It took two decades, but the women of the WNBA are finally taking to the NBA 2K basketball court as a part of NBA 2K20, a video game that Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. will release Sept. 6.
This marks the first time that the WNBA, which is owned and subsidized by the NBA, has been included in the popular video game franchise’s 20-year history.
In January, Take-Two Interactive and the NBA inked a seven-year extension to their licensing deal valued at $1.1 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. The agreement enables Take-Two to continue licensing the NBA brand for NBA 2K franchise titles, as well as other NBA branded games, through 2026.
NBA 2K is a cash cow for Take-Two Interactive. Game titles from the franchise have been the top-selling sports game since 2016. In 2018, NBA 2K19 was the third-best-selling game overall and the announcement is a win for boosting representation of female athletes in mainstream media.
NBA 2K20 will feature all 12 WNBA teams and more than 140 players, including top stars such as Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker and Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson.
“Growing up, I always remembered watching male athletes on TV and playing as them in video games.” Parker said in a statement. To have “women featured prominently in NBA 2K20, we are allowing young girls and boys to have female athletes as role models.”
The two decades it took to get to this point, however, also demonstrate outstanding gender disparities between the men’s and women’s basketball leagues.
The WNBA does not enjoy the same cultural significance that the NBA does, making it more difficult for the league to generate sizable revenue. Because of this, a massive pay gap exists between the WNBA and the NBA.
The maximum salary for a WNBA player in 2018 capped at Phoenix Mercury forward DeWanna Bonner’s $127,500. The top earning player in the NBA, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, is projected to earn a salary of over $40.2 million in the 2019-2020 season, according to ESPN.
Though the NBA generates a considerable amount more revenue than the WNBA, the WNBA has been criticized for its revenue-distribution percentage to players. The women’s league pays less than 25% of its revenue out as salaries, while the NBA distributes 50% of revenue to players, according to Forbes calculations.
Still, introducing WNBA players to a platform with the popular culture prowess of the NBA 2K franchise opens opportunities for female players to gain recognition in the mainstream and potentially increase revenue for both players and the WNBA overall.