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The WNBA comes to video games in NBA Live 18

All players and teams available; EA Sports hints at more possibilities

NBA Live 18 - Brittney Griner dunking
Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury throws it down against the Minnesota Lynx.
EA Tiburon/Electronic Arts
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

The Women’s National Basketball Association and all the players of its 12 teams will make their video game debut with NBA Live 18, EA Sports announced this morning.

The teams will be available from the game’s WNBA Play Now menu, meaning they will be available only for one-off play offline or online (not in any of the game’s career modes, in other words), and not against NBA teams. The league’s most recent All-Star team will also be available to users, senior producer Mike Mahar told Polygon.

Many WNBA stars sat for detailed head scans at EA Sports’ Tiburon studio, where NBA Live is made and athletes in other games get scanned as well. A news release announcing the WNBA’s inclusion mentioned 2014 WNBA MVP Maya Moore; four-time WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner; Diana Taurasi, named one of the WNBA’s top 15 players of all time in 2011; and 2012 WNBA MVP Tina Charles as coming in for scans. Additionally, Kelsey Plum, the No. 1 overall draft pick for the San Antonio Stars, was filmed in a motion-capture session.

“We scanned a fairly high percentage,” Mahar told Polygon. “We continue to scan year round, we’ll just continue scanning the players until we get them all.”

Though he made no commitments, Mahar hinted that, after launch, the WNBA’s individual players could appear in NBA Live 18’s The Streets mode of its “The One” single-player career. This is the mode in which users create a personal superstar and then compete at well-known venues in cooperative/competitive pickup games.

“It’s a great partnership and it expands the options available in the product, and it’s the stepping stone to, probably, some cool implementations with female characters going forward in the game,” Mahar told Polygon. “Future iterations on how they will appear in the product, that will be added later.”

EA Sports brought women’s teams to its video game lineup with FIFA 16 and 12 national soccer teams; they returned in FIFA 17 last year. These teams were also not available in any of FIFA’s career modes, but users could create a world tournament with them. The teams could not play against any men’s clubs. Mahar’s comments didn’t rule out the possibility of mixed-gender teams competing later in NBA Live 18.

The statement from EA Sports said the WNBA will appear only in NBA Live 18, ruling out its inclusion in 2K Sports’ NBA 2K18, which also launches in September. EA Sports said the WNBA Play Now mode will be “specifically balanced to reflect the unique playstyle of the league and skills of its players.”

“The WNBA is home to some of the most incredible athletes on the planet, and we’ve been working hard to integrate them into our game in an authentic and meaningful way,” Sean O’Brien, the executive producer of NBA Live 18, said in a statement. “This is only a taste of what we have in store, and look forward to working with the league on more great integrations in the franchise in the future.”

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