NBA 2K16 may be getting a $250,000 esports competition, but publisher Take-Two Interactive admits this is more about marketing than making any money from pro gaming.
Take-Two president Karl Slatoff says that esports is primarily about marketing, not making revenue, for his company. The publisher announced the NBA 2K16 Road to the Finals event earlier this week. This tournament awards $250,000 to the best player of the simulation basketball game in June as part of the NBA Finals. This will have NBA 2K16 join games like Call of Duty and League of Legends in the growing esports scene, which is a market that intelligence firm Newzoo predicts will grow to $1.1 billion by 2019.
But Take-Two is interested in those figures because it wants to use pro gaming to promote its core business.
“So far we see it as a great marketing tool,” Slatoff said during a conference call with investors. “It’s an additional way to gain exposure and expand our audience. That is our primary focus at this point.”
Take-Two is not alone in viewing esports as a tool to build up excitement for a “real” product. Activision has had a $1 million tournament for its Call of Duty games multiple times in the past. Even Riot, which runs the massively popular esports game League of Legends, makes the vast majority of its money from the game itself. This is despite the more than 35 million people who tune in to watch pro League events.
Slatoff went on to acknowledge that some companies make money directly from esports, but he’s not convinced it is a fit for Take-Two.
“I think the jury is still out,” he said. “It remains to be seen if it is a direct way for our company to make revenue.”
Take-Two’s skepticism is not permanent, and Slatoff said that the NBA 2K16 Road to the Finals will help the publisher have more of an understanding of how esports works.
“We’re not expecting it to be enormous,” he said. “It certainly is making us think more and more what the opportunity is for the company.”