VANCOUVER, Canada (Reuters Life!) - Gamers get to hit the virtual hardwood early as new NBA videogames hit store shelves just as training camps begin.
The latest installments of 2K Sports' "NBA 2K9," EA Sports' "NBA Live 09" and Sony Computer Entertainment America's "NBA 09 The Inside" bring all of the basketball action to life on consoles and portable devices.
There are two new trends in NBA gaming that will change the way the sport is played virtually. When the real season starts both 2K Sports and EA Sports will link the on-court player heroics and let-downs with the in-game experience.
2K Sports calls the feature Living Rosters. It offers a weekly adjustment showing how teams and players have performed in the NBA translated into new in-game moves and abilities.
"I think it's big," said 2008 World Champion Boston Celtic Kevin Garnett. "The fact that the game's keeping track of all the players in the league says a lot. I think Living Rosters is the future of gaming."
EA Sports has partnered with Synergy, the statistics tracker that records every play during the season for the 20 NBA teams, to bring daily updates of how real NBA players are performing into the videogame.
"We use Synergy (in the NBA) in a number of important ways like player acquisitions to see how he might work in the sets you use on your team," said Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets.
"We also use it for player development to see where their strengths and weaknesses are. And it's great for defensive game planning, when you're trying to put the player on the other team in their least successful option."
Philadelphia 76'ers star Andre Iguodala was familiar with Synergy because his team uses the stats to improve their game. When it comes to importing the technology into NBA Live 09, he said it's almost like gamers are experiencing a real NBA season.
"Guys can go through cold streaks and you'll have to resort to your second option," said Iguodala. "Or if a guy is hot you can go to him all of the time. I think there's something there that a lot of people will like."
Brandon Roy, of the Portland Trail Blazers, likes the fact that players can hit a button in NBA Live 09 and see a color-coded chart of where their strengths are for shooting the ball. With his real NBA employing Synergy data this season, the video game gave him a head-start.
"If I'm playing with the Spurs and I notice what Tony Parker is doing well to score, I know that when we play him in the NBA, that's pretty much what he's going to be doing," said Roy.
"It's cool that you can use that as a scouting tool. I don't know if a coach would ever admit it, but you could pull the game and see what Tony's shooting is from the left side of the court, and it shows you."
Living Rosters and Dynamic DNA also ensure the playing field is even in the videogame, complete with trades and injuries.
"It's great because it ensures real injuries translate to the game," said Rudy Gay of the Memphis Grizzlies. "Last year people would play with Portland and Greg Oden was on the team and he'd kill me. They can't do that any more. If you're hurt, you're hurt, buddy."
While these new features are sure to keep fans hooked, San Antonio Spurs star Parker just wants to relax and have fun when he's gaming.
"I don't really pay attention to all of the scouting and the notes and stuff like that," said Parker. "But for the fans, it's great because they can get updated rosters and real player data, which brings them closer to our sport."
Growing up in France, Parker said NBA video games were the only way for fans to get to know the players. Now basketball fans around the world can connect through Xbox Live and PlayStation Network to form teams of five and partake in tournaments.
Both EA Sports and 2K Sports are offering five-on-five online team play for the first time, which allows gamers to pick a position and play it throughout the game with connected teammates across the country or across the globe.