Despite several promises that its flagship basketball franchise would return after a three-year absence, EA has decided to once again bench NBA Live.
The decision is likely to disappoint fans who were hoping to see some competition in the NBA field once again, but is terrific news for 2K Sports, whose NBA2K 13 will once again have the court to itself.
"Having continued to look at the game over the past few days, it's clear that we won't be ready in October," said EA Sports EVP Andrew Wilson in a blog post. "And rather than launch midway through the season, we're going to sit out the full year and stay focused on making next year's game great."
While EA certainly gets some credit for not releasing a bad game, Wilson's comments essentially echo what the publisher said two years ago when it abruptly pulled the plug on the then-retitled "NBA Elite". It has now had over two full years to put together a game — and has failed to do so.
EA is vowing to release an NBA game for the 2014 season, but you can be forgiven if you're taking that with a grain of salt.
"I'm disappointed that we have not yet met our high expectations with NBA Live, but I remain motivated about where we're going," said Wilson. "We're committed to delivering new innovation in online, and our progress in the visual presentation of the game continues to take big strides. We also know that a great game starts with great gameplay, and this remains a huge priority for us"
Exactly what led to the decision is something EA's not talking about right now. The game didn't exactly knock the socks off of critics when it was shown at E3 this year — which is about the time the concerns for this year's installment started.
Even then, though, senior EA officials said they could not imagine EA staying out of the NBA field.
"We're a company that does not believe in giving up," said chief operating officer Peter Moore. "We have the wherewithal to stick to things that are hard and make investments in technology. This is our 17th year as licensee of the NBA. … I cannot imagine a future of EA Sports without an NBA game."
Sports video games are built on an annual cycle, however. And fan loyalties to them run deep. With EA now sitting out its third NBA season in a row, its chances of wooing away fans of the critically acclaimed NBA2K series grow smaller and smaller.