NBA 2K21 sneaks in unskippable ads because loot boxes aren't enough

NBA 2K21 is coming under fire today for playing unskippable ads that players have to watch during loading screens. Ads in games are nothing new, but generally we only see them in free-to-play mobile titles. The difference, of course, is that NBA 2K21 is a game that costs $60 upfront, and even more if you want to get a next-gen upgrade, which means that people probably aren't going to be too fond of these ads.

The ads were discovered by the folks at Stevivor, who recorded some of them and uploaded them to YouTube. According to Stevivor, the ads autoplay during loading screens, and players aren't given the chance to continue to the actual game until the ad (which in this is case is promoting the Oculus Quest 2) is over. Even more annoying is the fact that these ads are being added a month after NBA 2K21 launched, meaning that they weren't covered in reviews that were published at launch.

That's pretty heavy-handed, particularly in a game as expensive as NBA 2K21 is. The standard edition costs the regular price of $59.99, but unlike many publishers, 2K is charging a fair amount of money to upgrade to the next-gen version when it comes out. Those who want to play the game on current-gen consoles and then upgrade to the next-gen version when Xbox Series X and PS5 launch will have to shell out $100 for the Mamba Forever Edition.

The NBA 2K series has found itself on the wrong side of controversy for a while now. Apart from this ad situation in NBA 2K21, NBA 2K20 made waves itself by featuring myTEAM loot box mechanics that looked an awful lot like straight up gambling. The advertising campaign for NBA 2K20 made no bones about putting that connection to gambling on full display.

Other companies have put ads in retail games before, only to backtrack when met with outcry from fans. We'll see if 2K Games does the same, but given that this isn't the first time we've seen unskippable ads in an NBA 2K game, it probably won't do anything. Stay tuned.