NBA 2K20 Finally Tackles the VC Microtransaction Grind: "We Didn't Want People to Feel [...] Trapped in This Grind Anymore"

NBA 2K20 Finally Tackles the VC Microtransaction Grind: "We Didn't Want People to Feel [...] Trapped in This Grind Anymore"

Virtual Currency is here to stay, but at least the grind will be less painful this year.

Disclosure: Travel to this event was covered by 2K Games.

"I'm pretty much screaming into the void on this one," I said of NBA 2K's Virtual Currency back in 2017. I've been hardly alone. NBA 2K fans have been grumbling about "VC," NBA 2K's microtransaction-driven currency, for many years now.

If you're hoping that this is all a prelude to me saying that VC is finally being removed in NBA 2K20, I'm sorry to disappoint you. VC is alive and well. But NBA 2K20's development team at least seems to be taking community complaints somewhat seriously this time around, comprehensively overhauling MyCareer progression so buying VC feels less essential.

Basically, Visual Concepts is turbocharging leveling in NBA 2K20's MyCareer mode. While senior producer Erick Boenisch won't put a specific number to the progression, he says it's being sped up by "an order of magnitude."

"We didn't want people to feel like they were so trapped in this grind anymore," Boenisch says.

This will hopefully address one of the key complaints behind VC, which is that it necessarily weights progression in such a way that you will eventually get bored and spend some money. As currently constructed, MyCareer is a massive umbrella encompassing a story-driven campaign; an online hub with cosmetics, and online play. VC is earned by playing games, and it can in turn be spent on stat progression and cosmetics.

The microtransaction ties into gameplay has lately become a red line for players, especially in the wake of Star Wars Battlefront 2's loot box debacle, but Visual Concepts has refused to budge on VC. Instead, it has tinkered with elements like barriers that make it impossible to instantly spend to level 99. Still, the grind has remained too much for many players.

So Visual Concepts is simply speeding it up. Senior producer Ben Bishop tells USG, "Really, the game is more fun when you're on more of a level playing field with everyone else, and you're not feeling like you'll never get to an 80 or an 85. Hopefully with all the earning opportunities we give you, and the ability to move up much more quickly, you'll just be able to play and get there pretty quickly."

Unannounced additions to the Neighborhood hub will be among the features that help speed up the grind, Bishop says. NBA 2K20 will also feature a new MyPlayer Builder, which can be used to tinker with builds before starting a MyCareer run. It includes the ability to choose from archetypes, manually set your stat caps, and test out different badges. If you want to try out your build, you can take a fully leveled version on to a practice course for a test drive This makes the mode feel a little more deliberate than in the past, when points were often assigned haphazardly as players felt their way to a character that fit their chosen position.

Most important is a new "Dynamic Progression" feature for players who reach level 95. Previously, reaching this point would entail a long, painful grind before finally capping out. Now, your level is based on skill, so you can actually find yourself fluctuating between level 95 and 99 depending on your performance on the court. For competitive players, this is the kind of change that can make all the difference in the world.

"It's a quicker way to play the game," Boenisch says. "It keeps your attention from start to finish, and you're not going to hit that point where you hit 70 or 71 and you feel like you have so much more to go. This year it just keeps flowing really nicely. It took six years, but we finally hit that mark where it feels right."

It all sounds like a step in the right direction. NBA 2K has always been good about making it possible to earn VC across every single mode, and the updates to progression should make the grind much better. Still, it would be better if the accelerators were dropped entirely. Apart from feeling a bit like... well... cheating, they necessitate that MyCareer be played online, which makes it susceptible to the vagaries of servers and other issues. And really, NBA 2K wouldn't have these issues with grinding if it had never introduced VC in the first place.

VC is here to stay though. Microtransactions have made 2K an outrageous amount of money, and no amount of negative user reviews and fiery Youtube videos will get it to back off. The best you can hope for is that Visual Concepts will try and mitigate the damage. Hopefully NBA 2K20 will be the year that it finally follows through and does so.

"For us it's really important that our customers feel perceived value in the game," Boenisch says. "We've designed the game such that everything like that is supplemental. It's there, it's optional if you want, but everything has to feel natural. It can't be like a mobile game where you eventually hit a paywall. We never hit that in NBA 2K, and I think that's a really important point to drive home."

Players will be able to decide for themselves when NBA 2K20 comes out September 6 on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch, bringing with it an overhauled MyGM mode, the WNBA, and of course, Idris Elba. A Google Stadia version will also launch in November.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Kat Bailey

Editor in Chief

Kat Bailey is a former freelance writer and contributor to publications including 1UP, IGN, GameSpot, GamesRadar, and EGM. Her fondest memories as a journalist are at GamePro, where she hosted RolePlayer's Realm and had legal access to the term "Protip." She is USgamer's resident mecha enthusiast, Pokemon Master, and Minnesota Vikings nut (skol).

Read this next

A Devolver Co-Founder Makes A Plea For Publishers To Rethink Predatory Microtransactions

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | Devolver Digital co-founder Mike Wilson likens addictive titles to crystal meth.

NBA 2K20 Review

NBA 2K20's excellence in some areas is marred by an uneven story mode and some major online problems.

#FixNBA2K20 Hashtag Trends as NBA 2K20 Players Express Grievances

2K players don't seem too happy with this year's installment.

NBA 2K20 MyCareer Tips, How to Get Drafted, Story Mode Guide

MyCareer has gone through quite a few changes in NBA 2K20. Here’s a full guide for NBA 2K20 MyCareer Mode.

Why the Dreamcast Still Matters

Why the Sega Dreamcast still resonates with game enthusiasts on its 20th anniversary.

NBA 2K20 Team Takeover: Takeover Meter Explained

Managing your Takeover Meter in NBA 2K20 can mean the difference between winning and losing. Here’s how the Takeover Meter works.

How to Get to The Neighbourhood/Park in NBA 2K20

The Neighbourhood is back for NBA 2K20. Here’s how to unlock it.

More Opinions

Pokemon Sword and Shield's Endgame Has a Heartfelt Sidestory

Catchin' the love alongside the Legendaries.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Has Proof Pokemon Are Our Friends, Not Just Servants

Are you worthy of being a Pokemon's friend? Probably not, but at least Sword and Shield lets you try.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Online Deep Dive: What it's Like to Battle, Trade, and Explore the Vibrant Wild Area

The servers are on, and the players are trickling in. Here's what it's like to interact with them.

Grounded Impressions: Why Obsidian Fans Shouldn't Write Off This Quirky Passion Project Just Yet

An odd choice by Obsidian, but there's more than meets the eye here.

More on PC

Path of Exile 2 Just Got Announced, and It's Already Throwing Jabs at Diablo

We've got a tussle for the loot game spotlight on our hands.

Xbox Game Studios Head Says Game Pass is Solving Monetization Woes

"It allows our game creators to do what they do best, which is make a game."

Report: A New Mass Effect Is In Very Early Development at BioWare Edmonton

A Kotaku report indicates the series may return after a rough venture to Andromeda.

How to Get into the Aurora in Subnautica

We show you how to safely get into Subnautica's huge spaceship.

Where to Find Cave Sulfur in Subnautica

We show you where to find cave sulfur and what you can use it for.

More Sports Games

Project xCloud’s Preview Selection Makes Stadia’s Launch Lineup Look Tiny

Dozens of games are coming for testers of Microsoft's game streaming service.

Bart Simpson and Godzilla Were Almost in NBA Jam

Or at least, toy-like facsimiles.

Hopes for Skate 4 Just Took a Massive Blow [Update: EA's Trademark is Active]

News of an abandoned trademark filing casts further doubt on a sequel.