Hip-Hop Wired chops it up NBA 2K’s Ronnie Singh, aka Ronnie 2K and Vice President of Global Marketing for NBA 2K Alfie Brody, about the next installment in the annual video game franchise.
The Official Start of The NBA 2022-23 Season Is Here
Unless you’ve been under a rock, NBA 2K23 has been the talk of the video game and sports world. The annual sports video franchise took a more unconventional route with its covers this year by staggering the announcements. Of course, it was only right that the first reveal went to the GOAT, Michael Jordan, who will grace the cover of the Michael Jordan Edition and the first-ever Championship Edition of the video game.
The second reveal belonged to two GOATs of the WNBA, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird, who share cover duties on the GameStop exclusive WNBA Edtion of NBA 2K23.
Finally, future GOAT and current Phoenix Suns superstar Devin Booker was announced as the cover athlete for the Standard and Cross-Generation editions of NBA 2K23.
Last week, the good folks at 2K invited our very own Bernard Beanz Smalls out to Las Vegas to crash the NBA 2K23 House of Greatness to get hands-on with the new game and talk to some NBA hoopers and, of course, the folks who bring us the game every year.
The Process Behind Choosing Cover Athletes
Speaking with Ronnie 2K and Alfie Brody, we had to ask them about the thought process of choosing the NBA 2K23’s cover athletes that perfectly reflect the “year of greatness.”
“A lot goes into it. We’re always trying to tell a story around a specific year. And for us, greatness felt like the thing that we wanted to tell because we’re really excited about the evolution in the game,” Ronnie 2K begins. “This is our third year on Next- Gen. We’re really excited about what the game is shaping up to be. And so 23 [Michael Jordan] made it easy as far as, oh yeah, we’ll partner with Michael Jordan. But it’s more than that. It’s about a statement of what we think this game is going to be, and it’s going to be great.”
“There’s different criteria. One certainly is an affinity for the game. Obviously, if you work with somebody, you want them to like the game,” Brody tells Hip-Hop Wired. “Doesn’t really matter how long they played or anything like that, but they just got to like being a part of it. And then we definitely focus on authenticity, so somebody who can actually play it. You guys know our community. They’re very vocal. They’re very passionate.”
“So they can see through any of the fluff. And if the cover athlete is not interested in the game, isn’t part of the community, they’ll call that out. So that’s certain criteria. And then beyond that, it’s just somebody that’s going to give us the time and want to work with us and have fun with us,” Brody continued.
They hit the jackpot with Devin Booker, who checks all of the boxes, being that he is a pretty damn good NBA 2K player and still in the infancy of his prime.
“Certainly standard edition cover athlete, we don’t want someone that’s already hit their prime, that’s already won MVP. You want somebody that’s young and hungry,” Brody added.
Keeping NBA 2K23 Fresh
Releasing annual video games is not as easy as many people think. Yeah, franchises like Madden NFL, EA NHL, FIFA, MLB The Show, Call of Duty, and NBA 2K have loyal fanbases who can instantly tell when they are getting recycled products every year. NBA 2K somehow still manages to keep things fresh for their community, and NBA 2K22 returned to form after taking a bit of a stumble.
“Well, I would say it’s two things. One, basketball in general, keeps us hungry. There’s so many storylines in the way that the game changes. And the storytelling around individuals, that is something that we want to drive as the authentic stimulator in the market,” Ronnie 2K begins when talking about keeping NBA 2K fresh.
“And then the other thing I’d say is we really want to compete with ourselves. That’s our big thing. We want to put out the best product we can. Now we can’t do everything every year, but I can very, very, very comfortably say that we move the needle. We change the game. We evolve on an annualized title, more than any other annualized title. It’s not even close. And that’s really coming from our great consumers and what they had to say. But we also have to make our decisions. As developers of the game, you have to be confident in what you are delivering,” he continued.
“Look, I’m biased, but Visual Concepts, our studio, is the best in the business. Greg Thomas, Erick Boenisch. These producers, they’re the GOATs. They’re hyper-focused on innovation every single year, Brody adds.
“The development team has a seven-month cycle every single year. This is the 24th year of NBA 2K, and they’ve done this consistently for 24 years. So that team is not happy. They will not settle on just porting the game year over year, the same experience. They try to flip it upside down. What can we do to make it cooler, make it more fun? Drive engagement, and focus on basketball. Clearly, all the ancillary cultural pieces, right? Music and fashion and sneakers. And The City is now an open-world environment. We had The Neighborhood. We could have stuck with The Neighborhood. We thought, no. Let’s go bigger, right?”
Brody also touched on the importance of the NBA 2K Community’s feedback and how it helps the developers continue delivering the best game possible.
“So it all starts with the studio, and we joked that we’re marketing a Ferrari. These guys, what they accomplish in seven months is remarkable. And then we get to get people engaged. So from the business side, it’s driving engagement. It’s not anything else. It’s making the experience fun. Our community’s 30 million-plus now globally. So listening to them every year, we expanded. We have community folks now who we solely cast with listening to the community with how vocal it is. But getting that feedback, getting that to development team, trying to incorporate a lot of their feedback, just make the overall experience more fun.”
Will The Players Only Tournament Return With NBA 2K23?
Of course, we had to ask if the NBA 2K Player’s tournament would return. For those who remember, the idea came after the NBA season was put on ice because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Knowing that we needed some form of entertainment, Ronnie 2k and the folks at 2K enlisted some NBA players, hooked them up with some streaming kits, and teamed up with ESPN to give us an entertaining tourney that was one by Devin Booker.
Brody was a bit more skeptical about its return to ESPN, while Ronnie 2K would like to see the idea continue to live on.
“I would love to do it again. I don’t know if you remember. I hosted that whole thing,” Ronnie 2K excitedly said.
“That was a month after the pandemic started, and I had just really learned how to use my own camera. I think everybody at Zoom was trying to figure that out. Here I am hosting an ESPN show with some technology that’s kind of … I wish I had made some behind-the-scenes videos about that. But anyway, the point is I would love to do it again because you always make something better the second time. And there was something so great there about hearing these players trash talk, which you don’t hear on an NBA broadcast. And it was fun to watch that, and I would love to do it again,” Singh continued.
“Obviously, in COVID, we’re looking for ways to engage the audience. Everyone’s at home. There were no NBA games. So we talked to ESPN, who’s a great partner in the NBA. I mean, who knows what happens in the future? It was a one-time experiment. We thought it was super successful,” Brody stated.
“Certainly, competitive game players that we’re interested in, NBA players. There’s a lot of them that are really good at the game. So we often do tournaments, NBA players versus NBA players, but in a physical setting. Or players against gamers, right? So we’ll continue to do that. We got the 2K league,” Brody continued.
Well, we would love to see it, plus seeing Patrick Beverly talk trash while playing NBA 2K was highly entertaining.
Keep it locked on Hip-Hop Wired for all updates about NBA 2K23 and our review of the game before its launch.
*Interview was condensed for time.*
Photo: 2K Sports / NBA 2K23