I would never have imagined over 30 years ago when I was playing Super Mario Bros. on my NES that someday people would be making money playing video games professionally. Fast forward to today, and eSports have garnered quite a following. There are now competitive professional leagues with official sponsors whose events sell out sports arenas. Fans pack these venues to watch participants play games such as League of Legends, Hearthstone, and Overwatch.
More recently, even the major, mainstream sports have gotten into the action cosponsoring their own leagues. The NBA has partnered with the NBA 2K franchise to create a five on five basketball e-league while MLS has partnered with the popular FIFA franchise for eMLS.
Now, the NFL and developer of FIFA, Electronic Arts, have announced a joint partnership for the upcoming EA Sports Madden NFL 18 Championship Series. The two companies will be teaming with ESPN and Disney XD, who will exclusively broadcast the events. This announcement is significant because it will be the first foray of ESPN, a sports broadcasting giant, into a long term, multi-event competitive gaming agreement.
The Madden NFL Ultimate League is the first ever competitive gaming sports league of its kind featuring one-on-one competition between 16 of the best Madden NFL 18 players and will run from Friday, February 2nd for two and a half months of thrilling esports entertainment, culminating at the NFL Draft on April 28th. Six players qualified by finishing in the top two at one of the three EA Majors: the Madden NFL 18 Classic, Madden NFL 18 Challenge and Madden NFL 18 Club Championship, with the remaining 10 selected as top series points earners.
For the aforementioned Club Championship, the tournament began Friday, January 26th, 2018 during Pro Bowl weekend and runs until February 1st, leading into the Super Bowl. The finals will be shown on ESPN 2 and ESPN Deportes live.
Afterwards, Ultimate League action will be carried on Disney XD and ESPN, the App showcasing the weekly events until the Championship, which will be shown live on ESPN 2 from the NFL Draft. Accompanying the sports action in April, will be an episodic series that will emphasize the competitors and storylines to build up the drama. The Ultimate League Episodic Series will air Tuesdays at 9 pm ET on ESPN2.
I’m still new to eSports, but the whole idea of eSports based on real sports is an interesting and entertaining concept. As someone with a neuroscience background, I can say this is probably a good way for competitors to enjoy football with minimal risks to CTE. Find out more about the league from their official website.