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NBA 2K19 and the 'unskippable' ads fiasco

2K’s long-standing and wildly popular basketball game NBA 2K19 has in recent days been the subject of a flood of frustration from players unhappy with the premium title’s apparent ramping up of ‘unskippable’ ads.

It appears some of that frustration may be partially unfounded; the ads may not be unskippable, and they have always been part of the game. But the momentum that has built in recent days has seen a lashing out against 2K’s use of ads – and that of games more generally – making clear that the public have very strong opinions about additional monetisation in premium games.

The consumer response – expressed over Reddit, Titter and other social channels as calls for boycotts and damning of 2K and its game – does demonstrate where we are with the relationship between games and ads, particularly with regard top premium, paid-for games. As this Reddit thread some 13,000 interactions deep shows, the gaming public have a lot to say on the matter.

As reported by Nintendo Life, recent events may have started when NBA 2K19 was briefly discounted from USD$59.99 (£46.59)  down to $2.99 (£2.32), potentially bringing on board numerous players new to the title. Delivered via the game’s ‘2KTV’ function, the ads apparently run before every match as the game loads; and the consensus seems to be that the commercials shown have very little place in a premium game, whether players paid £46.59 or £2.32.

A Reddit users screen-grab of one of the ads in question.

More seasoned devotees to the game have pointed out that the ads have always been part of NBA 2K19, while others have asserted that in using the game’s options to turn off the 2KTV function, the ads can be disabled (some users report still seeing ads after doing so). As such, they may well be skippable, if not incorrectly.

It is still unclear if – and why – there has been a significant ramp up of the frequency of these ads.

Others have taken umbrage with the 3-years-plus rated game showing ads for the likes of 15-years-plus rated TV shows, including Netflix’s show Snowfall, which looks at cocaine addiction.

Digesting much of the outcry from the public, it appears there is understanding that ads are needed to monetise free games. As a mobile monetisation tool ads can even be popular; they save gamers spending real money in free-to-play games. But the notion of ads not being appropriate for premium games appears a near-universal sentiment, with most calling to remove them altogether, or keep them to a minimum.

This specific uproar will likely come to pass in time, but it does highlight a very specific point that will likely be a perennial issue; publishers and developers of premium games of every kind need to think very carefully about additional monetisation through advertising; and how they can deliver it in a way that will keep both player and advertiser suitably served.