The National Basketball Association will create a US eSports league in collaboration with 2k publishers Take-Two Interactive.
The two have worked together since 1999, selling over 65 million copies of their NBA 2K game series.
“We look 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,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
The league, named the NBA 2k ELeauge, will launch in 2018, with a five month season in line with the traditional NBA league. For now just a select few teams will be chosen to compete, but eventually all 30 of the association’s teams will have their own e-sports division.
Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick has said they are looking to make the league feel as real as possible, with a traditional 82-game season that will see winner progress to play-offs. The champion will receive a grand prize of $250,000.
Zelnick said, “With this new venture, Take-Two and the NBA aim to fuel the accelerating growth of e-sports and take the thrill of competition to exciting new heights.”
Competitive eSports is increasingly popular, with annual revenues that reportedly now exceed $500 million, a 25% year on year rise according to a 2016 Deloitte report.
Here in the UK we’ve already seen premiere league teams taking their first steps into e-sports, with West Ham becoming the first UK to sign an e-sports player. Sean Allen, a professional e-sports competitor, was put on the pay roll to represent the club at FIFA tournaments.
The new league marks the biggest match-up between established major league sport and the video game industry.