Collegiate StarLeague has added NBA 2K19 to its upcoming slate of competitive events for more than 1,600 North American colleges and universities. The venerable basketball franchise joins CSL's already deep roster of titles that includes League of Legends, Overwatch, CS:GO and Dota 2.
Registration for the inaugural NBA 2K19 leagues opened on Thursday, with a round-robin group stage set to begin on Feb. 16. Admitted players will be whittled down to a March Madness-style playoff bracket of 64 teams, concluding in an in-person grand finals in April with $10,000 in scholarship prize money on the line. Both Playstation 4 and Xbox One consoles are supported, and registration for students is free.
"The community has been putting their hands up for a couple years now, saying we're passionate about NBA and we'd love to see NBA brought to college campuses," said Neil Duffy, vice president of CSL and its parent company, WorldGaming Network. "As a result, we think this can really grow and expand. We're really just serving the community what they've been asking for."
For Wim Stocks, CEO and general manager of CSL and WorldGaming Network, the addition of NBA 2K19 is the culmination of an eight-year relationship with 2K Games. Stocks, who attended the NBA 2K League draft in New York last April, believes the creation and success of the NBA-endorsed pro league helped 2K finally green-light a collegiate competition.
"That had a lot to do with why the collegiate space made so much sense, no different than how the traditional NCAA to NBA works," Stocks said. "[2K] sees the analogous circumstance there. We have the biggest footprint, the most momentum in collegiate esports with a number of different games, so we were at a good time and good place and start the dialogue early so they could get their heads around what it means to be a pro league and to have feeders to that pro league."
Stocks pointed to NBA commissioner Adam Silver's embrace of esports as another significant positive for the partnership. Silver's characterization of the NBA 2K League as the "fourth league in our family" alongside the NBA, G-League, and WNBA buttressed a path for promising amateurs to compete at the professional level.
"We have such an engaged partner already with 2K, obviously, but also the League," Stocks said. "The NBA is completely in on esports and supporting the NBA 2K League. Now, these players who have been amateurs in the 2K space and the collegiate space see that they have a path. They know they can play in these leagues and get put in the spotlight. They're more clarified as to who they can be in the professional ranks."
In an effort to broaden the pool of potential collegiate competitors, the CSL league will consist of 1 vs. 1 matches rather than the 5 vs. 5 featured in the NBA 2K League. Players will control real NBA rosters selected from a rotating pool of teams that change every week. It's a format closer to professional Madden or FIFA than the NBA 2K League, which employs five players per side, each piloting a created player.
"We wanted to make sure we got the game out there and gave people the opportunity to play and participate at a high level," Duffy said. "Taking the time to find people who are playing together on campus within a specific club is something we may look for in the future, but for ease of accessibility and inclusivity, the best opportunity was 1 vs. 1."
Given the prominence of basketball on college campuses coupled with widespread enthusiasm for the NBA 2K series, CSL anticipates a successful launch and bright future for its newest offering.
"If students on campus are looking to play games and they're putting their hand up and saying we want to participate in this game, CSL wants to be able to offer that," Duffy said. "This is the first of many years to come."