NBA Live 13 wouldn’t have been the full on competitor to NBA 2K13 some people expected it to be even if it hadn’t been cancelled last week. Like recent editions in the NBA Jam series, the reborn NBA Live franchise would have been a download only game.
Larry Hryb, otherwise known as the outspoken director of Xbox Live Major Nelson, tweeted on Wednesday that the Xbox Live Arcade release of the week would have been NBA Live 13 had it not been canned due to concerns over the game’s poor quality.
“NBA Live 13 was supposed to be today’s XBLA title, but EA made the decision not to launch it today,” read Hryb’s tweet.
There was some speculation about how EA would release NBA Live 13 even before the game was cancelled. The publisher, despite maintaining its license with the NBA, hasn’t released a game in the series since 2009 and has taken massive losses on the franchise since. EA famously cancelled the franchise reboot NBA Elite in the fall of 2010 over quality concerns, even after producing retail copies of the game. (Those retail copies have gone on to become sought after collectibles on eBay.) John Riccitiello, EA CEO, said in October 2010 following the cancellation that the game’s cancellation would cost the company $250 million in lost revenue. That figure did not account for money spent on development, production, and pre-release marketing.
A digital edition then would have made for a soft, low-risk re-entry into the NBA Live franchise for EA. It’s employed this strategy before, but always with smaller sports titles not part of its marquee simulation series that includes the likes of Madden NFL and FIFA. NFL Blitz, for example, was released as a download only title at the beginning of 2012. By releasing it as a downloadable, EA would also compete with NBA 2K13 in the same manner that NFL 2K did with Madden before EA won an exclusive license to the league: By offering the game at a $20 budget price.
As detailed in a Monday article here at Digital Trends, considering EA’s current strategy and business model, NBA Live will return as not just a download-only game, but a free-to-play one as well. When NBA Live 14 comes out next fall, it will be a free download supported by microtransactions.