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Electronic Arts announced on Thursday that "NBA LIVE 18," the latest from EA Sports' long-running basketball video game series, will include teams and players from the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) when it debuts this fall.
The release from EA Sports' Orlando, Florida-area studio, EA Tiburon, will be the first video game to feature the full roster of teams and athletes of the WNBA. The decision was borne in part by efforts to bring more diversity to the video game industry, said Sean O'Brien, EA Sports' executive producer for NBA, in a phone interview with CNBC.
O'Brien said he was partly inspired by Vancouver, British Columbia-based studio EA Canada's inclusion of women's soccer teams in "FIFA 16."
"It's our responsibility to do this for all types of people," O'Brien told CNBC. "You'll definitely see more of it."
The company was ranked a 2017 Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality by the Human Rights Campaign, according to an EA spokesperson. "Our commitment to inclusion is embedded in our recruiting process, from job descriptions to interview panels to tackling unconscious bias with blind resumes and candid feedback to interviews," the person said.
The new playable roster will be available in a separate game mode called "WNBA Play Now."
To distinguish the WNBA gameplay from the NBA modes, the development team held motion capture sessions with multiple athletes, including 2017 WNBA draft first overall pick Kelsey Plum. The team also took three-dimensional head scans of a number of WNBA stars, such as Maya Moore, Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi.
"We are delighted to collaborate and make history with EA," WNBA President Lisa Borders said in a press release. "With EA's expertise and ingenuity, the game will provide a terrific platform to showcase the players and the league, enabling fans to experience the WNBA in a new, exciting way."
WNBA teams will not be playable for online gaming in "NBA LIVE 18." O'Brien said he wanted his team to focus on "building a base foundation for the WNBA this year."
"In order to do that properly, I wanted to make sure we invested everything in 'WNBA Play Now,'" which O'Brien said enabled his team to focus on minor details, from players' jerseys to the official orange-and-white WNBA basketball.