The WNBA continues to rely on its big brother to market and increase awareness of its league. It started back in 2018, when NBA Live 18 included women’s basketball in a separate-player mode among Ultimate Team and others. Two years later, the WNBA has another chance under the bright lights of video games.
The NBA 2K franchise, NBA Live’s competitor, is about to do the same favor for the WNBA.
Though 2K Games hasn’t made anything official, Renee Montgomery and A’ja Wilson shared news on their personal social media accounts about upcoming appearances in NBA 2K20, which likely won’t release until next Fall. Leaks like these are good to grab attention and incite some hype around a sport. However, there’s an equal amount of uncertainty, too.
As for now, no other WNBA player has admitted having any part in the game. Another topic up for discussion is how NBA 2K will use Montgomery and Wilson — whether as career-mode options or something else. If the gamemaker goes that route, NBA 2K will join other video game franchises, like Assassin’s Creed: Odyssesy, in having playable female characters for the main story.
NBA Live vs. NBA 2K — Which is a better fit for WNBA cameos?
Outside of its Madden and FIFA titles, video game publisher EA Sports hasn’t had much success with NBA Live. Take-Two Interactive’s 2K Games, on the other hand, is recently climbing up the ranks, especially in the booming esports industry. Essentially, it’s like comparing apples to oranges. But for the WNBA’s sake, which of the two pays bigger dividends?
In terms of Twitter following alone, NBA 2K pulls in over two million followers, whereas NBA Live has just over 150,000. Since this is a numbers’ game, NBA Live hasn’t had a great three years — selling only 8,000 copies in the game’s opening week in 2016 and, in 2017, the game title was delayed.
All things considered, NBA Live a sitting duck that, more than anything, hurt the WNBA when it introduced women’s basketball into its game for NBA Live 18.
Because of the momentum boost provided by a rights deal with Twitch, the NBA 2K League is about to rival FIFA and Madden. NBA 2K isn’t the most popular sports video game right now (it sits just above chess), but growth is there. On the premise of overall sales, the entire NBA 2K franchise is nearing 90 million copies sold.
The clear winner for putting eyes on the WNBA is NBA 2K20. Casual and pro gamers alike take NBA 2K a lot more seriously than NBA Live. Another thing is that, unlike EA Sports’ faltering title, Take-Two’s publisher brings with them a wider international audience that’s somewhat similar to FIFA’s presence among countries in the European Union — a market the WNBA sweats over at night.
Will the WNBA ever have a standalone video game?
Quite frankly, one would have to move a mountain to get any professional women’s sport its own video game. Right now, there is not enough interest or marketing potential, especially in an industry overrun with male video game characters and male gamers.
There is a trend, however, going on in non-sports-related video games, where females are playing bigger, more meaningful roles. But at the end of the day, it’s a process that will require zen-like patience. So the WNBA — depending on its performance in NBA 2K20 — may have to hold on for a while for a standalone video game.