NBA Live is finally back, and bringing the heat like never before with NBA Live 14. The new game will be released tomorrow only on next-generation consoles and features intricate details never before seen on the sticks.
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The NBA Live franchise has a long history as a leader in basketball video games. If you grew up playing video games at any point over the past 20 years, Live was probably your basketball game of choice. Whether it was raining threes with Mitch Richmond in ’97 on your Sega Saturn or getting buckets with T-Mac in ’07 on PS3, all gamers share vivid memories of the NBA Live franchise.
After a four-year hiatus, NBA Live is finally set to make its return this November. Anxious for it’s comeback, I had the opportunity to visit the EA Sports Studios in Orlando, Fla., to catch a sneak peak at what the developers over at EA did to position themselves for a successful return.
The crew at EA knows they have work to do to get back on top. As a matter of fact, the producers of the game compared their main competitor at the NBA 2K franchise to the 1996 Chicago Bulls, who hold the best record in NBA history and are regarded as the greatest team of all time. But competition causes everyone to raise their game, and that’s where NBA Live 2014 comes in.
On my visit, EA gave me the full-on NBA treatment while being fitted for my own personalized motion capture suit. As if wearing a mo-cap suit wasn’t enough to make a former Division III point guard feel like he played in the Association, 2013 NBA Rookie of Year Damian Lillard joined me on the court. With my co-cap suit on, I helped Dame go through recording some of his signature moves and celebrations for the new game before playing him in a friendly one-on-one contest.
After ballin’ with Rip City’s star point guard, we kicked it with the team at EA. Not only did I sit down and talk to the developers of the game, but I also got the chance to check out some gameplay first hand. Having watched real life Damian Lillard ball out as video game Damian Lillard, it’s safe to say that NBA Live is back.
Following four years of uncertainty, Live has reemerged to take back the market they owned not too long ago.
“We know that there are Live players out there,” says Ryan Ferwerda, a producer for Live 14.
They put their faith in Kyrie Irving (this year’s cover athlete) and Damian Lillard who together are the back-to-back NBA Rookies of the Year. The pair, having already established their place among the NBA’s elite, is still on the rise, allowing their games to grow with the NBA Live franchise.
Senior designer Ryan Santos, a veteran EA member who has worked on numerous NBA Live creations in the past, thought it was the perfect match to have their franchise represented by two young, up-and-coming stars.
“I think we made that decision because sort of the ethos for the franchise this year is all about what’s next, being next and all about next,” says Santos. “We thought this year it would make a lot of sense to pick up a guy like Kyrie who’s — I mean the guy’s next up. When Kobe‘s gone and LeBron and Durant get older, he’s going to be one of those guys coming up I think as one of the legit superstars in the league and so all of the guys we’ve gotten, I think we’ve got a great cast to represent what the franchise really represents this year.”
Lillard is equally excited to be playing such a large role in the marketing of EA’s new game.
“I’m excited about it,” says Lillard. “I mean [Kyrie] â€” like I’ve said before, he’s been an All-Star, he’s been on the up-and-up since his first year in the league also. Just the fact that I’m able to be in that same line, joining him here, doing this thing with Live is cool and I’m excited about the opportunity and hopefully I can back up my first year the same way that he did with an All-Star appearance.”
Another unique segment of their marketing strategy is they lined up their game release with the releases of the next-generation video game consoles (PS4, Xbox One). EA decided to only release their game on these two next-gen systems, which kept their focus solely on catering to these systems.
“I think going to next-gen consoles, specifically for us, made the most sense,” says Ferwerda. “It’s very rare that you get these transitions and for us, a brand back on the rise, we want to plant our flag with the newest, latest and greatest and there’s a lot of advantages with that.”