There was significant fanfare when EA scrapped the launch of NBA Live 20. Basketball fans around the world despaired as the most popular NBA video game franchise looked to be at risk. EA CEO Andrew Wilson revealed the decision to discard NBA Live 20 was to “expand its vision” for the NBA Live franchise. This included bringing “social connection” and “player creativity” to the fore.
Interestingly, Wilson alluded to the fact that the next EA Sports titles would be developed in readiness for the next-generation games consoles, namely the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X, which will allow for 8K gaming.
At least now we can expect an elite NBA Live 21 to come out in time for both next-generation consoles. Several beady eyes in the world of video gaming have combed through EA Sports’ latest financial report, which revealed an “unannounced EA Sports title” was due for inclusion to its 2020 calendar later this year. FIFA 21 and Madden 21 were both listed for release during Q2 of its financial year, while NHL 21 was also a notable inclusion in the report. Using powers of deduction, this “unannounced” game can only be either UFC 4 or NBA Live 21.
There is tremendous excitement about what the next NBA season has to offer. All eyes will be on last season’s MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to see whether the Greek can help the Milwaukee Bucks to justify their current status as NBA Finals favorites in the eyes of the sportsbooks. If the odds are anything to go by, only the LA Clippers and the LA Lakers stand a fair chance of stopping the Bucks in their wake. A next-gen release of NBA Live 21 as the season kick-starts would certainly be the icing on the cake.
What can we expect if NBA Live 21 transpires?
- A fully developed challenger for NBA 2K’s MyTEAM functionality
2K Games has got its MyTEAM game mode just right in recent years. It’s been a major draw for the NBA 2K franchise, and it is high time that EA steps up to the plate and delivers a genuine competitor. You only have to look at EA’s FIFA and Madden franchises to realize that they have the capability to do so. An NBA Live 21 Ultimate Team mode could be an absolute game-changer.
- A welcome roster update
Although this goes without saying, loyal fans of the NBA Live franchise will have been stuck playing the NBA Live 19 version with team rosters that are 18 months out of date. Just refreshing those rosters will give each team a new lease of life in NBA Live 21. The franchise is doing itself no favors by languishing behind 2K in the update stakes.
- Graphics to trump the 2K franchise again
Visually, the NBA Live franchise has had the edge over 2K Games for some time. The last NBA Live 19 release enjoyed much crisper, fluid graphics than its NBA 2K 19 rival. However, in the absence of NBA Live last time around, 2K Games grasped its opportunity with both hands and delivered much-improved graphics for NBA 2K20, cementing it as one of the most ground-breaking basketball sims on a visual level. NBA Live 21 needs to show a real step-change from its 2019 predecessor.
- Enhancements to ‘The One’ career mode
It’s important to acknowledge what was good about NBA Live 19 as well as its flaws. Its scenario-based ‘The One’ career mode was a big hit among most players, with the chance to immerse yourself in the world of being an NBA professional. If EA’s producers and developers can introduce some fresh angles and storylines, their career mode should be able to stand the test of time in the next-gen era.
EA’s decision to hang fire last year and release a first-rate title on the next-gen consoles this year could prove an inspired one if all the above comes to fruition.