The Early Evolution of the NBA 2K Studio Experience
By Justin M. Jacobson, Esq.
One thing is certain after the first few weeks of the inaugural season of the NBA 2K League: for fans more used the watching esports on Twitch, the live viewing experience is something wonderful to behold. The competitors sit on large, comfy chairs in the center of the intimately small studio. Teams of five face off across from each other—this is basketball, after all. Several rows of spectators sit behind the teams, and behind them, two large television screens show the live gameplay. Where pro basketball might be comparable to watching an arena concert, this is more like a secret gig.
During the season opening “Tip-Off” tournament and the first week of regular games, I was able to talk with several attendees to get a better idea of who was watching the competitions live and what they thought of the overall presentation. I spent time surveying the viewers to get their perspective of the very first day, then watched their opinions evolve throughout the first weeks of competition.
At all of these live events, the audience was primarily composed of friends and family of the competitors, plus individuals who worked with the league or a particular team. There have also been several members of both the traditional sports and esports press on site, especially for the launch day of the inaugural tournament.
Many of the attendees were college students and amateur gamers who knew the stars from playing them in pick-up games before they’d turned pro. Jose Abreu, a 20-year-old college student living in New York City, was there to support a friend who was competing in the league. Derek Cepin, 19, another student from NYC, came to see players he knew from the competitive NBA 2K circuit from before the league was founded.
Jesse Buddle, aka Champ2k, was there to watch former, and potential, rivals. Buddle is a student at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, Penn. The 21-year-old plans to become a travel nurse, but dreams of instead going pro in the NBA 2K League. He has spent years competing with and against many of the league’s current members, and is hoping to work within the organization or for a team in the future.
All three were impressed by the studio the NBA 2K League had created. Watching the games, said Abreu, is “much better in person that on the stream.” Cepin enthused that “so far it is amazing,” adding that he “can’t wait to see what happens next.”
The NBA 2K League has created a space that works well in getting the small crowd into the games. Spectators are able to see the player’s facial expressions and reactions on large television monitors mounted up high, hanging from the center of the room. Fans can hear, see, and get swept along with every players’ emotions during the games. Because the crowd is only a few feet from the team, you feel like you are a part of the action. The atmosphere of the studio has been Cepin’s favorite feature, “especially during a close game.”
Buddle highlighted how much the experience is evolving from day to day with the “constant changes to the presentation that the league is making.” At first, the league played instrumental tracks in the background. Now the studio features a DJ.
The tweaking, Buddle said, has been “similar to the changes in the actual NBA 2K game experiences over the years and with each ‘player patch.’” (Each year the game adds new features and elements to highlight new techniques and force gamers to continually adapt to new strategies and game modes.)
Entourage and Power actor Jerry Ferrara also made a surprise visit on Friday, May 11. Ferrara is now the head scout and creative consultant for Knicks Gaming, New York’s NBA 2K affiliate. Ferrara cheered the Knicks onto an exciting opening regular season victory. He seemed genuinely enthusiastic and interested in the action, exemplifying his passion for the esports space.
So far, the audience has been composed of those with close ties to the competitors, teams, and league—friends, family, representatives, and personnel. Now, summer is about to begin and college and school are about to end their academic years. Perhaps that might mean the demographics begin to change. I’m hoping to see an influx of gaming fans and even a few basketball fans. And although the small space enforces an intimate atmosphere, I’m hopeful that somehow the studio finds a way to mimic the experience of a traditional, sporting arena like those in the NBA.
This article was originally posted on Sport Techie.