EA Sports has officially announced the rebranding of its long-running basketball franchise to NBA Elite. The previous name, NBA Live, had been around for 16 years -- the series debuted with NBA Live 95 on the Genesis/SNES. Last week, the news leaked out thanks to a preview of NBA Elite 11 in the July issue of Official Xbox Magazine, but the press release from EA offers some details for those who don't want to buy the mag (or look up scans on the Internet). It also came with a logo that features a new font -- look above!
The most significant change that NBA Elite 11 brings is a completely revamped control scheme, dubbed "Hands-On Control." As creative director David Littman (who also happens to hold the same title for EA's NHL series) explains, NBA Elite 11 is "the first basketball simulation videogame where you are controlling every movement, dribble move, shot, dunk, lay-up, steal and block in real time with one-to-one control."
The game is under development at EA Canada along with NHL 11, and just like that game, Elite will feature a real-time physics system that "allows each player on the court to move independently of one another." And the shooting in NBA Elite 11 takes physics into account, including the shooter's position on the court. According to the OXM preview, Hands-On Control puts a heavy focus on the right analog stick, which will be used for major functions such as dribbling and shooting.
So what's the impetus for the clean break from NBA Live? Well, EA certainly wants to emphasize that NBA Elite will introduce an all-new way to play basketball -- EA Sports president Peter Moore boasts that it will "profoundly evolve the interactive basketball experience in a way that the category has not seen for a decade." But the flagging sales performance of the NBA Live series was likely also a major factor in the decision. EA has been losing ground to 2K Sports' NBA 2K series for this entire console generation, and even though 2009's NBA Live 10 garnered higher critical acclaim than NBA Live 09, it sold fewer copies.
A history note: this kind of rebranding certainly isn't unprecedented -- in fact, EA did it during the last console generation with its baseball game. The franchise was called Triple Play from 1995 through 2002, but due to increasingly poor reviews and sales, EA decided to go back to the drawing board in 2003, relaunching the series as MVP Baseball and winning over critics and fans with a fantastic baseball simulation anchored by a control innovation: the pitching meter. It's clear that NBA Live wasn't working for EA, so here's hoping they'll have as much success with NBA Elite as they did with MVP Baseball.
NBA Elite 11 will be out this October for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Hit the jump if you want to pore over the press release yourself.
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