What Jay-Z Brought to NBA 2K13

Jay-Z’s contributions to the new video game NBA 2K13 amounted to more than slapping his name on the packaging next to an “executive producer” credit. Publishing label 2K Sports says the rapper influenced key aspects of design and used his clout to secure elements that might have otherwise been out of the game maker’s reach, including music from U2 and participation of some star players.

On Jay-Z’s urging, 2K Sports struck a deal with USA Basketball to incorporate the Dream Team of the 1992 Olympics. But there were some glaring holes in their virtual lineup: Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen were not part of the overall licensing agreement administered by the National Basketball Retired Players Association, and had declined to sign a direct deal for NBA 2K13.

2K Sports Vice President Jason Argent says Jay-Z “literally picked up the phone” during a meeting to call Barkley and Pippen, exhorting them to sign on. Barkley soon did so, but Pippen dragged his feet. In August, when 2K published images of their Dream Team–minus Pippen–there was an outcry from gamers, which may have helped prompt the former Chicago Bulls forward to come aboard.

Not surprisingly, NBA 2K13′s music also bears Jay-Z’s stamp. “He picked that soundtrack top to bottom and in order. That’s exactly what we wanted,” Argent says. The mix includes tracks by some of the rapper’s friends and collaborators, including Kanye West, Santigold and Coldplay. But the licensing team got a “no” from U2, whose music had never been included in a videogame before, Argent says, adding: “Jay made a call, and suddenly U2′s ‘Elevation’ was in the game.”

Developers met with the rapper several times in his Roc Nation office in New York go over the look of the game. “We thought we’d get 15 minutes with him; he wanted two hours. He wanted to go through every menu and video to weigh in,” Argent says.

Despite all his maneuvering behind the scenes, Jay-Z will play a small role inside the game itself. The rapper, a minority owner of the Brooklyn Nets, appears courtside during the team’s home games.

Source: Wall Street Journal 10/3/2012


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