In 2018, the NBA will take a cue from the Netherlands in welcoming the first eSports members to its official franchises.
On February 6, Dutch soccer league Eredivisie made eSports an official part of its schedule. Now, for the first time in the U.S., a professional sports leagues is following suit. The National Basketball Association, in partnership with Take-Two Interactive, will bring talented young gamers onto the proverbial court, if not the literal one.
Like the Eredivisie, NBA franchises will host their own virtual teams. The league will have a regular season, then playoffs, coming to a head in a championship tournament. It’s a traditional, easily digested format that runs parallel to most others in the burgeoning eSports scene.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that the association “[believes] we have a unique opportunity to develop something truly special for our fans and the young and growing eSports community,” and that they are looking 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.”
While last year Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick called eSports “more a promotional tool than anything else” and little more than a method by which to “increase consumer spending within [a game],” it didn’t stop the company from investing heavily into the future of high-stakes virtual competition. 92,000 teams competed for a quarter-million dollars in 2016, and Take-Two will be doing the same this year, on top of this landmark deal with the NBA.
Follow Nate Church @Get2Church on Twitter for the latest news in gaming and technology, and snarky opinions on both.