When 2K Games announced that media mogul Jay-Z was executive producing their upcoming NBA 2K13 release, the news was met with skepticism from both gamers and everyday pop culturalists alike. Would the highly successful franchise lose credibility by an alignment with a rap star? Will we all be forced to watch commercials of Jay rapping on a basketball court with J. Cole dunking and Beyonce shooting three-pointers in the background? Oh perish the thought!
We were able to have a chat with 2K’s VP of Marketing, Jason Argent about the ginormous announcement and what Jay-Z’s involvement will really be. Jason was able to ease a lot of concerns about what we can all expect from NBA 2K13 when it hits stores October 2.
How were you guys able to keep Jay-Z’s involvement quiet for so long?
Your guess is as good as mine. I’ve been holding onto this for several months and been so excited to talk about it. I don’t know how we were able to keep it under wraps for this long but I think now that we can finally talk about it, it’s finally paying off.
What does “Executive Produced by Jay-Z" really mean?
You've probably seen over the last several years that we've focused a lot more on building out more of an experience than what just happens on the basketball court. If you look at the NBA, the product as a whole, basketball is obviously at the core, but it's a lot more than that. It's music, culture and entertainment. We wanted to have that feel injected into our game. When we launched 2K12 last year, we sat down and talked about how we could make the next one better. We wanted to take some of that music, culture and entertainment and put it into the game. Whenever we all talked about it, one name kept coming up, Jay-Z.
One thing that we liked was that we heard he was a fan of the game. That's very important to us. Jay is also very entrenched in the NBA, as him being part owner of the Brooklyn Nets. More than that and also being a music icon, his influence in art, culture and creativity is a package we felt would be an amazing addition to the game this year. I don't know if anything this big has ever been done with a video game, but this is really just the beginning of a lot of stuff we have to talk about in the next few weeks.
How did the talks even begin and how did you not use your entire budget on getting him down with this project?
When we first approached him, we were happy that he was interested and wanted to a part of it but one of the first things he told us was that if he were to be involved, he wanted to truly be involved. As we all know, Jay-Z doesn't just put his name on anything. He's obsessed with authenticity and he wanted to be a true integral part in bringing this game to market. That was music to our ears but we had to define what that part was. We looked at it in two halves: From a development standpoint, the game, gameplay and feature set, it's the development team you know. They are the experts at what they do and they're the best in the industry. We also know that Jay-Z is the best at what he does and his involvement would be multifaceted. Music was obviously one of the biggest things and he curated the entire soundtrack. There's 24 songs and they're all his selection. Needless to say, it's the best soundtrack we've ever done in this game. It was so much more than that though, he involved himself in the entire creative presentation. Everything that happened off the court of basketball, he weighed in on.
Everything you see from when you pop the game into the console, from the intro video, menu screen, transitions, look, feel and general artistic vision was all influenced by Jay.
How did you guys keep the game from becoming a $60 PSA for Jay-Z's other projects?
The good news is that we didn't want that and Jay certainly didn't want that either. Although he does feature his likeness, if you look at a lot of his other stuff, like what he does with Roc Nation, Jay is really a small part of a bigger picture. You'll also see that in the game.
Yes, he and his music is represented but we didn't want this to become a big advertisement for Jay. I go back to what I was saying about authenticity. We [including Jay-Z] wanted him as a creative director and as someone behind the scenes to direct and produce. With the end product, you'll see that's achieved perfectly.
How visible will Jay-Z be in the promotion of the game?
He’s going to be involved in a very streamlined capacity. This isn’t about Jay-Z promoting himself or us promoting him. It’s about his involvement from a creative standpoint. You won’t be seeing him in the center of any of our ad campaigns or anything like that.
Were the negotiations a long process?
I wouldn't even call it negotiations. It was something we both really wanted to do and being artists in our own right, we both wanted the involvement to be something we really wanted to do. It was a smooth process from the beginning. We all started talking right after 2K12 came out and have continued until today. Jay-Z's engagement in this has been mind-blowing. As busy as he is with all the stuff he has going on around the world, it’s astounding the amount of time he's spent in roundtable discussions with our development team or phone calls in the middle of the night saying, “hey guys, I think we should do this.” Jay is truly engaged with this project and it’s been an awesome experience.
Will Jay-Z be a playable character on the Brooklyn Nets?
I'll put it this way. The key focus with us was to not make this gimmicky, it had to be real and authentic. Jay-Z's involvement had to be the same way. Seeing him as a playable character and all that wasn't necessarily something we were trying to achieve in this game. It was the bigger, general artistic vision of what he wanted to bring and what we wanted to bring to NBA 2K13.