Next year, the National Basketball Association will officially enter the world of esports by way of its NBA 2K League. Managing director Brendan Donohue has now billed the association's esports involvement as "a long-term play" that he reckons will span multiple decades.
In conversation with Gamesindustry.biz, Donohue suggests the NBA is confident of its place in esports and that the success of the NBA 2K series makes the jump a "logical" step.
"We have great data on NBA fans, and that's a massive audience," says Donohue. "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.
"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. [Games like League of Legends] are awesome games, but they can be intimidating [to watch] of you've never played them."
Donohue points to the fact League of Legends finals have pulled bigger audiences than the Oscars, and that awareness isn't something he or his team consider an issue. That said, Donohue also describes revenues as "a secondary goal right now", and that building scale is their current focus.
He continues: "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.
"This is a long-term play for us. We expect this to be around for decades, so the primary goal is building an audience, doing that in the right way, and creating an environment where our players can be successful. We're confident the revenues will follow if we do that right."
The NBA 2K League is set to kick off next year. Gamesindustry.biz's interview with Donohue in full can be read in this direction.