It must have been an extremely difficult decision when EA Sports finally decided to cancel NBA Elite 11. Being put on hold after a poor showing in the demo department, most figured that EA just needed a little bit of time to work some problems out while others could see a dark cloud looming overhead. In the end, those naysayers turned out to be right and NBA Elite 11 exists as a dark stain on EA’s record. The question of what went wrong is sure to continue long after NBA Elite has rebounded under new management.
Andrew Wilson, head of worldwide development for EA Sports wanted to clear the air once and for all. After having speculated for a while now that, despite a delay, NBA Elite 11 needed an extensive overhaul in order to be viable Wilson reveals:
"Ultimately, it was just going to be a bad game."
The flaw with Elite didn’t rest with the programming or the engines, it was much more deeply seeded. When trying to come up with the perfect competitor to the 2K franchise, EA knew they had to create a game that reintroduces the public to the idea of basketball. Unfortunately, in doing so, they were alienating the foundation on which sports games rest: repetition with improvement.
Wilson couldn’t have put it better himself when he said:
"I think that the goal of reinventing how people play basketball games and giving the gamer infinitely more control over the outcomes that appear on the screen in front of them, was something that just needed to take longer than we had. We knew the goal was aggressive. But at the same time, we believed it was an important enough goal for the gamer, who'd been playing basketball games in a very similar way for a very long time."
Ultimately, EA tried to reinvent the wheel in between two titles rather than taking some time to really iron out all of the details. Not wanting to lose out on market viability was the company and the title’s biggest mistake and it may have cost them the franchise.
Would you be interested in picking up an NBA Elite next year that has completely new mechanics that are unfamiliar to basketball game fans? Do you see a future for the series after all of this bad press?