Over the years video games have grown from a niche entertainment platform into a dominant commercial and cultural force. And while plenty of casual players drive this thriving industry, a new class of professional gamers has also emerged on the Internet and in “eSports” leagues. During these competitions, dedicated players face off against each other in front of thousands of cheering fans, just like at regular sporting events.
Like video games themselves, eSports were once thought to hold limited appeal to the general public. Now experts estimate that competitive gaming will grow into a $1 billion industry within a few years. As a result, many established brands are looking to get in on the ground floor. For instance, the NBA recently announced that it plans to form its own league based on the popular NBA 2K series of games. The league will be organized much like a standard athletic competition: players will tryout at a combine and then be drafted into five-person teams supported by real NBA franchises. The regular season starts in 2018 and includes playoffs.
For the NBA, this presents an opportunity to reach out to a new batch of consumers. “There’s an untapped audience on both sides of the equation,” said NBA vice president Matt Holt. “On the NBA side, we have a lot of fans who don’t play the 2K game, and I’m sure there are 2K players who aren’t fans of the NBA. This is another chance to engage them.” The league will be owned jointly by the NBA and Take Two, the makers of 2K. So far, the company has sold more than 68 million copies of the 2K series and hopes that its new eLeague will expand the brand even further.
- Will eSports ever grow large enough to rival traditional athletics?
- How will the NBA’s established brand help its eSports league grow?