If you have been waiting for the time when eSports will be truly legitimized, mark this day down in your My Little Pony journal. The NBA announced that it would be partnering with Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc to create a “professional competitive gaming league” called the NBA 2K eLeague. This is the first time that a professional sports league has operated an eSports league. The teams in the league will be composed of professional eSports players on teams owned and managed by actual NBA franchises.
Starting in 2018, the five person teams will create and compete against each other as avatars in NBA 2K games, and they will play seasons with playoffs and championships, just like the actual NBA teams.
This is really smart for the NBA and Take-Two. The NBA will exert control over an eSports league that has the potential to make them a truckload of cash. Even if it fails, they will be able to keep its competition from existing, outspend them in advertising, and make money on endorsements and advertising.
Take-Two will benefit, because its NBA 2K series will be reaching more than just gamers. With the co-promotion through the NBA, they will have a chance to put its marquee product in front of people who would never think to purchase the game and still hit the gamers who purchase the new version every year. If the eLeague is a success, they have more prestige for its brand, and there really is no downside for them. Without knowing the full financial consideration on either side, Take-Two will still be developing a new game, so that will not be a new expenditure for them.
The bottom line is that if this is successful, it will be good for gamers and eSports in general. We would not be surprised to see other major sports forming its own eleagues. Gamers will reap the benefits, because it will push eSports into the mainstream.
If there is a loser here, it may be the YouTube channels who have been broadcasting other eSports. Good luck with the cease and desist letters from the NBA.