NEWARK, NJ — Rocket League Championship Series’ (RLCS) seventh season is now in the books. The crowd at the World Championship in Newark, New Jersey’s Prudential Center was loud, the games were exhilarating and the weekend event had all the telltale signs of a top-tier esport. The Daily Walkthrough was on site to find out how Rocket League pros and Psyonix are feeling about the future of their esport.
With the recent acquisition of Psyonix by Epic Games, the community is waiting to see what changes will be made to Rocket League esports and the RLCS. Players had one simple expectation: an increased prize pool. Nicholas “Wonder” Blackerby of Rogue Esports and many other players echoed that sentiment. The prize pool for this years championship sits at $529,500 — the winners take home $200,000.
The International — Dota’s largest esports event of the year — is famous for its hefty prize pool. The total for this year’s prize pool at the time of this writing sits at just under $20 million. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive majors tend to hover around $1 million per, but there are consistent tournaments all year long. League of Legends’ 2018 world championship prize pool was approximately $6.5 million.
Now, Rocket League has Epic Games. Adding the developer behind Fortnite to the equation comes with expectations that the RLCS will see an increase in funding, infrastructure and size. One thing that seemed to ring true throughout TheDW’s interviews with players was the hope of a shift from online league play to a LAN environment. As NRG Esports’ Garrett “GarrettG” Gordon said, “The next thing I would want changed is just how league play is run. I think it’s time to not be online for a really important league play system.” His teammates Jayson “Fireburner” Nunez and Justin “jstn” Morales agreed.
Rocket league has caught the attention of some of the biggest esports organizations in the world. Cloud9, G2 Esports, Rogue Esports, NRG Esports, Team Vitality and Renegades all own teams in various regions. Some pros, like the NRG Esports team, are hoping that a possible league expansion and other additions like the new esports shop in-game will entice other organizations to join the RLCS.
“I feel like as esports items expand, I think you’ll see a lot of the lower-tier teams get picked up. Especially if league play expands,” Gordon told TheDW.
The RLCS isn’t the only competitive Rocket League circuit for many pros. Psyonix is known for having a good relationship with third party organizers like DreamHack, and has been present at many of their recent events. Rogue Esports’ Cameron “Kronovi” Bills is hoping for more LAN events outside of the RLCS to win additional trophies. “There were a lot of events this year, and hopefully next year is a repeat of this year with maybe some more additions from Epic,” Bills said.
Organizations invest millions into players and their support staff to compete at the highest level. Dignitas owns a team that competes in the European region of the RLCS, and Dignitas CEO Michael Prindiville spoke with TheDW about Rocket League’s future. Prindiville is happy Epic acquired Psyonix and hopes the company does something with Rocket League, because it’s one of “the most accessible esports in the world” due to the ease in which viewers can understand the game. He would like to see “a global franchised league” at some point, but believes taking the best aspects of the most successful esports leagues is the best approach. “I think it needs to have its own model,” Prindiville told TheDW. “I think you can take the best aspects of Overwatch League and the best aspects of LCS … It’s a hybrid model.”
So how are Psyonix and Epic Games going to help push Rocket League forward? Psyonix Senior Manager of Global Esports Josh Watson explained that Epic’s acquisition has put a pause on planning. “We’re in a little bit of a state where we’ve had some recent changes,” he said with a smile. “Speaking to the plan moving forward, I think I’d rather stay away from that until we get things coordinated between our new groups.” Ultimately, Watson is optimistic. “Do I see growth? Do I see that we’re going to continue to push Rocket League esports globally? Absolutely.”