Photo: Dan Steinberg/AP
Central Florida Roundup
Orlando Magic hopes to turn gamers into basketball fans
The Orlando Magic hopes to cash in on a new spin on video gaming.
The Orlando Magic and 16 other NBA franchises have agreed to sponsor teams in a new video game basketball league, as the professional basketball industry aims to develop a new line of e-sports revenue streams — and to convert a generation of young gamers into ticket-paying, television-watching basketball fans.
The NBA 2K League — a partnership between the NBA and Take Two Interactive, the publisher of the NBA 2K video-game franchise — will “tip off” in May and will function, in many respects, much like the real-world NBA. Each of the 17 teams participating in the league is expected to draft five gamers this month after months of leaguesponsored tryouts. The teams then will compete against each other through a regular season, several in-season tournaments and a season-ending playoffs, with each of the games live-streamed over a service such as Twitch. (Negotiations as to which streaming service the league would use were still underway in January.)
Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins says the franchise will bring its five gamers to Orlando, likely putting them up in the same house so they can practice frequently. Unlike regular video games, where gamers control avatars of actual NBA players, NBA 2K League gamers will control avatars of themselves. “These players are intended to, over time, become celebrities in their own right,” he says.
The value for the Magic is two-fold. First, the team will get the rights to sell the advertising inventory for each of its “home” games in the videogame league, including courtside signage, court logos and uniform ads.
Second, the team and the league hope that video game fans who watch the video-game league, who skew even younger than the NBA’s own 20-to-35 demographic, will eventually became real-world basketball fans. The NBA 2K video-game franchise has roughly 1.6 million daily active users, and Martins says the early research suggests that most of them are not active basketball fans.
“There’s a real opportunity for fan development and fan growth of our brand,” Martins says. “The goal is to develop them into a broader fan and into a fan that would be attracted to watching the NBA on television or watching a game in person.”