Since it exploded onto people’s TV and computer screens last summer, Rocket League has quickly gained a reputation as an incredibly fun, incredibly fast, and incredibly easy game to pick up and start playing. Given it’s competitive and soccer-like nature, it didn’t take long before organizations like Major League Gaming tested the waters and tried to determine whether or not Rocket League could be a good E-Sport. Fortunately, as you can see in this video of the first ever MLG finals, the end results were extremely, extremely promising. And it’s very easy to see why.
I have an optional (and somewhat lengthy) task for you. First, watch the previously linked video of the Rocket League MLG finals above. After that, watch this video of the DOTA 2 International finals. (If you already play/follow DotA 2, disregard this.) If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t follow DotA 2 or other MOBAs, which of the above videos made more sense and was easier to follow? I can guarantee your answer would be the Rocket League video. You see, the difference between the two games is that you don’t have to have an intimate understanding of Rocket League to watch it like you would with League of Legends or DotA 2. The fact that it’s pretty much soccer but with rocket powered cars means that it’s very accessible and easy to enjoy, even as the most casual observer. Combine this with the fact that the game has released/is releasing hockey and basketball game modes, and it doesn’t take much to see why a game like this has such wide appeal compared to other competitive e-sports, like MOBAs and FPS’s.
When you look at the image above, what do you see? Obviously there’s a car there, but you may need to read between the lines. To those who didn’t see it right away, the answer was advertising space. Not only is this a huge reason to consider Rocket League as a major E-Sport, but it’s the reason I see brought up the least. While in the above image (taken by yours truly) the ad space is taken up by Rocket League developer Psyonix in order to advertise the upcoming Rocket League Championship Series (more on that later), what we have there is a fantastic opportunity for corporate sponsors to get involved and support major Rocket League tournaments by purchasing ad space in the in-game arena itself. While some may have a problem with companies getting involved in this manner, is it so different than companies sponsoring soccer teams by having their logos on jerseys, or by having their logos on the boards in hockey rinks? Not at all. After all, all it would do is increase the prize pool for the teams involved, which is an incentive to play competitively by itself.
Recently, the developers of Rocket League, Psyonix, announced the inaugural season of the Rocket League Championship Series. While several organizations like Major League Gaming have held their own regional and final tournaments, this is an official effort by the developer to join an official league of three man teams and establish an actual season and final tournament. While your casual Rocket League player may not qualify, this is important as it gives the opportunity for regular players to join the league if they form a team with two friends or acquaintances. This drives up interest in the game in an indirect way. When people play a game, they’re more inclined to pay attention to a final tournament to decide a champion of that game. It’s the same reason why people who played hockey as a kid are more likely to watch the Stanley Cup, for example. By participating in any sort of league, players have more of a vested interest in watching the finals, because they possibly partook in the league itself, even if it was unsuccessfully.
While it has serious potential, Rocket League has a ways to go in terms of viewership and prize pools. But as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it would be unfair to assume Rocket League will become a huge e-sport overnight. Would you or wouldn’t you watch competitive Rocket League? Let me know in the comments below.