NBA Elite 11 was EA Canada's planned revamp of the Electronic Arts NBA franchise formerly known as NBA Live. Developed for the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, the game was to feature improvements such as a new physics system which allows for completely free player movement, a skill-based shooting system which takes more into account than just the distance from the basket, and the elimination of canned shooting animations. The control scheme was also given a complete overhaul inspired by EA's NHL series, further separating its gameplay from NBA Live.
Originally scheduled for release in October of 2010, the game was delayed a week prior to the scheduled release date with no secondary release date given. On November 2, 2010, Electronic Arts announced that NBA Elite 11 was officially cancelled. EA also announced that EA Tiburon, the makers of Madden NFL, will develop future NBA titles.
Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder was slated to be the cover athlete of NBA Elite 11. He lead the league in scoring in the 2009-2010 NBA season and led his team to the first round of the playoffs.
Originally scheduled for release on October 5, 2010 for the start of the 2010-2011 NBA season, EA announced on September 27, 2010, a week before the scheduled release, that NBA Elite would be delayed until an unspecified date. The reason for this delay was reportedly so that the development team had adequate time to clean up bugs and make other enhancements. To make up for the delay, Electronic Arts also announced that the company would continue full online support for NBA Live 10 through the 2010-2011 NBA season.
Prior to the delay announcement, EA had published a demo of NBA Elite to both PSN and the Xbox Live Marketplace. The demo quickly came under heavy fire for a notorious collection of major bugs. The most damning of these discoveries were recorded in a Youtube video which went viral quickly across the internet. In it, the player encounters a series of glitches and gameplay complaints that reaches its peak when one of his players, Andrew Bynum, becomes stuck at center court, arms outstretched in a pose described as Jesus-like. The demo has since been removed from both online services.
NBA Elite 11 was officially removed from the publisher's slate during an investor's call on November 2nd, 2010.
It was also announced at the time that EA Tiburon, the studio behind EA's Madden series, will be handling future development of the EA Sports NBA franchise according to then-EA COO, John Schappert. At the time this announcement was made, it was unclear as to whether or not the next game would retain the NBA Elite branding; it was later announced the the series would return to the NBA Live name with NBA Live 13. (However, Live 13 was subsequently cancelled due to quality concerns of its own.)
IGN spoke with Andrew Wilson, the development lead at EA Sports, about the cancellation. Wilson plainly stated that NBA Elite 11 "was a bad game." Though the company had past success in retooling the gameplay of other sports franchises, that same level of quality simply wasn't there in NBA Elite. Given that the game was intended as a complete reboot of EA's NBA simulation basketball franchise, to release a substandard product could have had a greater negative impact on the future of EA Sports NBA titles than not releasing a game at all.
Concerning the shifting of development duties for EA's next basketball simulation from EA Canada to EA Tiburon, Wilson noted that the move should not be seen as an indictment of the work EA Canada put into Elite 11. However, he did not address the specifics of why the game was initially delayed only a week before the scheduled release, as discs had already been printed by that point and a few copies had leaked out into the public. Wilson also did not address what impact if any the public's reaction to the game's demo may have played in the decision.
In an interview with Kotaku posted on December 2, 2010, Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello explained the business process of how and why the game was cancelled. The story began roughly a year and a half before in mid-2009. Representatives from EA Canada came to Riccitiello with their proposal on how they would innovate on simulation basketball controls in order to more effectively compete with 2K Sports' NBA series. They also showed off playable prototype code in which the player would have a greater degree of ball control via the right analogue stick.
Riccitiello noted in the interview that this fundamental change in gameplay was ambitious, particularly for an eighteen-month development cycle, but EA Canada promised that they would be able to deliver. Around July of 2010, EA Canada reps reported that the game would be "coming in hot," meaning that the game's development would be down to the wire due to the cramped development schedule, but they continued to report that the final product would be of high quality.
As far as the much-maligned demo was concerned, Riccitiello stated that it went live around the same time that the game was being mastered, or prepared for packaging and shipping. However, they also knew about a month in advance that the gameplay, while in Riccitiello's words was "great," didn't sync well with the character animation. This very problem is what led to the well-publicized demo glitch of Andrew Bynum becoming frozen in center court.
With roughly 150 hours before the game code would be finalized, the development team stated that they would resolve the issue. While the demo was published and the code was finalized, the game underwent an internal review. The results of the review were far from favorable and suggested that the game would be blasted in reviews for being "unfinished." The decision to ship or cancel the game was left up to Riccitiello, and he elected to cancel the game in order for the company to save face.
NBA Jam HD
Prior to the delay and eventual cancellation of NBA Elite 11, EA announced that a stripped-down, downloadable version of NBA Jam would be included as a free bonus with NBA Elite on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Although the downloadable version originally did not have the full list of features that the retail disc Wii version contains, the game featured online play, a feature not included in the Wii version. After the delay of Elite was announced, the NBA Jam development team was tasked with adding more content to the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions in order to ship the game on both platforms independent of NBA Elite 11.
It was released as a boxed retail product on November 17, 2010 for both platforms, and like the Wii version launched with a price tag of $50. It contains all of the Wii version's features, including the Remix Tour, as well as HD graphics and online play.