At first blush it doesn't seem to stand out: NBA 2K11 cracked the top 20 of most played titles on the Xbox 360 for the week of Jan. 16. But when you peel it back, that's actually quite astonishing, to see an old version of a sports video game resurface more than 15 months after its release.
This is not unprecedented. EA Sports' FIFA series routinely places its two most current editions in the Xbox Live top 20, especially around the time the new version is releasing. (FIFA 11 and FIFA 12 were top 20 from 12's Sept. 27 release to the end of the year.) FIFA's global popularity certainly explains its longevity here. Madden, EA Sports' long-running powerhouse, also does a double-dip in its release window, though it drops off more quickly.
But a look back suggests that when the old version leaves the top 20, it usually doesn't come back. Certainly not after a three-month layoff.
What's going on? I put this to some folks inside 2K Sports, who were just as surprised (albeit pleasantly) as I was. It doesn't track to the tip off of the new NBA season—that was Dec. 25. While 2K Sports announced it would extend online support for NBA 2K11, in light of problems with NBA 2K12's multiplayer features, that happened back in November, a month after release. And it's especially irrelevant as this figure concerns the unique users playing the game who are connected to Xbox Live, which has nothing to do with playing online multiplayer or connecting to the 2K servers.