By Gerald Hopkins
A google search of “most popular esports” brings familiar titles on the page. Games like League of Legends, Rocket League, Overwatch, DOTA 2, and Counterstrike are the backbones of the industry and are what Esports have started and grown around. But I implore you to take a look with me at traditional sports like basketball, soccer, and football’s esports counterparts. NBA2K, FIFA, and MADDEN have competitive esports scenes of their own that have some impressive competition and prizes as well.
There are two major esports scenes in the world of NBA2K, one that is based around the MyPlayer mode, and the other that is based around the MyTeam mode. Let’s first break down the MyPlayer scene.
The MyPlayer game mode is arguably the mode that launched NBA2K into the forefront of basketball video games. This mode was first put into the game back in 2010. It gives you a chance to create a player and upgrade that player while playing in NBA games or online. This mode is the center of the NBA2K League, which has 23 different teams that draft players once a year and is modeled a lot like the actual NBA. Players can be traded, released, and drafted year after year.
Each team is sponsored by an NBA professional team, and it’s pretty obvious which teams sponsor which. For example, the Memphis Grizzlies sponsor the Grizz gaming team.
While the league is still working out some kinks, it has been steadily growing since 2017, with spots for the seven other teams in the NBA that have not found an esports counterpart. The draft for the next season is being held virtually March 13th and will have a player pool of up to 250 players in the draft this season.
The other esports scene is the 250K Myteam Unlimited tournament, which is built around the Myteam game mode. The game mode “My Team” has a very similar structure to the Ultimate Team modes that both Fifa and Madden have as well. Players have to play through pre-qualifying events and the best 16 players on each console compete in a tournament to determine the best Myteam player on said console. This year, On February 20th, the winners from each console won out. XBOX One’s TwoWayRoco will face NewEditionFlash, the winner of the PS4 bracket. These two will play on March 6th for the $250,000 prize.
Through Ultimate Team, the FUT Champions competition brings out some of the best FIFA players yearly. This idea was implemented in 2017 to bring a more competitive experience to the game. Each weekend, players have 30 games to compete to be in the Top 100 and fall into different ranks accordingly. The ranks go from Bronze to Rank 1. In order to progress, a player needs to win and acquire skill points to push up the rankings. Players acquire skill points by beating other “skilled players”, which helps set up the ranks to those players who have won all 30 games.
Fifa, like its real-life counterpart, is huge across the globe. Fifa 21 saw up to 1.5 million people buy the game virtually, and that was just in the first month. The FIFA Global Series is where some of the best of the best get their chance to shine. The best players play in regional cups, then the best players from the regional cups qualify for the regional playoffs. There are six different qualifying regions that stem across the world. The next event in the North American qualifiers is from March 6th to 7th.
While both Madden and FIFA are made by the publisher EA, their competitive scenes vary. The Madden 21 Club Championship is a fun twist on the Madden Ultimate team mode. Each year competitors pick a real NFL team to compete under, and that becomes its own conference. The winner of that conference then goes on to represent the team in the Club Championship tournament. Then each team plays each other in the same division that the NFL currently has, so teams in the NFC play against one another, and teams in the AFC do the same. The winners of these tournaments play in their own Super Bowl, or as they labeled it the Grand Final, and it looked a bit different than the Super Bowl this year. In the Grand Final, Jwall, who represented the Detroit Lions, beat Pavan, who represented the Las Vegas Raiders, 14-6. Jwall won $150,000, and the prize pool for the top 64 players was $750,000.
Madden also has some different creator/ influencer events. King of the Hill is a perfect example of this, as the event has two different brackets, one with the best Madden players in the world, and the other side has NFL rookies from the 2020 draft class. Another one is Derwin James v.s the World, which sees NFL safety Derwin James for the Los Angeles Chargers play a different challenger each week. Some are Madden pros, NFL players, or Madden influencers and content creators. These events have more of a Twitch Rivals feel to them but are still part of the competitive scene.
Why is any of this important?
While the world of esports is growing, most of the games are PC-based. These three games are primarily made for console players and each scene has legitimate funding and interest. As these games and their competitive scenes continue to grow, it has the ability to help bridge a gap between console players and PC players in a way that Fortnite did at the start of its esports scene. The buy-in from NBA teams especially is promising, because it gives another mode of legitimacy to these young scenes, and gives people who enjoy watching the game a chance to make a living from it.