The very nature of the game opens up 2K's NBA series for competition, but the publisher has finally decided to take things to the next level by throwing enough money at their basketball franchise to start their version of an esport.
It starts from February 15 in North America, and it's called Road to the Finals. By playing a series of Pro-Am matches, players on PS4 and Xbox One will be able to qualify for a US$250,000 tournament. The top 16 from both consoles will be pitted against each other in a single elimination bracket, with the winners facing off for the grand prize in June during the actual NBA Finals.
"The NBA 2K development team has aspired to join the exciting world of eSports for years,” Visual Concepts president Greg Thomas said in the press release.
It makes sense that the NBA 2K series hasn't made more of an esports push before. If you're going to make a play for esports, your servers have to handle the load. That's something the NBA 2K series hasn't had a great track record in the last couple of years, although maybe the developers hope to alleviate any issues by having the competition start well after the release.
Unfortunately, the competition is only open to North American and Canadian residents, although those living in a handful of US states (as well as Quebec) will also miss out. But the wording of the announcement indicates that 2K are looking to further expand their esports ventures for NBA 2K17 and beyond, and it'll be interesting to see if they make some kind of global push in the months to come.
It's also interesting to see more companies start to unveil what you could call their esports strategy. Despite the inherent competitive nature of the game, the NBA 2K series isn't the most natural fit for video game tournaments. But publishers are increasingly wanting to take advantage of the esports audience, so expect to see more announcements of this ilk with other IPs down the road.