NBA Elite 11 (lost builds of unreleased PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 basketball simulator; 2010)
|Cover art of NBA Elite 11, featuring then-Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant.|
NBA Elite 11 is a basketball video game developed for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 by EA Canada and published by EA Sports, originally slated for an October 2010 release. Aiming at a refreshing gameplay experience, with changes that would include new mechanics and game modes, EA Sports opted to drop their long-standing "NBA Live" franchise moniker – used since the 1994 installment NBA Live '95 – in favor of a new identity, "NBA Elite", reflecting the publishers' desire to “pioneer a groundbreaking change in the basketball videogame segment.”
Although the game's production went as far as seeing copies pressed and a demo released, concerns over the quality of the product resulted in its release being delayed and, weeks later, officially cancelled. Since a limited number of physical copies of the PlayStation 3 version made it to the hands of consumers, NBA Elite 11 is now considered one of the rarest games for the platform, with some copies being sold for thousands of dollars.
NBA Elite 11 was first announced on June 2nd, 2010. Aiming at "revolutionizing the basketball simulation genre" and closing the sales gap with 2K Sports' NBA 2K series, EA Sports presented a set of key-feature changes – including a new control scheme dubbed 'Hands-On Control' and a new physics animation system using technology previously seen in titles of EA's NHL, FIFA and Fight Night series.
On June 22nd, Electronic Arts published a press release in which then-Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant was formally announced as the cover athlete of NBA Elite 11. This marked the second time the superstar donned the cover of an EA licensed basketball game – the first instance of this was the 2007 college basketball title NCAA March Madness 08. Durant would later appear on the cover of NBA 2K13 as well as NBA 2K15.
Demo Release and Reception
On the evening of September 20th, a demo build of NBA Elite 11 for the PS3 was made available for PlayStation Network users, with an Xbox 360 version coming out on the Xbox Live marketplace on the next morning. In the demo, players are able to compete in a re-edition of the final quarter of Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, choosing between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. Also featured in the demo is an introduction to the new 'Become Legendary' mode, where the player may create their own player character – portable to the retail game – and compete in the 'Jordan Draft Showcase' game with real-life rookies.
The demo, however, was met with mostly negative reactions from consumers. Common criticism included difficult and unresponsive controls, subpar artificial intelligence, unrealistic graphics/animation and numerous glitches that resulted in a large number of gamers threatening to instead acquire 2K Sports' offer, NBA 2K11.
The worst impression of the demo's release, in the end, was an animation bug that not only made NBA Elite 11 an easy target of ridicule, but also detracted from its gameplay. This bug involved one of the player characters' models – often associated with then-Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum due to a popular YouTube video review demonstrating the glitch – getting stuck in the middle of the court in its bind pose, effectively leaving the player in a disadvantageous position for the rest of the game.
Delay and Cancellation
On September 27th, NBA Elite 11 was delayed indefinitely following an announcement by EA Sports president Peter Moore. Emphasizing the ambitious goals set for the title, as well as citing concerns over the product's quality and consumer feedback on the demo released one week before, Moore agreed that the game would benefit from an extended development period.
As a compromise of delivering content in time for the 2010/11 NBA season, it was announced that roster updates and support for NBA Live 10 would be provided free of charge. NBA Jam, a title whose stripped-down PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions were initially intended to be included with NBA Elite 11 as downloadable bonuses, would receive a standalone release on November 17th, with all features found on the Nintendo Wii version.
On November 2nd, the suspicion of part of the specialized press was confirmed: NBA Elite 11 was officially cancelled. The announcement, which according to anonymous sources followed a round of layoffs at EA Canada, was made by Electronic Arts' chief financial officer Eric Brown during an investor call. EA COO John Schappert also added that future development of the franchise would be handled at EA Tiburon, developer of the Madden NFL series.
The cancellation of NBA Elite 11 tarnished EA Sports' reputation in the basketball simulator business. While EA's effort failed to hit the shelves, NBA 2K11 – featuring the iconic Chicago Bulls shooting guard Michael Jordan on its cover and in a dedicated game mode – received mostly positive reviews and sold over 5.5 million copies worldwide.
In 2012, EA Sports announced the return of the NBA Live moniker, presumably in an attempt to distance themselves from the troubled development cycle and promotion of NBA Elite 11. However, just like with the 2010 effort, concerns over the quality of the final product culminated in NBA Live 13's cancellation, resulting in further damage to the brand and almost universal distrust from consumers. 2013's NBA Live 14 – the first EA Sports NBA title to be released since 2009's NBA Live 10, as well as the first released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – was eventually finished, being met with mostly negative reviews that deeply contrasted with the favourable reception of its direct competitor NBA 2K14.
Following NBA Elite 11's delay, both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 demo builds were quickly delisted from the platforms' respective marketplaces, only made available for download for those who had already previously acquired them. Although the game was eventually cancelled, copies containing a build slightly more polished than what was used for the public demos were pressed and sent in advance to retailers – with at least one of them opting to, instead of returning the discs to EA for destruction, selling them online. This resulted in copies of the PlayStation 3 complete build being sold on websites like eBay for prices far higher than what it would be valued in retail, reaching a peak of nearly $10,000.
As a result of the leaked copies' immense rarity level and pricing, as well as the limited availability of its demo, NBA Elite 11 is not known to have ever been successfully dumped and illegally made available online, in either demo or complete form. A DealExtreme offer of a USB HDD supposedly containing the title (along with 127 other PlayStation 3 games) was made, but whether the files included were legitimate or not is currently unknown.
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