It’s been over a decade since the gaming label 2K stopped making American football games to rival EA’s Madden series, but wouldn’t you know it: someone is throwing a football at the end of the trailer for 2K’s latest big basketball game. It’s there to be noticed.
A new NBA 2K19 trailer released today pushes NBA 2K’s “Neighbourhood” mode, an expansion of a mode introduced last year that let people play more casual games of virtual basketball while trying out mini-games like lifting weights in the gym. The trailer shows a lot more activities in this year’s Neighbourhood mode, though it’s hard to tell which will be interactive. Characters are shown riding skateboards and scooters, taking selfies, playing dodgeball, and, most tantalisingly, catching a football.
“On this court, we are nothing but our names and the legacies we create,” the trailer’s narrator says, as the music peaks, and, in the final scene, a football gets tossed into someone’s hands.
A rep for the 2K series provided few details about what this means, noting only that “it’s a minigame in the neighbourhood” in an email to Kotaku. It’s unclear what the “it” even is, as it could involve anything from simply tossing around a football, to informal multiplayer matches. We asked. They didn’t say.
Any return to football action for 2K is noteworthy given the long history of the company’s involvement with American football games and the ongoing sports rivalry between the makers of 2K football and Electronic Arts.
At the turn of the century, Sega was publishing NFL 2K games that competed with EA’s Madden series. Critics often praised the 2K releases over the Madden games, but Sega soon got out of sports publishing, current 2K parent Take Two Interactive took the series over and then EA ended the battle by securing the exclusive rights to NFL teams and players. Madden games have been the only fully-licensed NFL games on consoles since 2005 and Take Two and 2K have been out of the football gaming business for nearly as long.
It’s unclear when EA’s NFL deals end. In 2014, Polygon reported that EA CEO Andrew Wilson said that “we still have a number of years left on our agreements there.” An EA rep declined today to share any parameters of the deals.
The NBA 2K series is a juggernaut for Take Two and is routinely one of the top-selling games of any type all year. EA’s rival NBA Live series has stumbled a lot in recent years, including outright skipping releases. But at least EA is able to try to compete. It’s unclear if 2K is showing that they are looking for a way to compete again in football, or if they’re just tucking in a nod to 2K’s past as a brief diversion for fans. Or maybe a football mini-game is just a football mini-game. NBA 2K19 is out early next month, so we’ll know more soon.