Earlier this week, game publisher 2K released a new trailer for their upcoming NBA 2K20 on YouTube. The video highlighted some new features in the game, especially casino-style elements like slot machine and wheel of fortune mini-games. The game’s loot box system also made an appearance. As a result, the game received a lot of criticism—including a 19,000 to 3500 dislike to like ratio on YouTube—and was eventually changed to unlisted on the company’s YouTube channel, meaning only people with the link to the video can watch it.
The game has received an E for Everyone rating in the U.S. by the ESRB and a PEGI 3 rating by Pan European Game Information (PEGI), which is essentially equivalent to E for Everyone in Europe. This surprised many European players, as some believe the game shouldn’t include so many gambling elements if it’s for children. One such person, Reddit user Anime-NoirChan, emailed PEGI directly with their concerns on the issue and posted PEGI’s response email on Reddit, which has been verified by Eurogamer.
In their response, PEGI acknowledged “the controversy” caused by the trailer and felt compelled to explain how some content triggers certain ratings in their system while “[showing] when it does not at this moment.” While they normally flag games that “[contain] moving images that encourage and/or teach the use of games of chance that are played/carried out as a traditional means of gambling”, they don’t target games “where betting or gambling is simply part of the general storyline. The game must actually teach the player how to gamble or bet and/or encourage the player to want to gamble or bet for money in real life.”
This rating may not be final, however, as PEGI pointed out “that the controversial imagery played a central role in the trailer, but it may not necessarily do so in the game, which has not been released.” This statement suggests that they could still change the rating in the future, depending on how prominent the gambling-like features of the game are in the final version. They assured that their board is still considering the issue, as they “are very aware that it may get too close for comfort for some people,” which “is part of an internal discussion that PEGI is having for the moment.”
Depending on how the final NBA 2K20 turns out, PEGI may apply the gambling content label and raise it from a PEGI 3; if they do so, it’ll be interesting to see if the ESRB makes a similar move.
NBA 2K20 will launch on September 6 for the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. A free demo is also currently available for the PS4 and Xbox One.