If you are not yet a fan of professional women’s basketball, NBA 2K21‘s new mode, The W won’t do much to get you excited about it.
The W is the first single player career mode in sports video games for a women’s sport. It is neither a symbolized experience nor a reskin of things NBA 2K21st is already doing for the men’s game. But it’s a very simple experience, and the lack of investment I have in developing my player defeats the purpose of a single player career. As a result, I can’t really warm up to the mode or recommend that others spend a lot of time trying it out.
Aside from choosing one of 10 archetypes for players whose attribute minima and maxima are locked, the only influence I have on my player’s development is whether or not they just play well (or not) in a league game. Regardless of which XP (in this case “MyPoints”) comes from it, the game is automatically used in a very opaque process.
in the NBA 2K21With MyCareer, players can set aspirations for their attributes and build a player according to the things they do well or enjoy most. Within a season, players can decide how they want to apply their earnings to the player they create. Why this is not possible for the WNBA’s career mode, I can only speculate.
The development of my player’s off-the-court personality is a similar rigid and lifeless development. Developer diaries NBA 2K21The launch of The W players indicated that the W players would take on roles that real WNBA stars would take on, whether it be promoting the league itself, making side appearances in the media or fashion design, or preparing for a career as a Trainer. Well, all of this is done in a process whose only player interaction is to choose one of three options from a card between games. Again, the progress is set, and all it delivers are unlockable cosmetic items on a set schedule.
All of this means that you very quickly get caught in a very limited core gameplay loop very reminiscent of the career modes I saw on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It’s hard to call The W a good first shot in career mode parity when so much of his joy comes from just playing the games himself. At least this action is distinguishable from the rest of NBA 2K21 while it’s still fun – but it was when I also played around with the WNBA in MyLeague last year.
Likewise, it’s difficult to criticize the design of visual concepts here as if the simplest or simplest solution would be to throw female avatars into the much larger world of MyCareer. The WNBA deserves its own career ecosystem. It is a more supportive statement to give the WNBA its own mode rather than just drop it NBA 2K21 aggressively competitive multiplayer world and ask them to take care of themselves or, worse, patronize them with inflated attribute ratings.
And, for practical reasons, most NBA 2K players don’t want to keep more than one player avatar in an existing mode very difficult influenced by microtransactions. 2K Sports would be pillory if it offered WNBA players as yet another vector for selling virtual currency for real money. For the credit of Visual Concepts, a WNBA player earns a virtual currency that is used to benefit the user’s total credit. It offers at least a small reward for trying the mode. But it is a spectacular irony that the WNBA player cannot spend what she deserves herself – be it on her own progress, her clothes, or whatever.
A multi-year team management mode called MyWNBA is added to the W. The menu-driven range of functions is somewhat similar to MLB 2K10 or 2K11. There’s not much to do other than do two “tasks” at the beginning of the year – one to swap a specific player before the deadline and another (from the governor?) To win a certain number of games. In a multi-year background simulation, my failure to deliver both didn’t have much of an impact. The real reasons for running a team – developing players, installing an offensive plan – are still as self-determined as the narrative MyWNBA delivers.
There may be depth, but the wrapper around the mode is still something we saw in sports video games two generations ago when the single player career modes began. At least in the earliest days of NBA 2K’s MyPlayer, I was able to choose which local company my player should support. Now it’s just that you hit level 4 popularity in The W and your name is on a plumbing shop billboard and you get a pair of shoes.
Crucially, I cannot oblige Visual Concepts to give the WNBA the attention and development resources of MyCareer when the interest and market simply don’t exist. But I didn’t think it was too much to ask for a workout and practice routine similar to men’s, where practice mini-games and shoot-around drills can improve my player between games, or at least make me feel like I am directed their development.
Is The W a “good first step” in women’s video game sports? It depends on your expectations; mine took into account the relative popularity of the WNBA alongside the men’s game and the fact that Visual Concepts added another mouth to feed on its already jam-packed year-long development cycle. The W was still more boring and more limited than I expected. It may very well be that there aren’t many video gamers out there who want to play professional basketball for women, but The W doesn’t go out of their way to develop more.