When it comes to sports games in the US, few titles are as popular as the NBA’s 2K series and the NFL’s Madden series. This correlates to the popularity of both traditional leagues. While the NFL is the most lucrative sports league in North America and has the most popular championship game, the NBA has a broader global reach. This means more gamers around the world are likely to opt for an NBA 2K title.
However, as the NFL looks to expand abroad, this may change in the future. At the moment, things like the legalization of sports betting and the proliferation of eSports leagues have helped spur new interest in both traditional and virtual sports.
For traditional sports fans, sign-up bonuses from DraftKings sportsbook are helping heighten curiosity around following a new sports league or big event, while technology like VR has sweetened the allure of eSports for those watching and playing remotely. Regardless of whether a gamer leans toward live-action sports or a game, developers EA Sports and 2K Games have something to offer with their series.
But, in looking at the quality of design, playability, and eSports opportunities, which video game comes out ahead: NFL Madden or NBA 2K?
By the Stats: 2K Wins
When the NFL first partnered with EA Sports in 1989 to create a Madden game, it quickly became one of the most popular sports simulations. However, since 2K released its first title after partnering with the NBA in 1999, they’ve become the NFL’s biggest competitor in the gaming market.
Given the ten-year lead in sales, the NFL’s Madden series has outsold NBA 2K in terms of all-time revenue. A more realistic metric can be ascertained by gauging how many players are actively involved in each on Valve’s Steam platform. In January 2021, there were 1,457 average active players of Madden NFL 21, while Steam recorded 9,679 average active players for NBA 2K20 over the same period.
Viewed by recent stats, 2K Games comes out far ahead of EA Sports. However, as mentioned above, the NBA is working with a global gaming market. Few gamers outside the US and Canada would opt for an NFL title given the limited interest in American football.
By Reviews: 2K Wins
Stats highlight the quantitative aspect of success, while gamer reviews reveal the nitty-gritty of gameplay, highlighting both the pros and cons of each title. Once again, 2K Sports comes out ahead. Not only are gameplay features smoother and more realistic, but tactics are also updated annually to include the latest from playbooks. Madden, by contrast, tends to be more conversative in this respect.
Additionally, 2K comes out ahead for its superior graphics and customization features. While EA Sports has gone above and beyond to create memorable and realistic stadiums, there are limb glitches that make playing the game difficult.
Some have also reported that players look disproportionate in Madden, which makes it harder to recognize who is who. Regardless, it’s an important note that this hasn’t impacted sales for the series.
Online Play & eSports: Madden Wins
In recent years, 2K Games has gone above and beyond to create a solid setup for online play, including Pro Am and The Cages settings. However, they’ve been playing catch-up with Madden, which has hosted online competitions in a variety of formats long before eSports took off in the mid-2010s.
To date, they host a wildly successful Madden Championship Series, which sees players from around the world compete in a regular season and playoffs. They also have quality mods, from Ultimate Team to Franchise Mode. One of their most popular online features is the Superstar KO, which lets players go through a match in five minutes.
Looking ahead, it’s likely 2K Games will build out its online features and also develop its NBA 2K League, which is accessible via the game’s Pro Am mode. However, they’re still lagging behind the NFL in terms of their eSports league. The NBA 2K League pays out $1.5 million to winners, while the Madden series pays out over $2 million.