The Biggest eSport No One Knows About Yet
Rocket League came out quietly in July 2015. The developers themselves said that they expected 10,000 or less to be playing at the time of launch.
Rocket League's Humble Beginnings
Let me take you back 7 years or so. Psyonix, a small developer in San Diego, had never really released one of their own games. They had mostly done work for other companies, one of which was Square Enix. That all changed when one of their guys in the office got an idea: cars playing soccer with rocket boosters. That idea became Super Sonic Acrobatic Rocket Powered Battle Cars, a PS3 indie exclusive available in the PS Store. The game was wildly popular, with the few thousand people that actually played it. If you talk to most Rocket League pros who started with SARP, as it is affectionately called by those from the early days, they will tell you that once they found it there were no other games to play. They spent all of their time on SARP, honing their skills, learning, and competing. Although it was a revolutionary game in terms of what a sports game could be on a console, it went mostly unnoticed.
The game was wildly popular, with a few thousand people that actually played it. If you talk to most Rocket League pros who started with SARP (as it is affectionately called by those from the early days), they will tell you that once they found it, it was the only game they wanted to play. They spent all of their time on SARP, honing their skills, learning, and competing. Although it was a revolutionary game in terms of what a sports game could be on console, it went mostly unnoticed.
In 2008, Psyonix announced that they were working on a sequel to the popular SARP. The fans were excited, but as the years passed, people began to wonder if they would ever get to see the next gen heir to their beloved game. Then finally, 2014 arrived. The alpha was here, and then the beta — which was streamed on Twitch 24/7. And then the day that everyone had been waiting for: Rocket League was released to the public.
Rocket League Now
Since the launch, the only direction Rocket League has moved is forward. With a consistent 100,000 players or more every weekend, three to five tournaments a week pulling hundreds of teams, this game is here to stay. Although I am not an avid fan of many other eSports, I can say that from my time watching MOBAs, FPSs, and fighting games, I have never seen anything as dynamic, fast paced, and thrilling as Rocket League.
[caption id="attachment_17153" align="aligncenter" width="900"] Rocket League gameplay screenshot[/caption]
After winning countless awards, including an independent game of the year award, sports/racing game of the year, multiplayer game of the year, Gamespot’s indie game of the year, and many, many more (all of those are separate awards or recognitions), Rocket League has shown that it is here for the long haul. ESL and MLG came out with very early support for the game, however, because it was so young, it is my opinion that neither organization knew how to properly execute.
Initially expecting to have small weekly tournaments with 30 to 60 teams, ESL is now hosting tournaments that last all day with over 100 and sometimes 200 teams in both North America and Europe. MLG hosted a pro league offering $2,500 as a prize, which drew hundreds if not thousands of viewers. I believe the final total was around ~2,500 viewers.
No one was sure what a Rocket League LAN event could pull until Rocket League Central, the current cornerstone of competitive Rocket League, drew a crowd of close to 4,000 concurrent viewers at the peak for their most recent event. One could scoff at the number 4,000 when most other eSports pull in hundreds of thousands of fans to watch their events, but for a game that just launched in July, has had no prior live events, no public support from the developer up to this point, and is being run purely by those in the community, creating a following of 4,000 fans is quite a feat! Psyonix is ready to step in now that they see they have a true diamond in their hand and I am thrilled to see what their support and blessing can give this game over the course of the next 6 months.
[caption id="attachment_17154" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Rocket League gameplay screenshot[/caption]
What sets this game apart?
Talking about the game on a broad scale is all well and good, but what really sets Rocket League apart from the rest of the crowd is the intricacy in which a professional player can control their car of choice and maneuver it around the pitch like art in motion. There is no other game on the market in which you can play the game at a high level and at the same time make it an art form. It is as if FIFA and Tony Hawk Pro Skater got together and made the most beautiful creation you could ever hope to lay your eyes on. The gameplay is always compelling because you never know how a play will evolve or what one of these players will be able to pull off to score their next goal.
The most beautiful part of the game, you ask? The controls are as simple as a racing game. One button drives you forward, another backward, and you can turn, boost, and jump. That’s it. I’ve handed the controller to many of my friends who are not gamers in the slightest and they are immediately sucked into it. Heck, my wife enjoys playing with me from time to time. I am able to hand the controller to my 7-year-old nephew and he can quickly figure it out as well. There is unlimited potential for the reach of this game; Rocket League can be enjoyed immediately by gamers of any skill level.
That is exactly why I see so much potential in Rocket League as an eSport and hope that you will too. Even if you have not played one minute of the game itself, check out one of Kronovi or Kuxir’s streams on Twitch. This game is simply just fun to watch. I was attracted to this game because I am a sports fan and because I love seeing two teams duking it out to win a game of skill, like I did growing up on the playground. The only difference is they are flying through the air in cars. Watch an upcoming tournament and honestly tell me that you are not amazed, because that would amaze me.
The world is ready for a game like Rocket League to explode. eSports are obviously here to stay. The scene itself is growing and more and more people are coming to it every day. What is missing, though? Rocket League. I suggest you check the game out because this year is the year of Rocket League. You heard it here first, my friends.