NBA 2K21 Tip-Off: MyCAREER's Demise on the Internet

NBA 2K21 Tip-Off: MyCAREER's Demise on the Internet


I was originally going to cover this in a Friday Five article with the title "5 Ways Offline MyCareer Is Worse," but I decided that the list format wouldn't do the issue justice. One of the major reasons for my change of heart and mind is that I came across this Reddit post from about five months ago, which outlines the ways in which MyCAREER offline has been degraded over the years. It was well-researched, and I must acknowledge it as a source of information for the specific changes I've noted. Its title was also apt. A topic that does not receive nearly enough attention is one that I would like to address today, as well as consider some potential solutions.

Although MyCAREER includes the traditional NBA career experience as well as the connected online modes of The Playground (aka Park), 2K Pro-Am, and The Rec, when most gamers refer to "MyCAREER," they are referring to the NBA-focused single player mode that is comprised of offline gameplay against the computer. These days, however, the NBA side of MyCAREER is still connected, despite the fact that it is considered offline play. We continue to load into the game world of The Neighborhood, which makes use of VC, and our MyPLAYER's progress and inventory are synced with data on the server. So even if you aren't playing online, MyCAREER will still require an internet connection.

Several issues have arisen as a result of this over the course of this generation. As that Reddit post points out in great detail, as more and more functionality is becoming dependent on online data, MyCAREER offline has been losing features as the servers are inevitably shut down. With each passing year, more and more features are being lost. My Player and MyCAREER were fully functional offline in NBA 2K10 through NBA 2K14 on the seventh generation. When the server was shut down, NBA 2K14's new take on MyCAREER lost the ability to assign shoes, accessories, and tattoos to players on the current generation. Endorsements, cutscenes, and Badge upgrades were all still available.

When NBA 2K16 and NBA 2K17 went offline, the ability to personalize your MyCOURT as well as the Badge upgrade system were both removed. The latter also removed the ability to purchase and equip any animations, though the story cutscenes and endorsements – which were replaced with Skill Points instead of VC – remained. These features would finally be removed in NBA 2K18 and NBA 2K19, when MyCAREER offline was reduced to a bare bones mode and the ability to convert connected saves to offline saves was removed. Although NBA 2K19's version did at least include a few animations, and the new Badge system still allowed for full offline upgrades in both of those games, the writing was on the wall.

This brings us to NBA 2K21, where MyCAREER offline is no longer available in any capacity. When the NBA 2K21 servers are shut down, MyCAREER and NBA 2K MyTEAM will be completely inaccessible, just as they are in MyTEAM. There will be no way to reload previous saves or even play a trimmed-down version of the mode. Furthermore, if you reinstall an older game with discontinued online support, such as NBA 2K17, you may discover that you are no longer able to convert your old connected saves if they are missing data that can only be retrieved from servers that are no longer available. In a nutshell, MyCAREER offline has been in decline for years and is no longer even an option.

You may be wondering what the big deal is at this point. The appeal, without a doubt, lies in the online connectivity, as well as the features that have been developed to support online content. Every year, a large number of players leave, and the Skill Points grind has, ironically, always been more difficult than the VC grind. Who cares, because who even wants to play MyCAREER on a computer? While it may not be the majority of gamers, there are definitely those who wish to revisit old saves or play an older game for a longer period of time than the planned server shutdowns allow. As a result, there is understandable dissatisfaction with the decline, which has now resulted in the complete removal of the MyCAREER offline experience.

To some, it represents a step backwards, or at best a step forward in a direction that is unappealing to them, not to mention incompatible with the nostalgia that comes with our favorite basketball video games. Although we've seen some fantastic ideas come to fruition as a result of the connected approach to MyCAREER, these have all but disappeared after 27 months. Not only that, but the fact that NBA 2K has arrived on the Nintendo Switch, a hybrid console-handheld device that may not always be connected to the internet, has made MyCAREER less accessible and versatile. The requirement to be connected at all times is incompatible with the Switch's concept of being able to play at home and on the go using the same gaming device, which limits the mode's appeal.

With that in mind, it isn't just about playing older games. If you are experiencing any kind of Internet connectivity issues, you will be unable to play your connected save, and the only alternative – at least until NBA 2K21 – is an extremely trimmed-down version of the mode. If you're in the middle of a game and there's a server hiccup – which is not uncommon because NBA 2K's servers are still frustratingly unreliable – you'll lose all of your progress, even if you're playing an offline single player game. It's one thing to be disconnected in The Playground or Pro-Am, but it's another to be kicked out of a game against the computer because of a connection issue or server problem!

In addition, the introduction of The Neighborhood means that we can no longer leave the game idling in MyCAREER unless we are in MyCOURT (which, of course, we have to run half a block around the block to reach and then load into). You may be wondering why the single-player portion of MyCAREER needs to be played online, and as was pointed out in the aforementioned Reddit thread, the implementation of virtual currency (VC) is a major factor in this decision. It fuels the recurring revenue mechanics that the suits adore. The fact that MyCAREER offline is bare bones and unappealing – or even completely absent – encourages gamers to purchase the latest NBA 2K game.

The connected experience, on the other hand, has some value. Obviously, it allows 2K to push out new content, though MyCAREER offline could conceivably only include launch assets (especially when it comes to animations). The main attraction, of course, is the way it streamlines player progression. There is no need to build a separate player for offline and online play, which saves time (and potentially money). Progress made offline is transferred to your MyPLAYER account when you play them online, and vice versa. It's a good idea in that regard, though the influence of the online experience on offline play – from cosmetic content to mechanics such as player builds – isn't always positive.

As a result, it is difficult to recommend a feasible solution that NBA 2K is likely to implement, as there is a compelling reason for the connectivity, let alone the benefits of recurring user spending. The approach works the vast majority of the time on the platforms that house the vast majority of the userbase, and the lack of incentive for 2K makes pushing for change an uphill battle. From a technical standpoint, however, I believe it is doable. Previous games have allowed online saves to be converted for offline use, so we know it's possible. The amount of Skill Points in an offline save could be increased, and access to a variety of basic cosmetic items and animations that were available when the game first launched could be granted.

We've seen it in previous games, and it's the most frustrating aspect of the game. There is no reason to remove these features other than to make games obsolete. On top of that, it's likely that there will be ways to play NBA games offline and then sync the data with the server later. I suppose cheating and exploits are a concern there, especially on PCs where hacking is a possibility, but there must be security measures that could be implemented. Another option would be to create an offline career mode, similar to what has been done with MyLEAGUE and MyGM. And no, the improvised solution of playing MyLEAGUE with player lock is not an excuse for 2K to ignore the needs of offline gamers.

The disadvantage of being able to play a deep career experience without connectivity is that you'd have to start a new, connected save in order to bring a player online, but that's a sacrifice that most MyCAREER players are willing to make. I don't believe it is possible to completely separate MyCAREER from The Playground and Pro-Am because for gamers who want to switch between online and offline play, it makes too much sense to only have to grind up one player. What we require is the option to choose between the two games. I believe that gamers who only play online would benefit from this as well, because they would not have to deal with an offline mode at all.

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