With eSports growing at a rapid pace, NBA 2K & the National Basketball Association have announced the NBA 2K eLeague, which is scheduled to launch in 2018.
While long-term plans include an eSports team for every NBA franchise, the initial five-month season will feature teams for approximately only half of the league. Each team will have five professional gamers being paid salaries with the goal of making this endeavor their full-time job. Current plans include an 82-game season and playoffs for the eLeague. There has been a lack of a definitive launch timeframe and association with a specific title (to date).
What do you think of this formal eLeague? Are you interested? Will you watch or follow along?
Continue on to read coverage of this announcement from ESPN & USA Today as they have provided the most details thus far.
The NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software, makers of the mega-popular NBA 2K video game, are partnering to form a first of its kind esports league centered around the NBA 2K series, officials from both companies told ESPN.com Wednesday.
The NBA 2K eLeague, tentatively set to begin play in 2018, eventually will feature 30 NBA 2K teams, each owned by one of the real-life NBA franchises, according to NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Strauss Zelnick, the CEO of Take-Two. The teams, comprised of five human players, will play out a five-month season that mirrors the real NBA season. It will proceed through a regular season of head-to-head games, to playoffs and a championship matchup.
Silver declined to detail the NBA's initial level of investment in the league, but it's clear both companies view it as a huge potential money-maker.
"The financial consequences could be substantial," Zelnick said.
Specifics on schedule, structure, and even a salary cap still are hazy. All 30 NBA franchises are interested in participating, but some might not be ready when the eLeague tips, Silver said. The NBA hopes at least half its franchises will have teams in the eLeague by 2018, Silver said.
The NBA will hold an initial draft of esports players, and each NBA franchise will pick five to play as its eLeague team. They will draw salaries, train and essentially treat the NBA 2K eLeague as full-time jobs during the season.
Real NBA players will not be represented as avatars in the NBA 2K games, Silver and Zelnick said. Competitors will design on-screen avatars based on their own stylistic preferences.
The league will stage events, sell tickets for fans, create merchandize, sign sponsors and negotiate licensing rights so that fans can watch games remotely, Silver and Zelnick said.
Other NBA owners have independently invested in esports over the past two years. The owners of the Philadelphia 76ers last year purchased the esports giant Team Dignitas, which has teams across various leagues that focus on several popular games -- including League of Legends.
The Rockets hired a director of esports and are investigating investment opportunities across the industry. Owners of the Bucks, Grizzlies and Warriors have all made sizable investments in esports teams and players.
The NBA’s footprint was already expanding at an unreal rate, what with its massive television rights deal, games being played on international soil, Development League expansion, virtual reality offerings and the like.
And now, by way of the expected announcement on Thursday about their new “NBA 2K eLeague” partnership with Take-Two Interactive Software, that profile will include a wing for the video game community.
The joint venture, in which all 30 NBA organizations could eventually have an e-Team of its own with five professional gamers paid salaries to play a version of the popular NBA 2K video game, will be the first official eSports league that is operated by a U.S. professional sports league. It is scheduled to launch in 2018, with the gamers expected to play with user-generated avatars as opposed to those of NBA players.
“These are a completely different set of professional athletes,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told USA TODAY Sports. “There’s a global pool of gamers. They come in all ages, and sizes and ethnicities and sexes, and then we will at some point have a draft that will look somewhat similar to an NBA draft, in which the teams will select their players, and presumably on top of that they’ll have the ability to spot some great talent on their own, players who aren’t identified through sort of a league system. And that’s how we’ll form our teams.”
In his four-plus years as Commissioner, Silver has proved to be quite exceptional when it comes to staying ahead of the curve while growing the NBA’s brand. So when he tracked the booming growth in the gaming community, then spoke with Take-Two CEO and longtime acquaintance Strauss Zelnick about the possibility of forming a pairing between their two companies, he saw yet another chance to reach new legions of fans.
“I think it was sort of a great-minds-think-alike moment,” Strauss told USA TODAY Sports. “Our colleagues on both sides of the table said, ‘Well wouldn’t it be interesting to formalize this, and wouldn’t it be interesting to launch the first true competitive gaming league, and wouldn’t it be interesting if we co-owned that, threw our fortunes together, and made this an incredibly high priority for both of our organizations.’ And that’s where we find ourselves today.”
According to Strauss, there are “something like 250 million people who avidly consume competitive gaming events, (and) the revenue associated with the business (of) competitive gaming is still relatively small – it’s about half a billion dollars.”
As Silver and NBA officials were well aware, that figure is growing by the day.
“It’s expected to grow rapidly,” Strauss continued. “We fully believe that it will be well over a billion dollars as a market in the near future. Of that 250 million person audience worldwide, about half that audience - about 125 million people - are avid consumers of competitive gaming. They watch competitive gaming events, largely online. And this is nascent. It’s just beginning.”
Added Silver: “Fans and players of these games, who aren’t as expert as these professionals, want to come into an arena and watch the very best play. So you can imagine a scenario where, (say) the new arena in Milwaukee, where there’s five-on-five competition, just like NBA basketball, (and) it’s being projected on a huge, large high-definition screen, and fans are watching all the moves. There’s quarters, there’s halftimes, and everything that goes with it.”
Courtesy: USA Today