It's no secret that video games are products and that video game companies need to make money somehow, but this story still comes as something of a surprise: there are now unskippable adverts in NBA 2K21, with the basketball game appearing to show adverts for other products over its loading screens.
This isn't the first time that money has becoming a talking point around NBA 2K21, with the next-gen version of the game being confirmed - earlier in the year - to be more expensive than its current-gen counterpart.
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And now, it looks a lot like 2K is selling advertising slots in the game to other companies. You can keep reading for the full story...
Adverts on loading screens come to NBA 2K21
As spotted by Stevivor and reported by MS Poweruser, adverts for the Oculus Quest 2 VR headset have been popping up on the loading screens of NBA 2K21 on both PS4 and Xbox One.
Stevivor shared evidence in video form, so you can take a look at the advert in action in the clips below. Here's the Xbox One version...
And here's the PS4 version...
Of course, unskippable adverts are par for the course in other corners of pop culture: many TV networks are funded by their ability to sell adverts to audiences; YouTube and other online video portals include a variety of different advert types; and mobile games have had special slots for adverts for quite some time now.
But still, to see a console game that players have already paid for hosting unavoidable adverts... well, it does sting a bit. NBA 2K21 also contains microtransactions, so it wasn't exactly short of ways to make money. But 2K still managed to find another one.
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UPDATE: 2K replies to ads backlash
Following criticism from both the 2K and wider gaming community, NBA 2K's official Twitter account responded to the 'negative feedback' on October 20.
"As many are aware, in recent years ads have been integrated into 2KTV segments. Yesterday's 2KTV ad placement impacted our players' experience in a way we didn't intend, as those ads are not meant to run as part of the pre-game introduction," 2K began.
"This will be fixed in future episodes. Thanks for your continued feedback."
From this statement, it appears that 2K will remove or fix these adverts in future game updates, but the timings of such an update are unknown.
Is this the future of monetization in gaming?
Although 2K is sure to receive some criticism for selling advertising space in a game that is already monetized in multiple ways, there's no denying the fact that the company will surely make some extra dosh through ad campaigns like this.
Yes, fans will kick off about the idea, but you'd expect the negative noise to die down at some point... or at least fade into the background of the gaming discourse. And unless 2K decides to change its ways and stop selling ad space in this way, the company could set a new precedent here.
Indeed, there's every chance that other companies will follow in 2K's footsteps and put unskippable ads into their games, with loading screens seeming to be a nice and easy place to put them. That being said, both the PS5 and the Xbox Series X have a powerful SSD that should cut down the time players spend in loading screens significantly.
Nonetheless, there is a slight sense in the air that 2K could be onto something here - and there could be lots of companies following this story and considering whether to put ads in their own games. We'll just have to wait and see to find out whether these unskippable adverts become the norm.
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