As I took off from Dallas back to Los Angeles after Thanksgiving, I put my Switch to sleep. My Mavericks had just pulled ahead of the San Antonio Spurs by 14 points in the seventh game of the 2018-2019 NBA season. Luka Doncic was playing like every bit of the Rookie of the Year candidate he is in real life.
I watched all of Monsters University and spilled a bag of pretzels on my chest. Then, I woke my Switch up and continued my game until about five minutes into the 3rd quarter. After watching enough of Ocean’s 8 to figure out I didn’t need to see the rest of Ocean’s 8, I woke my Switch up again and finished the 3rd quarter. I dozed off for about 20 minutes and then finished the game.
Luka ended up with 28 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists. Not bad!
It’s the second year the NBA 2K series has been on the Switch, following last year’s so-so installment. I didn’t buy last year’s version for two reasons:
- I already had the game for Xbox One.
- I wasn’t sold on the idea of playing a major sports release on the platform.
This year, I bought the game for Xbox One again. The end.
Kidding. I did buy the game for Xbox One, but I bought a second copy for my Switch. I have multiple copies of two 2K Sports games besides NBA 2K19, both football games from the studio’s past. I bought several copies of ESPN NFL 2K5 and All-Pro Football 2K8 for safety, in case one of my last gen systems outlives the other. This time, I bought multiple copies because I had to know the truth.
Would I enjoy a AAA sports game on a “lesser” platform?
After all, the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game are enhanced by each system’s “fancy” hardware variations. And what about the lovely Samsung 4K TV I have in my office where I do most of my playing? The Switch doesn’t care about that. Not to mention the lowly 30 frames per second the Switch is locked into. I gotta have those 60 frames, right?
After starting a MyLeague file with each version of NBA 2K19 and playing roughly the same number of games on each platform, I can tell you with great enthusiasm that I adore the Switch version of this game. I can only offer you a full-throated endorsement if you love Franchise Modes of sports games, though.
I’ll provide some context for folks who don’t play as many sports games as I do. Before a few years ago, sports games typically provided a suite of single-player modes and pretty basic multiplayer modes. The most vital single-player mode for many players is Franchise Mode, where you take your favorite team (or multiple teams if you love micromanagement on a macro scale) and control every major aspect of it. Coaching, training, playing, expansion, relocation, finances–all at your fingertips for seasons on end.
Recently, sports games have made tremendous strides in introducing modes that speak to a wider variety of sports fans. Every major franchise has some variation of Madden‘s Ultimate Team mode, a card-collectathon that resembles a mix of Hearthstone and Pokemon by way of LeBron James and Aaron Rodgers.
In addition to a focus on team-building multiplayer experiences, sports games have also evolved the individual career mode after the MLB The Show series carved a niche for itself years ago. NBA 2K19 has the card-collectathon. It’s called MyTeam. It also has the career mode, called MyCareer. I have to imagine most quality MyTeam competition is found on the beefier consoles. MyCareer is a farce with its heavy emphasis on microtransactions.
But NBA 2K19‘s version of Franchise Mode, MyLeague? MyLeague is a profound success in NBA 2K19 generally but especially on Nintendo’s pseudo-portable console. I play Franchise Modes to control the sports teams I love and lead them to success they might not have otherwise. In this specific case, I’m having a blast developing these young Dallas Mavericks players burst by burst both on my TV at home and on the go.
Having my team with me all the time makes me feel closer to the game in ways I haven’t felt with a sports game in a long time. The 2018-2019 Mavericks are my Tamagotchi with 5miles stitched to its chest.
Before hopping on a plane, I was negotiating a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder from a cabin in Hot Springs, Arkansas. While riding to DFW Airport, I adjusted our training schedule to give Dirk Nowitzki a lighter load. While waiting for my suitcase at LAX, I adjusted our minutes expectations for the foreseeable future since Dennis Smith Jr. kept getting gassed by the end of the 3rd quarter of every game.
Because I’m a Franchise Mode main, so to speak, the fact that the graphics and frame rate are worse on Switch matters less to me. I’m not playing online with folks across the country. I’m not any worse at the game on Switch than I was on Xbox One. We used to play sports games at 30 FPS, after all. All the stellar commentary is there. The game plays the same.
My plea to you is to give NBA 2K19 on Switch a chance if you’re at all into Franchise Modes in sports games. See if it affects you the way it has me. I can only hope that more publishers follow suit with faithful ports of their sports games, because 2K Sports has figured out a way to hook me more than they ever have before.