2K Games has been accused of "pressuring" a site into removing a negative review of NBA 2K18, after its Virtual Currency microtransactions were placed under the microscope leading to an unfavorable score.
The Sixth Axis published a review of NBA 2K18 in which they handed the game a rating of 3 out of 10, citing its pervasive microtransactions as a significant reason behind the low score. "It doesn’t take a genius to figure out you’ll have to spend either a long time grinding, or use microtransactions to level up quicker," the review reads. "This is essentially the practices of a free to play game in a full priced sports title. Paying to level up your character will also absolutely give you an advantage online in the Neighbourhood section."
However, not long after after the NBA 2K18 review went live was the low score removed. The Sixth Axis' editor issued an update to explain the reason behind the move, revealing that they had been contacted by 2K Games over the review: "In discussion with 2K Games, we’ve temporarily removed the score pending a statement with regard to our criticisms, at which point it will be reinstated," said the editor in an update to the review. "Additionally, a draft conclusion was posted that incorrectly characterised our score as a protest vote, and has been reworded to reflect that our criticisms are rooted in the effect that VC and microtransactions have on the gameplay."
Needless to say, the notion that 2K may have interfered in order to coerce The Sixth Axis into changing their review score promptly got the internet's attention, with many prominent figures in the gaming community criticizing the move.
Interested to see how this shakes out. Bit of a disaster for the publication either way to be honest. https://t.co/gZMs9dZeEv
— Danny O'Dwyer (@dannyodwyer) September 22, 2017
2k allegedly pressured TheSixthAxis to remove their 3/10 NBA score and TSA complied. Not a good look for either https://t.co/qLng8wH5qT…
— John Bain (@Totalbiscuit) September 21, 2017
2K here strong arming a piss weak editor into removing a bad review score. Just another day in AAA gaming.https://t.co/ZM1SbICdJy
— Daniel Hardcastle (@DanNerdCubed) September 22, 2017
In response, The Sixth Axis released a further update elaborating upon the situation, after restoring the initial review with its 3 out of 10 score in tact. The segment of the response pertaining to 2K's complaint reads:
"The conclusion that was originally posted read, “If you’re a series fan you may enjoy what you see, and the score below doesn’t indicate the quality of the core basketball game, but rather protests how utterly invasive the microtransactions have now become.” To categorise our review and its score as a protest vote against 2K was wrong on a number of levels, and it was something I believed I had removed when editing. Evidently I didn’t or didn’t realise that my edits had not been submitted properly while travelling. Either way, it was largely for this reason that 2K’s PR team got in touch after the review was published.
We give plenty of leeway to our reviewers, so if they reason their position well enough and it matches the score, then it will stand as is. In this case, Aran argued well enough for my liking that the balance between microtransaction and what you earn in game was dragging down the potential enjoyment for players. Whether entries have receive a 6/10 or a 9/10 in the past, it’s been a consistent point that he’s addressed in NBA 2K reviews for the last half decade, and it’s exactly this point that I relayed to 2K when they contacted me.
Yes, they asked us to reconsider the score or shift to a “review in progress”, but I can’t state strongly enough that there was no “pressure” or threat of blacklisting made or even implied. If this were the case, the review would not be online, even without a score. However, the word “protest” was still misplaced and needed to be removed, and it was while doing this that the olive branch of a statement surrounding planned changes and adjustments to NBA 2K18 was made. So I made the call to change the score to pending at the same time, get on my flight and hope for something remarkable when I landed."
The full response from The Sixth Axis can be viewed here.
The Sixth Axis went on to admit that "with hindsight, a number of things should have been done differently," with the site's editor apologizing for the debacle. "We’ll learn from these mistakes and do better in future," he concluded. 2K has yet to release a statement regarding the matter.