An integration of advertising into video games to promote products is a decades-old concept and the earliest known in-game advertising was in the computer game called Adventureland, from 1978. That game had a self-promotional advertisement for developer's next game, Pirate Adventure.
And while promoting games within games, or even subtle product placement, can be something people are ok with, a blatant addition of commercials and ads into full-priced video games is a concept people are not happy with, and that's exactly what some companies and publishers are trying to do in recent years.
Last year, unskippable ads in NBA 2K20 were a topic of hot controversy and this year 2K is continuing with this unpopular practice.
The game has been released on 4th September of this year, but 2K probably decided to wait a bit before they felt it was the right time for them to return with this almost unanimously hated practice.
Over the weekend players started reporting the return of fullscreen unskippable ads in NBA 2K21, while some are claiming that they are even getting political ads, without specificating which one exactly.
So I’m playing #NBA2K21 and a political ad comes on in game. Not only has politics entered the #nba its in video games. It’s supposed to be a release from reality, and I don’t give a Fawk what side you believe. You’re paid to entertain me. Do your job and that’s it. #Trump2020— Jey Keck (@okcseahawk) October 17, 2020
These ads are mostly shown during the 2K TV segments or before the pre-game loading screens.
Naturally, a lot of players are rightfully angry that they are getting ads in their 60$ games.
Seeing ads in triple AAA, full price games ($60+) is fucking disgusting. Fuck you @NBA2K— Mamba 24ever (@Jokami7) October 17, 2020
Currently, the only possible way to avoid these annoying ads is to turn off 2K TV in the options, since they can only be seen during the 2KTV segments.
Using your game as a platform for selling ads is fine for f2p games like Fortnite (which does this via their crossover events), but people don't like to see any ads in their 60$ game, let alone commercials that cannot be skipped.
Oculus Quest 2 ad in NBA 2K21 (Picture: 2K)
People turn a blind eye to some in-game ads in sports games since they are organically part of the game (like sponsors and banners on fields).
But having a fullscreen unskippable ad is where the publishers are crossing the red line. Earlier this year, UFC 4 started to show ads for Amazon’s show The Boys during replay segments in the game which caused a huge backlash and forced EA Sports to issue an apology about it and remove them from the game.