When it comes to basketball video games, 2K and its NBA 2K series are pretty much the only option out there, and, with that, you’ve either got to put up with all of its pros and cons or just vote with your wallet and simply not buy it. For NBA 2K21 on Google Stadia, the latter is definitely what I would recommend.
Update 3/12: 2K finally fixed the game.
Rosters and uniforms
Part of the reason why people buy the new version of NBA 2K every year is to get the updated team rosters as well as the player ratings. Well, NBA 2K21 on Stadia is basically like NBA 2K20.5.
The rosters haven’t been updated since draft day, which was November 18th. A ton of major trades and signings have occurred in the NBA since then to the start of the season on December 22nd. NBA 2K20 on Stadia got nearly day-1 roster updates with its console counterparts, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with 2K21.
The uniforms in the game also don’t feature the new ones for the 2020-21 NBA season. This isn’t as big of a deal but is still something missing from the game that’s worth mentioning. You can’t play with any of the new City Edition jerseys.
Oh my gosh. The bugs. They’re insane.
Constantly, in the Neighborhood, the game will just freeze up and lose connection to 2K servers within the game. Basically, the game turns “slow-mo” and then it’ll display the classic 2K message: “Attempting to restore your connection.” Stadia’s menu doesn’t indicate any kind of connection error, leading me to believe that the glitch/disconnect is occurring on the cloud server. It seems that the game freezing causes the cloud server to overload and also disconnect from 2K servers, if that makes sense.
After all this, it’ll eventually either kick you back out to the main 2K home screen where everything is also in slow-mo and freezing up, or, the game instance will just crash and you’ll be taken to the Stadia home screen. This type of freezing/crashing sometimes occurs right before, in the middle of, or after a park game, after leaving an event like Bootcamp, opening the “My Animations” menu anywhere outside of a building, entering Jeff’s 2K Arcade for a wheel spin or the Team Practice building, among others.
Just take a look at these videos. In all of them, notice how the music remains perfectly intact, meaning, this is definitely a problem with the game and not an internet connection issue.
In this last video, you’ll notice how the game or multiplayer server almost freezes up but quickly catches itself and speeds up to get in sync. Whenever this happens, that’s usually an indicator that someone else in the group lagged out and you’ll be playing the game with or against an AI player.
In the below image, we’re all stuck. The game isn’t frozen or anything here, but we’re basically stuck here for at least a couple of minutes. This usually happens when one of the players in the game quits or lags out right after the conclusion of the match. This was also an issue with NBA 2K20.
Furthermore, when the park games do work, sometimes, one side of the court is laggy while the other side of the court is perfectly smooth (another issue also present on 2K20). It’s also extra weird in that it’ll only happen on certain 3v3 courts.
You also cannot join a friend’s MyCourt despite allowing them in. It just doesn’t work.
General load times in the game are also much longer than 2K20 for whatever reason. Simply just opening the Neighborhood takes like a solid two minutes. 2K20 seemed way more optimized while this one feels along the lines of a current-gen console or worse (despite Stadia having better server hardware than a current-gen console).
For the record, the classic “Play Now” mode is, for the most part, bug-free. It’s mainly just the Neighborhood and sometimes in MyCareer games where these issues occur.
The Stadia community may be a small one, but it’s still fairly vocal about its complaints.
@Beluba @GoogleStadia please fix NBA2K21 on Stadia…the game is impossible to play, there are 3 months that it crashes continuosly in the neighbourhood, and you haven’t do nothing! After an awesome exp w/ 2k20, this year 2k is overlooking Stadia community.. #NBA2K21 @2KSupport
— L-Ville (@LVille10) December 8, 2020
There have also been several posts on the Stadia subreddit about it:
I, personally, opened a support ticket with 2K and this was the initial response I received:
2K’s own support agents don’t even know what Stadia is despite having five games on the service (WWE 2K Battlegrounds, NBA 2K21, PGA Tour 2K21, Borderlands 3, and NBA 2K20). Like, seriously? They really suggested to do a cache clear and reinstall the game, both of which you can’t even do on Stadia.
Fortunately, a 2K Support supervisor reached out to me several days later (after additional complaints from me) and apologized on the prior agent’s behalf for “providing irrelevant troubleshooting steps” and added 35,000 VC to my 2K account.
After some more mind-numbing troubleshooting steps like “check your internet connection” and “make sure you have an Ethernet cable connected,” I eventually managed to get a bug report submitted. The support agent later contacted me again and responded with the following:
“This message is to notify you that the development team has been notified of this issue and are currently working toward a solution! However, we do not have visibility on their progress here in customer support, and therefore don’t have a timeline on when a fix will be implemented.”
Many of the other players who also opened support tickets about the problems weren’t as lucky with getting 2K’s attention and filing a bug report. Rather, they too received messages like “clear your cache” or “reinstall the game.”
I managed to get the game when it was on sale last month for 79 cents ($10.79 sale price plus a $10 off coupon), but it’s just not fair that those who bought the game at full price ($60 for the regular version or $100 for the “Mamba Forever Edition”) are essentially getting a worse game than NBA 2K20.
There’s also no cross-play for NBA 2K on Stadia (or any platform for that matter), so you’ll often be in a nearly empty Park most of the time due to the small player-base. At any rate, half of your time in the Park will be spent having to restart the game because of the freezing-up bugs.
2K support sent me the message about the dev team working towards a solution around early December. I get that there are different priorities and timelines for the teams, plus the holidays had arrived soon thereafter, but not updating the rosters is just plain laziness. Plus, all of these bugs aforementioned have been there since the game launched all the way back in early September of last year! Players have reported it countless times since then, and for it to still be a problem over 4 months later is just inexcusable. I honestly feel that Google should just pull it from the Stadia store until the issues get fixed.
It seems that ever since the next-gen versions 2K21 came out for the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S, 2K just forgot about Stadia. I get that Stadia’s user-base is no where near the size of PlayStation and Xbox where 2K gets the majority of their revenue from, but if they’re going to charge the same price as other platforms, they absolutely should be providing the same or comparable experience. As is, however, anyone buying NBA 2K21 on Stadia right now is getting scammed.
Update 3/12: Nearly two months after publishing my original post, 2K and/or Google finally fixed NBA 2K21 on Stadia. After seeing reports on Reddit last week about all the bugs in the game possibly being fixed, I hopped on the game last night and managed to play several games in the Park without a single glitch.
Everything from the outdated rosters to the freezing and crashing around the Neighborhood seem to be fixed. Even the courts in the Park were finally updated from the previous winter holidays theme.
It took 2K about six months after the game first launched to actually fix these issues which is pretty unacceptable. Definitely don’t buy it day-1, but here’s to hoping that 2K22 won’t also suffer from the same issues.
End of Update