‘NBA 2K19’ and other sports games have gone overboard with ads — and it’s ruining the fun (EA, TTWO)
“If it’s in the game, it’s in the game.”
For more than two decades, video game studio EA Sports seared this slogan, which plays in the opening credits of nearly every one of its games, into the hearts and mind of millions of fans. With each new season it seems more true; sports games reflect everything fans expect from their favorite sports, no matter how small the detail.
Unfortunately, that also includes advertisements.
Sports games have adopted the same penchant for aggressive advertising as their real-world counterparts. As the games have grown more complex, so have the ads.
Here’s how sports video games have become a vehicle for sponsors:
This social media-style replay from ‘NBA Live 19’ not-so-subtly features the Jordan Jumpman in the background.
In trying to build a product that feels identical to the real thing, sports video games have fully embraced the sponsorship culture of professional sports. Basketball games feel like the worst perpetrators.
Take-Two Interactive’s “NBA 2K19” and EA’s “NBA Live 19” each include extensive sponsorships from Nike and its Jordan brand. Both games feature Jordan and Nike clothing worn by the virtual players, and Jumpman logos are emblazoned across arenas and backgrounds.
As part of its career mode, “NBA Live 19” even has players compete in virtual versions of real-life Jordan-branded events, such as Quai 54, a Parisian streetball tournament.
You can’t miss the Gatorade coolers during 60-second timeouts.
As in live sports, most of the ads in sports games are in the background. But it feels different seeing them in a video game. In a video-game context, it’s difficult to ignore that the Gatorade-sponsored timeout happens to feature a pair of Gatorade coolers right behind your team, with the logos facing the camera.
Even during the story mode cut scenes in “NBA 2K19,” I found myself distracted by the large brand logos on my character’s clothes.
Jumpman even leaped into my in-game text messages.
If the games restricted the ads to just the same places you’d find them in actual sports events, they wouldn’t be so annoying. But they don’t.
The games also throw in lots of branded apparel, such as designer sneakers and clothing. So, regardless of how you choose to play, the ads are omnipresent.