The best businesses are built around great products and services. Companies earn adoration or scorn based upon how they deliver, support, and communicate about their wares. In the case of 2K Sports, the core product of NBA 2K12 is sublime. Unfortunately, the service of online support has been nothing short of a catastrophe. At best, the various online options have been confusing and unreliable; at worst, they have been utterly useless. It’s an incredible shame that, two weeks after release, the vast majority of gamers who focus on internet-based modes are furious. What’s worse is 2K’s lack of communication. About anything.
The official website of the game – NBA2K.com – is empty, and has been since NBA2K12 launched. All it has is a few screen shots and a “launching soon” message. Players that are experiencing trouble connecting, having games dropped, or looking for information about the baffling Online Association have no place to go. Unless, of course, they venture to the forums of 2KSports’ website, which are full of agonized posters complaining and screaming for answers. Of which there are few.
We’ve spent the past two weeks perusing all of the online modes for both 360 and PS3 and have come away feeling empty. The sad reality of current sports games is that it takes a little while for online features to work smoothly and patches have become the norm. Even so, two weeks is far too ling to be experiencing dead websites and lousy functionality. Here’s what we’ve seen in each of the modes.
Quick Matches rarely connect on our 360. We’ve tried for days, and more often than not we just stare at the “Searching for opponent…” message on the load screen. According to @ronnie2K, the resident 2K Sports twitter account, a patch that was released for the 360 on 10/13 was supposed to address these problems. From our perspective, it doesn’t appear to have helped at all.
Once we do make it into a game, we haven’t had a match that failed to have issues. Several of our games had extended periods of lag, with everything running at half speed. We didn’t have any outright disconnections, though, which should count for something.
The PS3 experience has been similar - we always seem to wait a few minutes to get a Quick Match game. The only reason we even waited for that long was for this report – we wouldn’t tolerate that for any other reason. After we connected, a few games admittedly went through with no problem. A few others had some pauses and lag, and a couple disconnected. Overall, it’s an awful experience, and we eventually jumped back into offline modes.
Even worse – if that’s possible – is that lobbies have been completely removed. That’s unheard of in this day and age, yet for reasons unknown there is no way to search for games based on experience, location, or anything else. You simply get matched up with another person - if you get connected at all.
Team Up - With Friends
We had a lot more luck actually getting games started in Team Up as long as we hooked up with friends. Unfortunately, the controls were sluggish; our players would weave drunkenly on defense and dribble out of control on offense until we learned to compensate. The only positive byproduct was that shooting seemed to be easier. As a social engagement, we loved Team Up; chatting with buddies while playing as a team against other individuals was great. Had the gameplay matched up even a little bit, it would have been a thousand times better.
We love online franchise modes; when you’re in the right community of friends and like-minded gamers, a multi-season experience replete with drafts, rivalries, and wildly changing rosters is as good as it gets. The promises of NBA 2K12’s version were lofty, but the delivery is a mess.
We created an Online Association on the 360 and were immediately confused. Given a choice of Advancement options, we saw “Slow,” “Medium,” and “Fast.” Huh? We picked “Fast” simply because we wanted to try it out with a few buddies. At this point, we still don’t know what it means. And if we wanted to change it? Can’t happen. Once we set up the initial rules, we discovered later on that none of them could be modified. We also discovered that the commissioner has no real ability to do anything – reset games, advance the week, nothing. Basically, all the fundamental administrative functions that we’ve gotten used to in other games are non-existent.
In reality, Online Association is like creating your own temporary MMO. The creator establishes the world - number of games, whether injuries will occur, etc. – then releases it into the wild. Players will join and play each other (if they can connect, which has so far been a problem) or go against the CPU, and the league will move along with or without their participation. Had 2K Sports simply communicated that this was their vision, perhaps the reception would not have been so negative. Even something as simple as an official guide on the website would have been great, but there’s nothing giving aspiring Online Association players a clue how to do anything. It’s all a huge missed opportunity.
Wrapping it up
It’s obvious that everything related to NBA 2K12’s online features was not ready for launch. Had 2K Sports simply come clean and admitted that the multiplayer would be a beta test for the first month or two, we could have dealt with that – and perhaps even welcomed it. We completely understand that 2K Sports had to meet the delivery date. Given the choice of getting the spectacular single-player modes on time or waiting a month or two for the total game to work, we would have chosen the former every time.
Unfortunately, the lousy online experience coupled with poor communication has made the launch of the best sports game we’ve played in years a bitter disappointment for many fans. It didn’t need to be this way.
Oct 18, 2011