On Wednesday, the NBA and Take Two Interactive Software, the developers of the popular NBA 2K series, announced that a NBA-specific eSports league will be coming to the competitive video game circuit. Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, and Strauss Zelnick, the CEO of Take Two, announced the partnership, with the hope that play will begin in 2018.
The NBA eLeague, as it is being called, will follow the same format as the NBA itself. All 30 teams will field five professional video gamers and compete in an actual regular season against the other teams. These teams will be like the 30 NBA teams now, but will be differentiated with an "e" in front of it (i.e. the eLakers, eSpurs, eBucks, etc). There will be playoffs and a championship round, draft, and events for fans of the newest eSports game. So basically it'll be the same as the regular NBA, but only in video game form.
This step is an interesting one to take for the NBA. Lately they've been looking for ways to adhere to fans, specifically millennials, in regards to the game itself. They've looked at possible rule changes, shorter game clocks, anything they can do to keep the attention of the younger generation. Taking a look at eSports as a whole, it has grown to an extraordinary level. The growth of competitions for popular games like League of Legends, Call of Duty, Smite, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive, to name a few games, and the fan base these events bring (League of Legends sells out the Staples Center in LA for crying out loud!), it's a positive step in the right direction.
When it comes to competitive sports video games in general, the Madden NFL and FIFA series are currently on top. Madden just finished their Madden Bowl, which crowned the best online Madden player in the world, and FIFA has it's own world championship, the FIFA Interactive World Championship (FIWC). Streaming these events on social media brings out huge crowds, and have boasted positive results for these games, from both players and fans of both series. As someone who plays both games constantly, it makes the games better.
While there are many positives about this upcoming eLeague, there are some concerns that I have. If the league will be similar to the NBA, will games be played before or during actual NBA regular season games? Will there be an All Star Game for these guys? There's just too many questions surrounding this thing that Silver and Zelnick are trying to do. I would expect that down the road, more information will come out on how this thing will be ran. But for right now, I'll be a skeptic about it.
The NBA is looking outside the box when it comes to keeping the attention of the younger generation. eSports is a great way to go about it. But while I think about what is to come for the possible future of the NBA, I find myself asking this question. Will the NBA eLeague be a booming success to fans of the NBA and video games in general? Or will be a possible failure like the XFL was long ago?