Rocket League as an esport is on the rise.
The game’s second anniversary is just around the corner, bringing with it the beginning of the fifth competitive season. This comes just after the conclusion of the third season of the Rocket League Championship Series, the largest tournament available to professional and non-professional Rocket League players alike.
With this in mind, it’s easy to discern that Psyonix’s hit title will only continue to grow within the esports community, for a number of reasons.
Since the beginning of Rocket League, players have been working to perfect and expand their in-game mechanics.
During the first season of the RLCS, it was considered nearly impossible to predict and clear the ball as it was bouncing off your team’s backboard. By the beginning of the third season, however, playing the ball off of your opponent’s backboard was no longer as effective as it was not even a year prior. Players learned to predict those bounces and quickly get their cars in the air to clear the ball well away from their goals.
All players know they have the ability to jump and then flip the car in their chosen direction. Over the past two years though, top competitors learned to reset their jump mid-air, by touching all four wheels to the ball or the ceiling. This allows them to take another shot at the ball without ever touching the ground, changing it’s course and throwing off the opponents prediction.
This just scratches the surface of what players have come up with. It seems, so far, that there is no limit to what players can come up with regarding the mechanics and control of their cars.
New and Old Challengers
The third season of the RLCS brought with it some intriguing new challengers. The first two seasons had only been open to North American and European teams. Season three expanded to give the Oceanic region a chance to make their mark on Rocket League history as well.
Despite the expectations of casters and the players from NA and EU, one of these teams, Alpha Sydney, beat Denial Esports in the very first series of the world championships. They then went on to get knocked out of the double-elimination bracket, however, many believed they wouldn’t win a single series.
New challengers showed up within the NA and EU regions as well. Two players largely unknown prior to RLCS season three served important roles in helping their teams make it into the world championships.
Castors dubbed Timi “Timi” Falodun, playing for NA team Selfless esports, the “weekend warrior,” due to only being able to play on weekends. Regardless of this, Selfless Esports was one of the four NA teams to take the stage at The Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles for the RLCS season three world championships.
The second unknown player was Victor “Ferra” Francal, playing for the EU team The Leftovers. Ferra came out in the first week of league play and scored an insane goal, faking out all three players on FlipSid3 Tactics, the season two world champions. The Leftovers went on to take fourth place in the world championships.
Now, consider the recent announcement of the fourth season of the RLCS. While nothing has been announced, yet, regarding the inclusion of Oceanic teams, the number of NA and EU teams that will be included was increased. On top of the eight spots allotted for league play in both regions since season one, there will be a second division in season four. Despite limited details on this second division, we know that there will be room for an additional eight teams in both regions.
The addition of the Oceanic region, along with the mark made by these, as well as other, previously unknown players, were clear indications that it wasn’t too late for players to make their debut in the professional scene. Now, the announcement of a second division for, at least, NA and EU only furthers the suggestion that players can still break into Rocket League esports.
Finally, let’s take a look at the prize pools over the seasons. Psyonix has been able to vastly increase the prize pools available to these RLCS competitors since the first season. They’ve done this in two major ways.
The Psyonix team regularly adds new cars, decals, rocket trails and other cosmetic changes to the game for a small fee, with a portion of the proceeds going to the funding and prize pools for the RLCS. Since all of these additions have been cosmetic, thus far, players don’t have to worry about a pay-to-win dynamic.
The second way they’ve been able to increase the prize pools is through additional sponsors as the tournaments grow. Twitch, the largest site in the world for streaming games, is an official organizer. Right off the bat, working with Twitch, Psyonix has a competitive edge. Twitch often features live RLCS matches.
The sponsorships continue to grow as well. Old Spice and Brisk were the main sponsors at the beginning of season three. By the time the world championships rolled around, 7-Eleven was a new sponsor and Mobil 1 had become a returning sponsor from previous seasons.
Through these means, the total prize pool rose from $55,000 USD in season one to $300,000 in season three. The prize for being crowned the world champions in season three was $55,000 alone, the amount of the entire prize pool for season one.
It’s reasonable to guess that the prize pool for season four will see its own increase.
As of Wednesday, NBC Sports announced their break into esports with a two vs. two Rocket League tournament, with a prize pool of $100,000.
NBC Sports will air post-qualifier matches on regional channels and the grand finals on their national channel. Along with NBC Sports, several networks in other countries will broadcast the grand finals.
This is the first time Rocket League is hitting cable and could be a huge step towards cementing the game’s place within esports. It has the potential to attract new viewers, something vital to the longevity of a game as an esport.
While some may prefer to stream the esports they watch, there are important potential benefits to consider. NBC Sports televising Rocket League is not only a step towards the growth of the game’s esports scene, but another small push forward for epsorts in general. The longer the list of esports titles that are televised the better, in my opinion. I dream of one day going to a sports bar and seeing as many television screens filled with esports as traditional sports.
All things considered, Rocket League doesn’t appear to be going anywhere in the esports community but up. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, grab your favorite gamepad or keyboard and mouse and start practicing.