THE NBA is set to partner with Take-Two Interactive Software, makers of the NBA 2K video game series, on an ambitious esports league mirroring the real-life NBA.
The NBA 2K eLeague is currently planned to begin in 2018, reports ESPN’s Zach Lowe. It will expand upon the current trend of sports organisations buying esports teams with a league that eventually features 30 NBA 2K teams, each owned by a real-life NBA franchise.
Each team will be comprised of five human players. The teams will play a five-month season, mirroring that of the NBA, ending in a full playoffs and championship series.
The eLeague is currently in the development stage, meaning its schedule, structure and salary cap are still unclear however all 30 NBA franchises have shown interest.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver admitted that some teams may not be ready when the eLeague begins, with the league hopeful that at least half of its teams will have eLeague sides by 2018.
Many NBA teams already have an investment in esports. Owners of the Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks and Memphis Grizzlies have all made investments in esports teams and players.
Current plans also see the NBA holding a draft of esports players, with each franchise picking five. However the eLeague won’t use real NBA players with competitors creating their own characters in the game based on their gameplay tendencies.
This is likely for balancing purposes. In the NBA 2K games players are given ratings based on their skills and statistics — if the real-life NBA teams were used by the eLeague, the best squads would have an advantage, rather than it being based on the skill of the players.
Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick told ESPN “the financial consequences could be substantial,” with both the game maker and the league having faith in the money-making potential of the eLeague. Esports’ worldwide revenue for 2016 came in at around $US900 million.
Current plans see the eLeague staging events, selling tickets to fans, working with sponsors, creating merchandise and allowing fans to watch games remotely. Most esports are consumed via online streaming services such as Twitch.
— NBA 2K 2K17 (@NBA2K) February 9, 2017
“The popularity of NBA 2K with the young and growing esports community provides a unique opportunity to develop something truly special for our fans and the gaming community,” Adam Silver said in a statement.
“We look forward to combining our best-in-class NBA team operators with Take-Two’s competitive gaming expertise to create a brand new league experience.”