Take-Two and the NBA have signed a distribution partnership with Tencent that will allow gaming fans in China to watch the NBA2K League. The deal takes effect this weekend.
China is well known for its massive esports fanbase, and the NBA has grown to become the nation’s most popular sporting league. As a result, the partnership could help to make NBA2K one of the fastest-growing esports in China.
Granted, NBA2K is already a very popular game in China. There are over 40 million registered users of the sports simulator in the nation, and until now, this was a relatively untapped market for the game’s esports franchise.
NBA2K developments in China
This year saw the NBA2K League APAC Invitational that allowed gamers from Asia-Pacific countries to qualify for the North American NBA2K League. Although no Chinese players managed to qualify, huge national enthusiasm should follow.
A recent report from Newzoo stated that China’s 75 million esports enthusiasts make up over one-third of the world’s 201 million hardcore gaming audience. Although much of this community focuses on battle arena games like League of Legends and mobile games like Honor of Kings, there could well be a crossover.
The partnership with Tencent gives Take-Two and NBA a massive boost. By partnering with the world’s largest gaming company, NBA2K should garner peak viewership among one of the biggest audiences in the world.
China’s love affair with basketball
What makes this project all the more exciting is the fact that basketball already has a proven audience in China. In recent years, the NBA has become China’s most popular league sport. Estimates indicate over 300 million Chinese citizens play the sport.
The NBA has already capitalized on this enthusiasm to launch its Chinese league in 2008. The Chinese Ministry of Education has also helped develop programs for the sport.
But it’s the link between basketball and its digital counterpart that could be most profitable. A report by Niko Partners in 2018 stated that China will have more than 768 million gamers by 2022. Plus, it should easily maintain its position as the world’s largest games market.
Overall, the NBA will be keen to develop its relationship with China as it aims to expand global branding. The sporting league’s partnership with Take-Two is one of the most forward-thinking pro esports ventures in the world, showing traditional sports and competitive gaming can work well together.
Ultimately, the NBA2K could easily become one of China’s biggest esports.