You’d think that given the unrest surrounding loot boxes, most publishers would want to avoid drawing attention to them. Take-Two is not one of those publishers. One of the new trailers for NBA 2K20, which is out next week, is somehow all about microtransactions. We’re not really sure who at 2K Games thought this trailer was a good idea considering the heat that companies like EA have received for their characterization of loot boxes, but it really comes off as a tone deaf celebration of the thing gamers seem despise most at the moment.
The trailer in question promotes NBA 2K20‘s MyTeam mode, in which you build a team of players by unlocking them through MyTeam packs – NBA 2K‘s version of loot boxes. Of course, those packs can be purchased with virtual currency that costs real money, potentially making MyTeam a major money sink for players.
For an industry that really doesn’t want loot box mechanics in games to be associated with gambling, 2K Games’ trailer walks a really fine line. At certain points, we see players spinning slot machines and roulette wheels, celebrating their winnings and their big pulls from MyTeam card packs along the way. It’s difficult to take major publishers who claim loot boxes aren’t gambling seriously when they’re releasing trailers that show off actual gambling mechanics that are presumably tied to these loot boxes.
The fact that this trailer is dropping at a time when governments around the world are taking a closer look at loot boxes in games makes its existence even more bewildering. In June, legal representatives from Electronic Arts and Epic Games went before the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee to make their case for loot boxes and microtransactions. During that hearing, EA VP of legal and government affairs Kerry Hopkins referred to loot boxes as “surprise mechanics” and equated them to toys like Kinder Eggs.
Hopkins also stressed that EA doesn’t consider loot boxes to be a form of gambling, and that her company has implemented them in a way that players think is “quite ethical.” Hopkins might want to get Take-Two chief Strauss Zelnick on the horn, because this trailer isn’t really a good look for major publishers who would desperately like to separate their loot boxes from talk of gambling.