from the this-just-got-real dept
eSports has been a thing for some time now. While competitive video gaming was once relegated to some minor tournaments incorporating a few games held in a couple of countries in Asia, eSports has evolved into a wider industry. You can track the progress of it all by its reaching certain checkpoints: viewership numbers that look like those of real-life sporting events, the introduction of college scholarships for eAthletes, and eSports coverage appearing on national broadcasts from the likes of ESPN. The trend line for this has only moved in one direction. And now that appears to be continuing with professional sports leagues getting in on the action.
The latest in this is the National Basketball Association's announcement that it will be partnering with Take-Two Interactive to start its own eSports basketball league.
Today, the National Basketball Association announced plans to partner with publisher Take-Two Interactive for an official NBA 2K esports league, which led NBA commissioner Adam Silver to deliver this fantastic quote to the Wall Street Journal: “Think of eBulls against the eKnicks.”
The way this will work should be exactly as I imagined it would when I began playing the single player versions of sports games half a decade ago. And I'm sure many others considered how this might happen as well. Individual gamers would control individual custom players within an official league. It's like playing the MyPlayer version of the NBA2K series, except that you're playing in a league consisting of nothing but MyPlayers and competing online for teams, which might have their own owners, pay structures, etc.
The league, Silver explained, will operate just like the NBA: It’ll have a regular season, a playoff bracket, and a finals matchup. Teams of five players, each with his (or her?) own custom NBA 2K characters, will compete in a five-month season that starts in 2018. There’ll even be a draft, Silver said, although he also noted to the Wall Street Journal that none of the 30 NBA teams have fully committed to this esports league yet. (He expects around half of them to participate in the first year.)
It's not hard to imagine how this could balloon from this starting point. Owners of eSports NBA franchises might in the future fill a 12-man roster with gamers in this manner. They might hire coaches, fill out budgets for general managers that will be responsible for drafting and signing eAthletes, etc. It would be an eSports league that would mirror the real life sports league in most ways. The concept sounds really fun, though it remains to be seen how many NBA teams want to get on board.
What is clear, though, is that eSports isn't some fad ready to flame out quickly.