The NBA regular season has just begun. And their eSports venture — the NBA 2K League — is really gearing up, with launch set for May 2018..
Brendan Donohue, NBA 2K League’s managing director recently spoke about the league at the Esports Live. He also spoke with gamesindustry.biz.
Much of the discussion focused on a question that might seem obvious to eSports fans: Will people watch?
The Daily Mail writes: “Bringing in the viewers is the main challenge for a game hoping to break into the esports scene. Luckily for the 2K League, Donohue believes the desire for NBA esports is already there. The finals of the NBA 2K all-star event in February brought in 2 million viewers.”
Said Donohue: “We get the question constantly asking do you really think people are going to want to watch people play video games against other people? I like to challenge them a bit about their own viewing habits. Think about 10 years ago. Would people have thought you’d be watching someone else buy up a house, or a cooking show? Yet these are some of the most popular shows on TV right now.”
“We think expertise, and watching the best of anyone compete at something is a very attractive proposition, and it’s exponentially better when you add a layer of competition to it.”
Donohue told gamesindustry.biz: “We have great data on NBA fans, and that’s a massive audience. We see that NBA fans are more likely to play video games, and actually more likely to engage in esports than fans of other sports. We think there’s a pretty nice marriage here.”
He continued: “I don’t think you have to be a fan of 2K to enjoy watching. That’s one of our advantages: the NBA 2K game, and basketball more broadly, are globally recognisable. You can watch having never played the 2K game before and understand what’s going on. That gives an advantage with that more casual audience.”
And does the NBA 2K League need to excel financially on day one?
gamesindustry.biz writes: “[Donohue] also stressed that this is neither a moneymaking venture designed to capitalise on the popularity of esports, nor a sunk marketing cost to draw yet more attention to the NBA. Next year’s NBA 2K League is instead the foundation for an esports venture that will grow for years – at least, that’s the association’s hope.”
Said Donohue: “We are focused on building an authentic community through the NBA 2K League. Revenues are a secondary goal right now. Our first goal is to scale this and make it a global entity – and we’re pretty confident we can do so.”
Of course, the vision is global.
Donohue told gamesindustry.biz: “There’s a significant appetite for the game in the US, but more importantly globally. We have a free version of the game in China that has 34 million registered users. That suggests there’s a global appetite for the game; in fact, I don’t think people understand how big the 2K game is globally.”
The Daily Mail: “The season will be 17 weeks long, 15 weeks of regular season and 2 weeks of playoffs to determine the winner. In addition, tournaments will be inserted throughout the season, combining the structures of the regular NBA and regular esport schedules.”
According to Engadget: “Along with the Cavs and Warriors, the rest of the teams in the first season of the 2K League include the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz and Washington Wizards.”