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Candace Parker with a backboard behind her in NBA 2K22
Candace Parker of the Chicago Sky is the first woman to appear on the cover of an NBA 2K game, with the WNBA 25th Anniversary Edition of NBA 2K22.
Image: Visual Concepts/2K Sports

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Here’s how NBA 2K22 on PS5, Xbox Series X differs from the last-gen version

Visual Concepts insists it didn’t ignore the older platforms

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

When the new console generation began last November, 2K Sports was there with a version of NBA 2K21 that was designed for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X — a separate product from the NBA 2K21 that had debuted in September on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Stadia, Windows PC, and Xbox One. 2K Sports is continuing that tradition this year with NBA 2K22: If you want all the bells and whistles — all of the latest gameplay upgrades, the expanded modes of play, the WNBA career mode that debuted last year, and more — you’ll have to buy the new-generation version of the game.

“We made two brand-new games again,” Erick Boenisch, executive producer at NBA 2K developer Visual Concepts, said during a press briefing over Zoom on Friday, ahead of the studio’s initial NBA 2K22 feature reveal on Tuesday.

Once again, 2K Sports has set the pricing accordingly: NBA 2K22 costs $69.99 on PS5 and Xbox Series X, $10 more than on the older platforms. If you want to be able to go back and forth between PS4 and PS5, or Xbox One and Xbox Series X, that will set you back another 10 bucks — it’s $79.99 for what the publisher calls the Cross-Gen Digital Bundle.

During the briefing, a few NBA 2K22 producers laid out a top-level overview of the game. Fans probably expect that the bulk of the new stuff this year will be limited to the PS5 and Xbox Series X versions, and while that’s not untrue, Boenisch sought to assuage concerns that last-generation players were getting left behind.

“We didn’t ignore next-gen and we didn’t ignore our current-gen users; we gave 110% to both,” Boenisch said. “I didn’t want anyone to feel like they were getting a lesser experience.”

For instance, gameplay director Mike Wang said that Visual Concepts did its best to deliver this year’s major gameplay upgrades — which seek to give players more control on both sides of the ball, making the action on the court depend more on user skill than on animation systems or dice rolls — to all versions of NBA 2K22.

“We’ve completely revamped our blocking system and steals, and our body-up system, and our shot contest system,” Wang said. He said that Visual Concepts has also overhauled the fatigue system for NBA 2K22 in a way that encourages players to use their full bench, not just play their starters for 48 minutes straight. In other words, said Wang, it’s now “a lot more realistic to what’s in the real NBA.”

At the moment, the extent to which these changes will apply to the last-gen version of the game is unclear.

Luka Doncic with a backboard behind him in NBA 2K22
Dallas Mavericks star Luka Dončić is on the cover for NBA 2K22’s Standard Edition and Cross-Gen Digital Bundle.
Image: Visual Concepts/2K Sports

One thing that won’t is The City, the expansion of the game’s online hub from The Neighborhood. The City first appeared in the PS5 and Xbox Series X version of NBA 2K21, although it was more of a first step than a full-fledged multiplayer experience; Boenisch acknowledged that the environment was “dead in many ways.” This time around, The City will be populated with nonplayer characters and a quest system to make it feel like it’s “teeming with life, activity, interactivity,” he said.

The City will also be the home of the MyCareer mode in NBA 2K22. Your MyPlayer character will live there — starting out in a modest apartment, and hopefully ending up in a penthouse suite — and will take meetings with NPCs like their agent and Nike representatives to discuss off-the-court opportunities like sponsorship deals.

Visual Concepts heard feedback from players who wanted the ability to quickly get in and out of The City and still make some MyCareer progress. To that end, NBA 2K22 will offer matchmaking options that aren’t based on Got Next; you’ll be able to walk into certain buildings for a quick one-on-one battle.

“I want MyCareer to be more than it’s ever been,” Boenisch said, adding that he felt the mode’s traditional structure — the cinematic setup that has been the norm since the franchise’s debut on PS4 and Xbox One eight years ago — “really needed a freshening up.”

Instead of The City, the last-gen version of NBA 2K22 will still feature The Neighborhood as its MyCareer hub, although it’ll be a floating home base instead of an urban playground. This year, The Neighborhood is set on a cruise ship that sails to far-flung destinations like Iceland and Egypt. In limited-time events during the season, the boat will land on an island and let players partake in activities on the seashore.

a close-up of a midcareer Dirk Nowitzki in NBA 2K22
Future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki is one of the three cover athletes for the NBA 75th Anniversary Edition of NBA 2K22.
Image: Visual Concepts/2K Sports

Boenisch noted that the setup is “a little more traditional” on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One in that The Neighborhood is not blended with MyCareer. After the mode’s opening cutscene, you’ll get the option to continue the story or go straight to the ocean liner.

All of this will be tied more closely into MyTeam through “Seasons,” which are “going game-wide” in NBA 2K22, said producer Jon Smith. Visual Concepts plans to deliver free MyTeam features, content, and rewards with a new season about every six weeks. It will be available in MyTeam as well as MyCareer and the WNBA career mode, The W, giving you new ways to level up. Owners of the Cross-Gen Digital Bundle will be able to carry over progress and their card collection within the PlayStation and Xbox families.

If you’re suspicious of microtransactions being even more pervasive than they already are in NBA 2K, this may be setting off alarm bells in your head. But MyTeam Seasons are optional — “you can do MyCareer and pretend that Seasons don’t exist,” said Boenisch.

As for The W and the revised franchise mode, MyNBA/MyWNBA, they will once again be available exclusively on PS5 and Xbox Series X. (MyGM remains the franchise mode in the last-gen version.) Boenisch & co. didn’t say much about what’s different about these modes in NBA 2K22, except for a new staffing system in which individual coaches and trainers will have an effect on your team’s play. Hopefully there’s a lot more to come on this front, considering that 2K Sports is offering a special edition of the game to mark the 25th anniversary of the WNBA, with Candace Parker as the first woman cover athlete in NBA 2K history.

We’ll have to wait for Visual Concepts to reveal more about NBA 2K22 in the lead-up to its release, which is set for Sept. 10 on PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.