Though it was originally announced as a Wii exclusive, EA Sports’ update of the Midway arcade classic NBA Jam is, in fact, also bound for the Xbox 360 and PS3… with a catch.

And it’s a big catch. PS3 and 360 gamers who would like to bask in the glory of two on two arcade basketball are going to have to pony up for the full version of NBA Elite 11, EA’s re-branded basketball sim, in order to gain access to NBA Jam.

New copies of NBA Elite 11 for the Xbox 360 and PS3 will come packed with a one-time use download code good for a scaled back version of NBA Jam, comprised of three modes: Play Now, Classic Campaign and Online. From the press release:

“Winner of eight ‘Best Sports Game of E3’ awards, including the coveted Game Critics Award, NBA JAM has been optimized for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 to truly deliver a next-gen experience of the classic franchise. With Play Now, Classic Campaign, and Online modes included, the downloadable version of NBA JAM, that is available with purchases of NBA ELITE 11, will include a robust single player and multiplayer experience. NBA JAM allows fans to challenge the world, or their friends on the couch, with Online and Play Now, respectively, or climb from worst to first as they take their favorite NBA team through a ladder tournament through the league.”

So, just to be clear, in order to gain access to what is widely considered the best sports game to come out of E3 2010, PS3 and 360 owners have to buy a full priced copy of a game that, pointedly, did not win those accolades.

On one hand, for those gamers who were already planning on picking up NBA Elite, the inclusion of NBA Jam is a great bonus. On the other hand, who, exactly, was planning on picking up NBA Elite? Elite, remember, is the re-branded NBA Live — a series that, both critically and commercially, has for years lagged behind its chief rival, NBA 2K.

It may well be that contractual issues with the Wii edition of NBA Jam are preventing EA from simply making the game readily available to PS3 and 360 gamers. Or it may be that EA is not supremely confident in the success of NBA Elite, and is doing whatever it can to boost that game’s chances. Whatever the case, EA isn’t talking.

Personally, I’d love to simply be able to grab a copy of NBA Jam from XBLA or PSN. The game is perfect for download services. However, there is no way I’d buy a full copy of NBA Elite for the privilege. Of course, there is always the Wii version of Jam to look forward to. But, honestly, I worry that a full retail disc might be a little too much NBA Jam.

Ranters, what do you think – is this a cool bonus for potential NBA Elite 11 players, or a cynical attempt to sell PS3 and 360 owners a game they don’t really want?

NBA Elite 11, featuring a download code for NBA Jam, will be available for Xbox 360 and PS3 October 5, 2010.

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