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Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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Esports Winter: NBA 2K League Hits Pause Button Amid Industry Decline

  • The previously high-profile esports league is now effectively on hiatus amid widespread layoffs.
  • The property now intends to lean more into influencer-based content, including from NBA, WNBA players.
NBA 2K League

Five years ago, Monumental Sports & Entertainment chairman Ted Leonsis notably said that, “I believe that in 10 years, an NBA 2K player will be more well known, popular, and better compensated than LeBron James. It’s just math.”

Not only is that prediction becoming more elusive with James’s new $104 million contract extension with the Lakers, but the league Leonsis was lauding then is now fundamentally retrenching amid a broader sluggishness across esports. 

The NBA-backed NBA 2K League—which debuted in 2018 and marked the first major U.S. sports league to form its own esports property—on Tuesday said it is “revamping” its operations to focus on influencer-based content, driven in part by NBA and WNBA players and other celebrities, instead of continuing as a more traditional esports property.

Additionally, gaming and entertainment news website Dexerto reported that most of the current NBA 2K league staff has been laid off. With those moves, the league is now effectively on hiatus until next year. 

“The future business will combine NBA and Take-Two brand assets, and seek to engage consumers who live and play where pop culture, gaming, and basketball collide,” the league said in a statement, which also promised “more details on our 2025 competitive season in the coming months.”

Bigger Issues

The NBA 2K League’s woes are far from isolated. Despite previously heady predictions, far beyond those of just Leonsis, for the growth of esports, the overall market has been declining for more than a year. That retreat, branded within the industry as a so-called “esports winter,” has been marked by a series of layoffs, team closures, falling valuations, financial losses, and missed expectations in terms of viewership. 

In addition to those larger challenges, sports as a content genre has struggled within esports, with many fans and competitors preferring other types of games such as first-person shooters.

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