NBA 2K First Joined Game Pass in March 2021

The first NBA 2K game to be added to Xbox Game Pass was NBA 2K21 on March 4, 2021. This kicked off an ongoing partnership between 2K‘s popular basketball franchise and Microsoft‘s gaming subscription service.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll explore the full history of 2K basketball games on Game Pass and analyze what it means for the future.

A Short-Lived Debut: NBA 2K21‘s Game Pass Tenure

NBA 2K21 marked the first time a 2K NBA game became accessible to Game Pass subscribers. The game joined the catalog on March 4, 2021, aligned with the midpoint of the 2020-21 NBA season.

This was likely a strategic move by 2K to generate buzz and new players during a high interest portion of the NBA schedule. Offering the flagship basketball sim for "free" on Game Pass dramatically lowered the barrier to entry.

However, NBA 2K21‘s time on Game Pass was short-lived. After just under 6 months on the service, it was removed on August 31, 2021.

The timing here is no coincidence – NBA 2K22 was set to launch on September 10, 2021. By pulling 2K21 from Game Pass right before the next annual release, 2K could maximize interest and shift players over to purchasing the new game.

Below is a timeline summary of NBA 2K21‘s Game Pass tenure:

Event Date
NBA 2K21 added to Game Pass March 4, 2021
Duration on Game Pass ~6 months
NBA 2K21 removed from Game Pass August 31, 2021
NBA 2K22 release date September 10, 2021

This established a pattern – Game Pass access drives engagement, but gets pulled just in time for the next 2K release and its lucrative launch sales.

NBA 2K22 Repeats the Formula

Given the success of the strategy, it‘s no surprise that 2K followed nearly the exact same Game Pass playbook for NBA 2K22.

Just like its predecessor, NBA 2K22 did not launch directly into Game Pass. The game released across platforms on September 10, 2021 as a full-priced release.

2K likely wanted to maximize profits during the first 6 months following NBA 2K22‘s launch. Once the initial rush of sales slowed down, Game Pass was utilized to drum up renewed interest.

NBA 2K22 arrived on Game Pass on April 28, 2022, aligned with the start of the NBA postseason. This mirrors how NBA 2K21 joined Game Pass during March Madness.

Based on NBA 2K21 leaving Game Pass in late August 2021, we can safely assume NBA 2K22 will follow the same roadmap. Expect NBA 2K22 to be removed from Game Pass around late August or early September 2022 as we approach NBA 2K23‘s launch.

Here‘s a comparison of both games‘ Game Pass timelines:

Game Launch Date Game Pass Added Estimated Game Pass Removal Next Release Date
NBA 2K21 Sept 2020 March 2021 August 2021 Sept 2021
NBA 2K22 Sept 2021 April 2022 August/Sept 2022 Sept 2022

The data shows a clear pattern of utilizing Game Pass to drive interest in aging 2K NBA games before their successors release at full price.

What About Other 2K Sports Titles on Game Pass?

While the NBA 2K franchise has settled into a predictable Game Pass strategy, usage has been more varied for other 2K sports properties.


WWE 2K22 was a major initiative for 2K after the WWE 2K20 disaster. To rebuild goodwill, WWE 2K22 launched directly into Game Pass on March 11, 2022.

This was a great way to entice wrestling fans back to the series by instantly granting Game Pass subscribers access at no additional cost. As of July 2022, WWE 2K22 remains available on Game Pass nearly 4 months post-launch.

PGA Tour 2K

PGA Tour 2K21 came to Game Pass in September 2021 but had a very short tenure, leaving the service already in October 2021.

The golf series doesn‘t have annual releases like NBA 2K, so there wasn‘t a new release imminent. However, it seems the title simply didn‘t generate enough engagement to warrant an extended stay.


After NHL 2K ended its retail run with NHL 2K20 in 2019, no NHL 2K games have appeared on Game Pass since. Basketball and wrestling are clearly ahead as strategic priorities for 2K‘s Game Pass partnership.

Here is a comparison table summarizing other major 2K sports franchises‘ Game Pass history:

Franchise Last Game Pass Appearance Duration on Service Release Cadence
WWE 2K WWE 2K22 (March 2022) 4+ months (ongoing) Annual
PGA Tour 2K PGA Tour 2K21 (Sept 2021) 1 month No annual release
NHL 2K NHL 2K20 (2019) None since 2019 No current games

When Will NBA 2K23 Arrive on Game Pass?

Game Pass has proven to be a key promotional tool for 2K‘s headline NBA series. But when can we expect the next installment, NBA 2K23, to join the popular subscription?

Examining the previous two years provides clues:

  • NBA 2K21 arrived roughly 6 months after its September 2020 launch
  • NBA 2K22 landed around 7 months after its September 2021 launch

Applying this trend to NBA 2K23 suggests that a March-May 2023 Game Pass launch is likely, assuming the game hits its announced September 9, 2022 release date.

However, NBA 2K23 will be priced at $70 USD on next-gen consoles, $10 higher than past entries. With an increased premium release price, 2K may want to maximize sales by keeping it off Game Pass for longer.

My prediction: NBA 2K23 comes to Game Pass in June/July 2023. This positions it as an offseason addition aimed at driving engagement during the NBA Summer League and dry portion of the basketball calendar.

Of course, 2K could always surprise us with an earlier or later Game Pass date. But based on available data, a summer 2023 appearance seems like the most logical timing. Wherever it lands, NBA 2K23 joining Game Pass should be another boon for Xbox gamers.

Evaluating an NBA League Pass Subscription

One tantalizing bonus included with the NBA 2K23 Championship Edition is one year of NBA League Pass, normally a $200 value. For diehard hoops fans, is it worth paying for this live game streaming service? Let‘s break down the pros and cons.

NBA League Pass Features & Benefits

A full NBA League Pass subscription unlocks live access to every out-of-market NBA game during the regular season. Some of the key perks include:

  • Your choice of home, away, or national TV feeds for most games
  • On-demand full game replays available
  • 30-minute condensed game replays
  • Live Playoffs and Finals (after 24 hour delay)
  • No local blackouts for out-of-market games
  • Stream on multiple devices
  • Pause, rewind, and replay capabilities

You‘ll never miss a moment of on-court action with nearly unlimited NBA access. It‘s a fantastic package for diehard pro hoops fans.

Drawbacks & Considerations

Before committing to NBA League Pass, be aware of a few limitations:

  • In-market blackouts still apply to local team games
  • 24 hour Playoff delay to watch Finals live instead of replay
  • No cheap Team Pass option – must buy full League Pass
  • High cost at nearly $200 for season subscription

Casual fans may not require or maximize League Pass value with its cost and blackout restrictions. Evaluate your basketball viewing habits before deciding if it‘s worth the investment.

Tips for Making the Most of NBA League Pass

If you do want to subscribe, here are some tips to maximize value:

  • Time signup with free trial periods
  • Use a VPN to try bypassing blackouts
  • Share subscription fee with other fans (multi-stream capable)
  • Purchase later in season when prices drop
  • Follow League Pass deals on social media
  • Commit to watching often to justify costs

With the right approach, an NBA League Pass subscription can pay off hugely for devoted roundball supporters.

The Bottom Line

To quickly recap the key takeaways:

  • NBA 2K first joined Xbox Game Pass in March 2021 via NBA 2K21
  • The series follows a consistent Game Pass strategy – launch at full price, come to Game Pass 6-7 months later, leave 1-2 months before the next release
  • WWE 2K is the only other 2K franchise actively utilizing Game Pass
  • Expect NBA 2K23 on Game Pass around June or July 2023 based on historical data
  • NBA League Pass provides tons of content for diehard NBA fans but has limitations to consider before subscribing

Game Pass has clearly become a pillar of 2K‘s playbook for driving ongoing engagement with its basketball games. Smart timing of Game Pass launches and removals helps promote new releases while still letting Xbox owners enjoy the titles for free during peak interest periods like the NBA season and playoffs.

For basketball junkies, Game Pass and an NBA League Pass sub can make for a tantalizing one-two combo. As 2K‘s partnerships with Xbox and the NBA continue to deepen, basketball gaming fans have plenty to be excited for!

Let me know if you have any other questions about 2K, Game Pass, or the NBA – I‘m always happy to chat hoops!

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