WASHINGTON, D.C. — Three days and $150,000 later, Rocket League closed out its 2017 World Championship hosted for the first time in both America’s capital and at the new MGM casino.
Production was smooth, presentation slick and crowds enthusiastic. The Daily Walkthrough spoke with Psyonix esports operations manager Josh Watson and community manager Devin Connors about making the RLCSWC happen.
“It has been wonderful,” Watson said of Psyonix’ experience with MGM. “The staff, everyone here at the venue has been incredible. They’ve exceeded our expectations in pretty much every way. All across the board, the staff on the technical side to the ushers to the security, everybody has been really welcoming and great to work with and very open. Sometimes it’s surprising when you bring esports to a new place, I think. It was really surprising in a great way that [the employees] got behind it. They’re out in the lobby cheering on Cloud9, it’s great.”
With a World Championship comes big sponsors. All along the walls of the Theater, where the RLCSWC was held, were brand logos like Mobil 1, HyperX, Old Spice and Brisk. On every table in the VIP lounge were Nissin Cup Noodle centerpieces and attendees got swag bags full of sponsor goodies.
“Just to preface, a lot of the sponsor dealings are done with our partners at Twitch. They do a lot of the heavy lifting,” Watson explained. “When talking about the balance between endemic and non-endemic sponsorships, I think the game itself really speaks to both audiences, right? I think it makes a lot of sense for our sponsors and our partners, they see the game and see that it not only appeals to the esports audience but it also appeals to a broader mainstream audience that maybe doesn’t quite know yet about esports. It’s a brand fit, mostly. They see Rocket League has the potential to reach a new audience and we’re happy to have them.”
Putting on the RLCSWC wasn’t all smooth sailing, though. Watson told TheDW Psyonix had at least one moment where people were running around putting out fires.
“We had a little bit of a merchandise mishap,” Watson laughed. “We had to scramble to get some replacements. That was, uh, fun. We opened up a few boxes and realized that wasn’t exactly what we thought it was going to be. We made a bunch of calls, everyone was on their phone making calls! Thankfully, we got it figured out.”
As for production, Watson said Psyonix and Rocket League may not be the biggest, but they’re certainly nothing to scoff at — and they’ve set their sights on the top.
“Honestly, we have an incredible team that works on our production. NGE [Next Generation Esports] are incredible. From the onset of this project, we were thinking production value is paramount. It’s incredibly important. That’s not just the stream but also the production here, so that this experience is great for attendees.
“That said, I don’t think we’re ever satisfied. We’re always going to continue to push it and I think at this point we are on par. The team is doing a phenomenal job. Every year we’re looking to make the format better, the production better, just the overall quality of the product. We want it to skyrocket. We want to be one of the industry leaders, so that every time you have those conversations about League of Legends, you’re talking about Rocket League as well.”
Rocket League comes out on Nintendo Switch tomorrow, Nov. 14, and Connors let TheDW check out a few Switch stations setup outside the main arena that seemed quite popular with attendees.
“The response has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Pretty much everyone here is already playing Rocket League on PC, Xbox or PS4,” Connors said. “What we’re hearing the most is people saying, ‘I’m going to go buy this game again because it plays so well on the Switch.’ … This is the hardcore community we want to make happy with this release. It’s a great opportunity for us to give our fans something extra on top of what they’re already playing.”
As for why Psyonix picked D.C. — a place known for its politics and not its esports — Watson said it’s all about location.
“DC is great for a lot of reasons. It’s located pretty centrally on the East Coast and we have a lot of fans out here,” Watson said. “The East Coast makes travel from Europe much easier. That cross country flight to L.A. is pretty taxing on the European players. D.C. also has several airports, tons of accommodations. It just makes a lot of sense.”
It’s not just the new casino and its facilities that are a draw for esports in D.C. The esports arena currently being built is slated to open in 2018.
“Honestly, for us, it’s really important that we’re spreading the events around. We’re always looking for viable venues and cities that can accommodate large numbers of people coming in. I think D.C. fits that perfectly. We’ve been really happy with the choice to come here and it doesn’t surprise me that D.C. is trying to make moves to become a key player.”