750 VC for doing it, I was starting to become a little discouraged.
For reference value, 500 VC might buy you a 1-2 skill upgrades at the lower levels, depending on what skill it is; but it quickly gets to the point where 500 VC gets you nothing. Playing through 10 NBA games will take a couple of hours if not longer depending on how long your quarters are, I set mine to 12 minutes so my games take a bit longer than the average (default is 6 min).
It’s safe to say that grinding the required VC to level up to 85, which is roughly 195,000 VC if you’re curious, would take an INSANELY LONG F****** TIME. Or, simply give 2K another $59.99 (the same price as the game itself) to fast-track your way there.
Want a rough estimate of how long? How does 122 hours sound? No, seriously, I’m not even joking here. It would take upwards of 122 of your precious hours just to make it to the first soft level cap of 85 from the starting point of 60, without buying VC. And 122 hours is assuming you’re able to bank 800 VC /game right from the start, which is practically impossible until you’re rank 70+ in most cases.
Realistically, it’s probably more like 140-150 hours of grinding or more.
This is where the problem comes into play. Since it was pretty much impossible to progress against the AI the “old fashioned” grindy way, my only other options were to quit, grind losses in MyPark, lower the difficulty level, or pay to git gud.
Since I don’t give up when I’m losing and lowering the difficulty level was not an option if I had any hope of contending with my soon-to-be online competition, 2K left me with just 1 choice… So, instead of continuing to miss wide open shots and easy layups alike, I decided to give in and just buy some VC and level my baller the ea$y way.
I didn’t go all the way to 85 with the VC that I bought, but I ranked my player up to 77 or so and then spent the rest on useless cosmetics because why not. Even at 77, which would have taken countless hours of grinding without buying VC, it was still difficult to compete against the AI, but at least it felt possible and was way more fun as a result. Challenging is fun, impossible is not.
Earning VC also became much easier after, with some games bringing in 700-900 VC alone, depending on my performance (and how much I hogged the ball). In my opinion, this was a much more comfortable rate of progression but I definitely wasn’t happy that I had to pay even more than I already had.
It felt more in-line with the story also, which insinuates that your character had considerable skill and was able to get on an NBA team without being drafted.
Now, some people have been saying that this whole VC fiasco makes 2K18 a “pay to win” game, but in all honesty, I think it’s more of a “pay so you CAN win” game, at least in MyCareer; and again that’s the problem.
It’s not just p2w, but unless you’re going to play on the easiest difficulty setting or you really enjoy being really bad, you basically have to pay just so you have a chance of doing even half decent against the AI or other real players (in MyCareer).
To be honest, I don’t think there’s an easy solution to this VC mess that has continued to get worse on a yearly basis. One idea that I’ve heard mentioned is to split MyCareer and MyPark, but then that would just give 2K more places to charge us VC. I don’t think that removing VC altogether would ever happen, so that’s out of the question.
One idea that I’ve entertained, is instead of charging VC to upgrade your player’s skills (in MyCareer/MyPark), make skills “level up” naturally as you play within the obvious constraints of the role you picked. If you’re taking lots of 3s your 3pt skill will increase, if you’re running lots your stamina will increase, if you’re boxing people out and grabbing boards your rebounding will go up, etc.
Since they added a gym to the MyPark hub that’s pretty much useless outside of grinding the Quickness badge, I could see that being used for something more productive if you actually had to work on skills to level them. Maybe, training agility, strength, etc? Hmm..
I mean, if 2K is going for realism, which they allegedly are, natural skill progression would be one surefire way. It would also make team practices less pointless as well as MyCourt. It would also cut back on the worst of the VC issues that are currently plauging MyCareer/MyPark. Without having to worry about spending your VC to upgrade your skills, the other “fun” things like cosmetics, better dunks, Kobe’s shooting style, become way more feasible.
There are lots of other glaring issues with 2K18 outside of VC, like those damn unskippable cutscenes, but overall the gameplay has improved and so have the various game modes including MyCareer and MyPark, which makes this VC issue even more annoying and hard to stomach.
From making you feel like buying VC is the only way that you can actually compete, to decreasing how much VC you can earn in a game, Virtual Currency has slowly turned 2K’s basketball games into something more resemblant of your average free to play game layered with AAA graphics.
In my opinion, if buying VC wasn’t so forced, if not borderline mandatory, I feel that this year’s 2K would have easily been the best entry in the series yet. But, instead, 2K18 has forced me to see the error in my ways and I won’t be preordering 2K19, I’ll be waiting to see how many additional microtransactions are involved first.
What are your thoughts? Did you buy NBA 2K18 this year only to be disappointed by the amount of VC needed? Do you not mind it? Been buying NBA Live on console instead? Let me know in the comments!