Announced earlier in the year, the NBA is preparing to launch the NBA 2K esports league in 2018. The NBA has long showed a digital interest and desire to stay ahead of the curve.
With 17 NBA teams participating, managing Director of the NBA 2K League, Brendan Donohue recently spoke with GamesIndustry.biz to discuss the importance of the NBA’s esports involvement. “This is a massive industry and we think we have a place in it,” said Donohue. “The success of the 2K game and the popularity of the league makes this a logical step for us to take.”
Donohue continued, “We have great data on NBA fans, and that’s a massive audience. We see that NBA fans are more likely to play video games, and actually more likely to engage in esports than fans of other sports. We think there’s a pretty nice marriage here.”
The NBA has prior involvement with esports, hosting a tournament last season. With a $250,000 grand prize, the “Road To All Star” competition began on New Year’s Eve drawing 500,000 competitors and live-streaming the finals in February to an audience of over 2 million people.
Donohue doesn’t consider the NBA 2K League as a way to attract a larger audience for the NBA, nor a quick moneymaking opportunity, but a long-term project to develop a foundation for an esports league. The NBA connecting with esports fans can certainly attract a new audience for the NBA, but that’s not their goal, esports is an industry in itself.
The league will have 17 teams of five players, qualifiers will be held in February, with the 85 players announced in March. Players will not control NBA stars while competing in the league, because there needs to be a level playing field. During the NBA 2K League play, all players within the game will have the same skill set, leaving it up to the person controlling the players to use their own abilities to compete.
All games are expected to take place in one or two centralized locations. The NBA is currently in conversations to have the league televised. Both of the NBA’s major TV partners, Turner and ESPN have recently invested in esports. The NBA 2K game sold 9 million copies last year and averages 1.6 million daily users.
Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.