Developers of the popular NBA 2K20 video game have sparked widespread outrage with the game’s latest trailer, which many say blatantly promotes gambling to underage players.
The promotional video for the NBA 2K20 MyTeam game mode depicts popular game streamers., CashNasty and Kris LSK London enthusiastically engaging in various casino game activities, with virtually no footage of actual basketball gameplay. The public outcry in response to the two-minute clip has since prompted game publisher 2K Games and developer Visual Concepts to remove it from their US and UK YouTube channels.
The primary issue surrounding the trailer is that it features loot boxes and, more importantly, gambling mechanics despite that fact that the basketball video game is currently approved for players of all ages. Consequently, concerns have been voiced about the suitability for younger audiences of both the trailer and the game it promotes.
Many feel that the video depicting CashNasty and LSK playing casino-style games like slots, prize wheels, and pachinko effectively promotes gambling, despite the fact that it is presented as simply a basketball video game, safe for players of all ages.
Set to launch this week, the US$60 game is rated E (for Everyone) in the United States and approved for ages 3 and older in Europe.
As comments on the now removed YouTube posts (which received exponentially more dislikes than likes) indicate, there is widespread unhappiness with the NBA 2K20 MyTeam game being made accessible to children when it so openly promotes gambling habits and an unrealistic view of how easy it is to win versus how great the risks can be.
One viewer sarcastically described it as a game a casino game with too much basketball and asked how much the developers paid for their Pan European Game Information (PEGI) 13 rating.
As such, a push is building for changes to the game’s ratings by both the PEGI and the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB). By the guidelines of both these regulators, say advocates for change, NBA 2K20 MyTeam mode should not be approved for children.
Instead, many are complaining for an ESRB rating of at least T (for teen), since it depicts simulated gambling, and a PEGI rating of 12, for similar reasons.
Loot boxes, also referred to as surprise mechanics, present an intensifying bone of contention in the video game industry, as they are believed encourage gambling-like behaviour. In NBA 2K20’s MyTeam mode, loot boxes take the form of card packs, from which users can select players to form the ideal team. The problem, say critics, is that this is too much like real-life gambling.
Of greater concern, however, are game elements that encourage players to spend money to potentially achieve greater success with their teams. This monetisation of a game that is ostensibly promoted as free, say critics, is completely inappropriate for children.