As far as video game franchises go, the NBA 2K rates third only to EA Sports' two-headed football monster of Madden and NCAA Football. In the world of basketball games, 2K has always stood out for its reasonable approximation of real basketball and a boatload of special features that add to the overall experience. Last year's Michael Jordan Challenge was a huge hit, and they're set to do even more this year with involvement from a game mode built around legendary performances by 15 NBA legends.
Unfortunately for 2K Sports, this year's lockout could derail their sales goals for this fall's NBA 2K12. In fact, one analyst predicts a steep drop from last year's 5.5 million units sold. From Eddie Makuch for GameSpot (via PBT and I am a GM):
Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia issued an investor note this morning that stated if the NBA lockout does not end, sales of NBA 2K12 will be softer than predicted.
Just yesterday, Take-Two reported its latest quarterly earnings, saying NBA 2K11 has sold 5.5 million copies. However, Bhatia's firm is currently projecting that sales of NBA 2K12 could fall off by 1 million units over last year. Sales at this level would diminish Take-Two's earnings by $40 million, he projected.
However, Bhatia also stated that the "uniqueness" of NBA 2K12 might be enough to make the game a top-performer, regardless of a lockout scenario.
It makes sense that a basketball game would see a dip in sales while its league isn't playing games. Excitement around a basketball season can help move product, and it stands to reason that if people aren't thinking about the NBA, they won't feel a huge need to purchase a video game that's all about the league.
However, it's important to note that NBA 2K12 is uniquely well-positioned to sell well during a lockout. With no league, basketball fans are likely to think back to the NBA's glory days, no matter which era they consider that to be. Plus, whereas last year's game focused on Jordan, NBA 2K12 will include players ranging from Magic Johnson to Latrell Sprewell. There's something for everyone, to the point where virtually any fan can find a part of beloved NBA past within this game mode. Oh, and if they want to watch current players whose games have been canceled, then they can fire up the regular game modes and enjoy them, too.
In other words, NBA 2K12's fortunes aren't tied to the existence of the 2011-12 NBA, because the game can act as a sort of substitute for many of the league's fans. It's not a perfect replacement, but it stands to be an entertaining facsimile.