Is there a limit of the amount of songs you can have on the soundtrack?
Howard: When we were on NBA 2K13 and 2K14 era, that was Xbox 360 and PS3 [PlayStation 3]. We could only have 25 tracks because that's what the disc would allow data for. Once we upgraded to Xbox One and PS4, we can now have 50 tracks. During the process we have to get the music cleared via the NBA, go through the lyrics. 50 songs is what we get at the end of the day, but we have to start with 100 and 150. Then, that boils down to the last 50. Songs might get knocked off the list because the NBA might not approve the song or the lyrics might be too explicit.
What was a song you wish could've been on an NBA 2K soundtrack that wasn't?
Howard: Let's talk about NBA 2K19. “Sicko Mode” was a really good example. Astroworld came out at a certain time period, and the soundtrack was already made, approved, and it was already in the game. So, we had to add “Sicko Mode” much later after it released. That's one example that, at one point, I was like, “Man I wish we could've got that in.”
What producers would you want to curate an NBA 2K game?
Howard: We worked with Boi-1da, Murda Beatz and Pierre Borne on NBA 2K19. It would be amazing to work with one of those guys again.
Since 2014, streams from Microsoft's music streaming service Groove, formerly known as Xbox Music, have been counted toward a song's success on Billboard. Do you see a future where that extends to the streams done on NBA 2K?
Howard: I think that's a really interesting topic, and I think that's something that's going to probably evolve over the next 5 to 10 years. Video games being such a highly consumed entertainment platform, they all need music, and they all have music. Whether it's music that's composed and not really on iTunes, Spotify or anything, or it's just Top 40 music that's listened to day in and day out. I think it would be a good idea to one day merge the two, involving video game soundtracks on Billboard. There's so many artists I'd love to see charting on Billboard because of being on NBA 2K.
You also said in a previous interview that you can see NBA 2K turn into a concert. How would that go and why do you think so?
Howard: Park mode, for us, is a big deal. So, we've been adding modes within Park mode, which was Park After Dark for NBA 2K17. That was our virtual concert. You'd come out to the park, 99 other players are on the park and it's glow in the dark. It looks super different from the rest of game. It’s almost like a Tron-type look. Then we'd have a celebrity DJ. So, we had Snoop [Dogg] do one park. We had DJ Premier. Then, we had Future do one, as well. They each played 55 to 60 tracks that were not on the soundtrack. We really scanned Future and Premier into the game for that. You're giving the gamer a new experience that's like three hours long. We felt like it was a really big success and people really enjoyed it. That's 99 percent of the time what we're thinking when it comes to concerts and things of that nature.