The rise in popularity of eSports has mainly been focused around leagues that play games like League of Legends, Dota and Counter-Strike – all games that aren’t actually sports-related.
But eSports games that are modeled after actual sports are also extremely popular – for example the Madden NFL and FIFA soccer franchises are some of the most popular games made for Xbox and Playstation.
The league will launch in 2018 and consist of teams operated by NBA franchises. While no teams have committed yet, league Commissioner Adam Silver told the WSJ that all 30 leagues have “expressed interest” in forming teams.
Each team will have five players, and play in a real league format complete with a regular season, playoffs, and a championship matchup.
This move is the first time a U.S professional sports league has created its own eSports league. It’s also interesting because it’s a move by the NBA to return the focus of eSports to actual sports. While the league and its franchises have been bullish on eSports in general (multiple NBA teams have bought or invested in eSports teams) the focus has been on games that aren’t related to actual sports.
For example, in October the League of Legends World Championships sold out the Staples Center in LA – surely a bullish sign for eSports. Then only issue (especially for professional sports leagues like the NBA) is that League of Legends is an online battle game with a mythical twist – essentially the polar opposite of a sports game like Madden or NBA 2K.
So by creating their own eSports league that is solely focused on NBA 2K , the league can ensure that actual sports like basketball remain an integral part of gaming and of eSports.
The league said that games will likely be broadcast both online and on TV – with championship matches potentially being held in NBA arenas.