EA has swished NBA Live 20 into the garbage like a crumpled up paper ball, confirming during a quarterly investor call that the once-delayed basketball sim is now officially dead. This is the fifth nonconsecutive year that EA is without a console basketball game to compete with 2K’s juggernaut NBA 2K series: 2010’s NBA Elite 11 was mobile-only; 2011 saw no EA basketball game of any sort; 2012’s NBA Live 13 was cancelled just before launch following a disastrous demo; and 2016’s NBA Live Mobile was — you guessed it! — also mobile-only.
“We’re not launching a new NBA Live HD product this season,” said EA CEO Andrew Wilson during today’s investor call, according to Polygon’s transcription. “Instead, we’re expanding our vision, leaning hard into the new leading-edge platforms, and taking the time to ensure we deliver against the opportunity for our players.”
EA was sure to qualify to Polygon that NBA Live 20‘s cancellation is not due to quality concerns or developmental issues, as was the case with previous entries in the series. Wilson echoed that sentiment during the investor call, saying that EA’s decision to cancel hinges entirely on its focus on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Project Scarlett. “We’re excited by what we’ve built so far, and yet we know the world is changing,” Wilson said. “New platforms are coming that will bring social connection, accessibility, and player creativity to the fore. In a future of new possibilities, players shouldn’t be content with a game built for today’s realities and based on what we know to be possible, we feel we can go so much further with the new design.”
— EA SPORTS NBA LIVE (@EASPORTSNBA) October 29, 2019
If this is the first you’ve heard of NBA Live 20, no one could blame you. EA delayed the game’s release before it was even announced, and beyond EA saying that NBA Live 20 would take a “different approach” to the franchise, little was known of the title or its design trajectory.
This is all obviously great news for rival publisher 2K, who now has a complete monopoly on licensed NBA console games for this year. General sentiment is that 2K’s basketball games have failed to innovate or improve over the last few iterations, and consumers have grown steadily less tolerant of the microtransactions that 2K is more than happy to build into the experience. Still, 2K has little incentive to change what it’s been doing with zero competition in the marketplace, especially since NBA 2k20 was the best-selling console game of 2019.
I’m not totally sure what “new possibilities” could await the concept of basketball on the PlayStation 5 and Project Scarlett, but that’s probably on me for being so content with games built for today’s realities. Ask anybody at Fanbyte and they’ll tell you it’s one of my defining characteristics! “That Jordo,” they’ll say, “he’s nothing if not content with games built for today’s realities.” If there’s ever a Fanbyte merch store, one of the items will be a plain t-shirt that says “Jordan Mallory is content with games built for today’s realities” in Times New Roman.