The NBA is the first of the major US pro sports leagues to come off the bench when it comes to eSports. The NBA and its video game license partner Take-Two Interactive today announced the NBA 2K eLeague, the first official eSports endeavor operated by the US professional sports league on which it's based.
The NBA 2K eLeague is expected to tip off in 2018, with NBA franchises running their own five-player teams in a traditional eSports league format, from regular season to playoffs to a championship showdown. The founding teams in the eLeague have not yet been announced.
"We believe we have a unique opportunity to develop something truly special for our fans and the young and growing eSports community," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. "We look forward to combining our best-in-class NBA sports team operators with Take-Two's competitive gaming expertise to create a brand new league experience."
Take-Two has already been exploring eSports with the NBA 2K series, running large-scale tournaments for the games this year and last. The 2016 tournament saw 92,000 teams competing for a $250,000 grand prize. This year's tournament offers the same grand prize, with the finals set for the NBA's All-Star weekend later this month.
Speaking with GamesIndustry.biz about the rise of eSports last year, Take-Two CEO and chairman Strauss Zelnick said, "eSports we find very interesting. It is, however, still more a promotional tool than anything else. And most people see eSports as an opportunity to increase consumer engagement in their titles, and depending on the title, to increase consumer spending within the title."