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2K Sports brings back NHL 2K — on mobile platforms

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Four years after it was mothballed, 2K Sports' ice hockey series will return.

NHL 2K — undated — will skate back to iOS and Android devices this fall, hoping that the emergence of tablets and controller support since its last appearance in 2010 will make it a fuller partner in the simulation sports video game market. The game will sell for $7.99 for both iOS and Android devices. A specific release date was not given in announcement of the series' return.

"Returning to the space four years later is a good opportunity to bring a new game to the fans, one that's worthy of them and one that they'll enjoy playing with a bunch of new modes," Chris Snyder, the vice president of marketing for 2K Sports, told Polygon. "It's a new experience from the previous NHL 2K11 game [on mobile]. It's not just taking something off the shelf [and updating it.] It's not in the DNA of 2K Sports to do that."

2K Sports offered an iOS-only port of NHL 2K11 back in 2010 that was well regarded for its platform, but definitely a product of its times - using virtual controls and several speciality buttons to manage the complexity of gameplay in a simulation-quality sports video game. The new NHL 2K will support MFi gamepads, the iOS-only controller that features the same controls as a standard twin-analog console gamepad.

NHL 2K on Android and iOS will introduce a new multi-season MyCareer mode, in which the user controls a single player with the goal of developing him into a superstar. In addition to the season-long campaign and standard play-now mode, NHL 2K also features an NHL Winter Classic mode, set in outdoor stadiums; a penalty-shots Shootout mode that supports online play, and a new 3-on-3 "Mini Rink" arcade mode. 2K Sports also promises live roster support for NHL 2K, reflecting changes in the real-world league.

2K Sports ended its hockey series on high-definition consoles after 2009's NHL 2K10. The label still published NHL 2K11 on the Wii, largely to remain in the Canadian casual market and compete with EA Sports' NHL Slapshot. A well regarded and strong selling series under Sega's ownership in the PlayStation 2 and Xbox generation, NHL 2K slipped with the introduction of the PS3 and Xbox 360 and never regained its footing with critics or at the cash register.

A more viable mobile market may change NHL 2K's fortunes. EA Sports ported many of its sports simulation properties to iOS over the years but its NHL series was not among them. Now it faces its own console transition problems, with an NHL 15 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One that has dramatically fewer features than it brought to the previous generation.

Snyder demurred when asked if the reintroduction of NHL 2K on mobile platforms signaled any intent for 2K Sports to return the series to consoles.

"We don't have any plans to do that in the near future," Snyder said.

But 2K Sports also controls licenses to both the NBA and the WWE, the latter doing very well for them on mobile platforms with the card-battling game WWE Supercard. Its award-winning NBA 2K series has been ported to mobile since 2011 (on Android since 2012) though is not as well regarded as its console sibling.

"We're always looking at opportunities, and will probably have some news in a bit," Snyder said, when asked about mobile plans for those two console franchises.

Ryan Kesler returns as the cover star for NHL 2K; he was the cover boy for NHL 2K11 years ago, though he wore the uniform of the Vancouver Canucks then. Kesler is now an Anaheim Duck.

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