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3 Esports That Will Rise Up the Ranks in 2020

Pokemon Sword and Shield

As 2020 nears, there is a new year for certain esports to leave their mark. Some are already established like League of Legends and CSGO. Others, will either be looking to claw their way back into relevance or work their way up the ladder. This list will look at current viewership, where the esport is at now and the overall potential. There are three in particular that have set themselves up to move up a tier or two in the eyes of the viewers, sponsors and more.


Rocket League

If there is an esport on the rise it has to be Rocket League. Not only is it exciting to watch but it is starting to get its star players and teams like the boys on NRG. It feels as though it is very close to hitting that point where it can just blast off. This is not just the feeling of the author but also prominent esports individuals such as Rod “Slasher” Breslau. But, just going off of a feeling is not the best way to determine the rise of an esport.

When looking at the viewership numbers compared to some of the other major esports, Rocket League is firmly in tier two and rising. According to escharts.com, the RLCS Season 8 World Champion had a peak viewership of 280,495 and an average viewer of 109,535. This is major for numerous reasons but when compared to something like the Overwatch League, it is nearly surpassing it for much less money invested. The OWL Playoffs had a peak of 318,019 and an average of 110,093. Rocket League is clearly in the same ballpark. When looking at the RLCS Season 7 World Championship just earlier this year even the viewership is up from peak 202,559 and average 96,106. Compared to exactly a year ago, the RLCS Season 6 World Championship had peak 165,702 and an average 93,149.

RLCS Season 1
Courtesy of Psyonix

These numbers don’t tell the whole story. Rocket League’s developer Psyonix was also bought by Epic Games which means the small studio now has an influx of cash. The game has also seen an increase in players over the past year according to Steamcharts.com. Add onto this that the Rival Series (secondary league) is getting two more teams and it shows that the RLCS is making the right moves for a healthy scene.

Overall, Rocket League is on the verge of pushing its way into the top tier. It has steadily grown in numerous ways in 2019 and is setting itself up for continued success. If this esport can continue to grow the way it has been then 2020 may finally be the year that it makes it to the top tier of esports.


Halo

An esport that once ruled the world during the times when MLG were the top dogs, Halo has now fallen into near obscurity. Whatever the reason may be, many have been wondering if there was ever a chance for it to come back? With Halo 5 came more problems than solutions and many are hoping that the sixth installment in the franchise will bring the esport back. The thing is, they may not have to wait that long.

(Courtesy of halowaypoint.com)

Just recently, Halo was announced and is now available on Steam, arguably the biggest gaming marketplace for PC in the world. This brought a myriad of new and old players. The game topped out with the Master Chief Collection having over 93,000 players at one time in early December according to Steamcharts.com. While that number has dropped to average about 22,000 players, it still shows that there is plenty of interest in the series.

Now that there have been more players coming back tournaments have started up again. Twitch Rivals Halo Reach brought a peak of 24,503 viewers and over 133,000 hours watched on a short six-hour stream according to escharts.com. This is way up from before the game was released on Steam. Just a month before its release DreamHack Halo Series Atlanta had nearly 5,000 peak viewers and only 68,428 hours watched for a 29 hours stream.

It is clear that Halo is well on its way to a second life in terms of its esport. This can mostly be attributed to the series going to PC which 343 Industries is sure to be watching. More tournaments will start to come back if the audience can stabilize and the esport will grow with it. This seems to be perfect for the release of the sixth installment of the game, Halo Infinite, which should be coming out during the holiday season of 2020. As long as that game does not bomb then Halo will be back. Maybe not to what it was but certainly much more than it is now.


Pokemon

The sad thing about Pokemon is that for so long it seemed as though the company making it did not want to realize its competitive potential. Which is strange considering one of the main points of Pokemon is battling. Yet for years it seemingly has been ignored or completely forgotten about. With the release of Pokemon Sword and Shield, the Pokemon Company not only has recognized how popular the competitive aspect of the game is but they built the game for that audience.

pokemon sword and shield dynamaxThis is likely due to the rise of esports as a whole. They understand that the scene that has survived essentially on its own for so many years, is in prime position to skyrocket into the upper echelons of the esports world. The numbers seem to back this up as well. According to Esports Charts, the 2018 Pokemon World Championship peaked out at 23,543 viewers and averaged 14,682. Then this past year, they peaked at 40,770 viewers and averaged 20,932. This is a pretty substantial increase and is also before Pokemon Sword and Shield were introduced into the competitive scene.

Another statistic worth noting is how many people play Pokemon compared to the number of people who currently watch the esport. Starting with Pokemon Go, the monthly active users are still in the 100 million range worldwide. As of the middle of 2018 specifically, there were 147 million. While this number fluctuates what this shows is Pokemon’s wide reach. Now looking at Sword and Shield, the latest numbers which are from its first week of sales, show it has already sold a record six million copies. This is before the holiday season which surely saw more games being sold. It is clear that the number of people interested in Pokemon are more than nearly any other franchise in the world.

All signs point to this finally being the year that Pokemon gets its esport in the spotlight and moving up the tier ladder. There are more than enough people interested in the series. If even a fraction of them were made aware of the esport scene, there is no doubt that the viewership and interest would grow. Also, the Pokemon Company has finally recognized its competitive scene. They have put ranked matches within Pokemon Sword and Shield and have provided data necessary to make a full team as easily as possible. There are already leagues created by fans worth checking out and even major orgs like SK Telecom signing professional players. Watch out for Pokemon to make some serious moves in the New Year.


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