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Here’s the first sign that next-gen games might get a price hike

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NBA 2K21 costs $69.99 on PS5 and Xbox Series X, no free upgrade

NBA 2K publisher 2K Sports revealed a new pricing strategy for NBA 2K21 on Thursday that could indicate a shift in video game prices for the next generation of consoles.

On Sept. 4, players can pick up NBA 2K21 on Google Stadia, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One for the typical $59.99 price. Later in the year, a new version of NBA 2K21 will be released on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X as a launch title. But 2K Sports won’t offer a free next-gen upgrade, like many other publishers of cross-generation games. Instead, the company will sell the next-gen version separately for $69.99, $10 more than the standard video game price that has been in effect for the past 15 years over two full console generations.

Rather than using Microsoft’s Smart Delivery system, or whatever Sony’s solution ends up being, 2K is going its own way. Those who want to purchase NBA 2K21 on PS4 or Xbox One, and keep playing on PS5 or Xbox Series X, respectively, will need to buy the NBA 2K21 Mamba Forever Edition for $99.99. The package includes “dual access” to both the current- and next-gen versions — allowing players to upgrade within the PlayStation or Xbox families — in addition to a bunch of other in-game goodies. It is intended as a tribute to the memory of Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January and had a long history with NBA 2K, having appeared on the covers of NBA 2K10 and NBA 2K17.

Third-party publishers are free to set their own pricing, and aren’t required to implement a free upgrade for cross-gen games. But full-priced video games have cost $59.99 since 2005, when the Xbox 360 kicked off the seventh generation of consoles. There was no increase when the PS4 and Xbox One debuted in 2013, but NBA 2K21’s pricing is the first indication that we could see one for the PS5 and Xbox Series X.

Reached for comment, a 2K Games spokesperson gave Polygon the following explanation for the next-gen price hike:

We believe our suggested retail price for NBA 2K21 on next-generation platforms fairly represents the value of what’s being offered: power, speed and technology that is only possible on new hardware. While we are confident that NBA 2K21 will be a monumental leap forward for the franchise and a standout visual showcase on next-generation consoles, we recognize that it’s our responsibility to prove this value to our fans and NBA 2K players. We’re looking forward to doing so and can’t wait to show more in the upcoming months to launch.

A number of third-party publishers have announced offers for free upgrades from current-gen to next-gen versions, including CD Projekt Red for Cyberpunk 2077, Crystal Dynamics for Marvel’s Avengers, and Electronic Arts for two sports titles, Madden NFL 21 and FIFA 21. Microsoft has promised free upgrades via Smart Delivery for all first-party games, including Halo Infinite; Sony has not yet said whether it’s doing something similar. But 2K Sports’ announcement is the first news of next-gen pricing. Sony and Microsoft have yet to say what they’ll charge for first-party titles, but it’s possible that $69.99 could become the standard price for next-gen games.

We’ve reached out to Microsoft and Sony for comment, and we’ll update this article with any information we receive.

NBA 2K21 covers: Damian Lillard on the current-gen standard edition; Kobe Bryant on the current- and next-gen Mamba Forever Editions; and Zion Williamson on the next-gen standard edition
The cover variants for NBA 2K21, for both current- and next-gen consoles.
Image: Visual Concepts/2K Games

Asked if all of 2K Games’ next-gen titles will cost $69.99, the 2K representative said only that “2K’s suggested retail prices for its games are meant to represent the value being offered.” It’s worth noting that the publisher is pitching the next-gen iteration of NBA 2K21 as a separate product from the current-gen version, with “extensive improvements upon its best-in-class graphics and gameplay, competitive and community online features and deep, varied game modes.” This is similar to how 2K Sports handled NBA 2K14, where the PS4/Xbox One launch title was a very different experience from the PS3/Xbox 360 title.

In addition to the pricing bombshell, 2K Games also revealed the cover athletes for each of NBA 2K21’s editions. The standard edition for current-gen consoles features Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, with Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans appearing on the next-gen standard edition. (You may remember seeing Williamson’s sweaty face in the debut trailer for the PS5 version of NBA 2K21.) Kobe Bryant — of two different eras — will grace the cover of the Mamba Forever Edition on both current- and next-gen consoles.