Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Rise and Fall of the NBA Live Dynasty

How did this happen?? Twelve years ago a relatively small software start up company released, to little fanfare, a simulation basketball game featuring the endorsement of the NBA on the top consoles of the time, the Sega Genesis, and the Super Nintendo. That "little" game would go on to sell the most copies of any basketball game ever. NBA Live 95 was the first basketball game to have TV style presentation, on the fly playcalls, and real attention paid to effective defense. For me personally, the series really took off in NBA live 96. For the first time, custom teams and create a player options were added, allowing us to all create Michael Jordan. NBA Live 97 broke through on the Playstation and changed basketball forever, bringing polygons and never before seen graphics to televisions everywhere. The game for me peaked in NBA Live 2000. Defense and Offense were the most balanced out of all the games, and EA finally pulled enough money out of their pockets to get all of the NBA legends by decade, including MJ. From there, the series went downhill, plateauing for a bit with Live 2003. The last innovation seen with the series was the highlight stick, allowing instantaneous crossovers and defensive moves. The problems started to come when EA started to rush games to market without enough research, got in a rut with failures to come with anything new, and moved a large chunk of their award winning development team over to the newly formed EA sports BIG for the production of the NBA Street series. The straw that finally broke the camels back was when EA started to worry more about the graphics and how the games looked (Especially on the Next Gen systems). Sadly, EA lost the valuable market share it always commanded with the excellent releases from rival Sega Sports. While at first I was completely against the NBA 2k series and everything it represented, I have completely fallen for the game series. 2K took the EA Sports formula and completely updated it, worrying about game play and strategy over graphics. Look at the picture right here above us. See Tmac? See that game cover? Ever played it on the PS3? Didn't think so. In an unprecedented move, Sony, citing how badly reviewed Live 2007 was coming out of the gate, completely canceled the game for this year. For the first time since 94, there was no NBA Live game for PS3. I am planning on renting both to see how they are this year, but if you take a look at the video clips posted below this one, you can see the difference immediately. I honestly thought Clifton had spliced in real NBA Game video. Everything you see on that video is completely legit. EA and NBA Live has been a big part of my life, and their decline really saddens me (As I play 2k). I hope EA recovers, but as more and more people are stopping to buy the game based on name brand alone, 2K is going to become an even bigger juggernaut. Competition is good for the franchise, and here is hoping EA figures out some cool innovations "In the Game."

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