‘NBA Live ’13’ Finally Gets A Mercy Killing

If you’re not a hardcore sports gamer or games journalist, you probably have not been following the tortured saga on NBA Live ’13. But it’s a pretty instructive look at what happens when things go very, very wrong at a major studio, namely EA Sports.

First, a little background. Two years ago, EA attempted to reboot the NBA Live franchise as NBA Elite. We only ever saw a demo: The game was so glitchy that it made more sense for EA to kill the entire game and go back to the drawing board.

That game was to be NBA Live ’13. But apparently, EA has decided it makes more sense to kill the game, which was literally on the edge of release, than put it out. What went wrong?

To give you an idea of how messy this is, this is a game that has been worked on, for two straight years, by EA’s Tiburon studio, the lead in the EA Sports brand. These are the people who make the Maddens and the Tiger Woods golf games. Essentially, EA has basically announced one of their core studios is unable to make a basketball game.

Making things worse was the fact that this was a pretty unambitious title, in terms of modes and sales. It was turned from a boxed release to a $20 download with pick-up-and-play, franchise, and online multiplayer modes. While nobody in EA is talking, it’s pretty clear Tiburon simply bit off more than it could chew.

To be fair this is not entirely in EA’s hands: The product launch is dictated by the NBA, and the game likely was not ready. In fact, odds are pretty good that NBA Live ’14, a game the studio insists is coming, will be NBA Live ’13 with some paint. It also shows that, despite their best efforts, making a franchise is no easy feat.