While it's not one of the top-tier esports titles like CSGO, Rocket League has carved out an impressive esports scene in a relatively short space of time.
But what is Rocket League esports like in the UK? Who is the British talent? And where can it go from here? Declan Murphy, the president of Swansea Gaming Society and head editor of the Waterfront newspaper, shares his opinion.
When Rocket League launched, it wasn’t really expected to get big in the esports world.
But fast forward a couple of years and we’re now looking at a rather well-established esport with a developer fully backing its scene.
Unlike other games that quickly became surprise esports hits (like Hearthstone), Rocket League isn’t necessarily a global phenomenon. It isn’t a game that’s very prevalent outside of Europe and North America, but on the flipside, it’s a game that has received a good amount of attention from British players and casters alike.
Both season finales of the Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS) have featured talent from the home nations, and season three is also looking like it’ll be promising for our players from the UK.
In fact, current world champions FlipSid3 Tactics feature a Scottish player: Mark "Markydooda" Exton (one of the highest-earning British esports players of 2016).
It isn’t just players, however. British casters such as Gregan and Johnnyboi_i are representing the UK scene globally. Another caster and sole UK representative in the RLCS casting team, Mega Shogun, is leading the charge after a great series of casts this past Winter in Amsterdam.
There's even the UK's first inter-school esports competition, Digital Schoolhouse, which focuses on Rocket League, and the National University Esports League has held some Rocket League tournaments too.
"It’s a fun time to be involved in Rocket League. From casting to playing, admining to journalism and spectating, it’s proving that it deserves to be an upstanding esports title."
Part of the reason for the scene’s growth is the support it has received from developer Psyonix, as well as other tournament organisers and sponsors. Multiplay and its tri-annual LAN Insomnia have been backing the game from early 2015 at Insomnia 57.
During i57, Multiplay was offering the biggest prize pool for a Rocket League tournament at £3,000. And it's still hosting Rocket League tournaments now, with another £3,000 Rocket League competition taking place at i60 this April.
Sponsors have also been a big part of getting the game to where it is. The upcoming RLCS Season 3 is going to be sponsored by both Old Spice and streaming partner Twitch, which is notorious for once owning two esports organisation juggernauts in Evil Geniuses and The Alliance.
It isn’t just all the names behind the Rocket League scene that have helped make it the esport it's become. It's of course mainly due to the game itself. To draw another comparison between Rocket League and Hearthstone, it's easy to learn but hard to master.
If anything, I’d say Rocket League is the easiest esport to learn partly thanks to its couch gamer friendliness and split-screen feature. Even other couch-based games in the esports stratosphere such as Super Smash Bros. have a difficult learning curve and aren't necessarily as spectator-friendly as Rocket League is.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about then I invite you if able to attend i-series, a crowd that is increasingly casual compared to dedicated tournaments such as the LCS or a Dota 2/CSGO major.
The crowd make the most noise when watching Rocket League. When someone makes an amazing aerial play, it’s a lot easier to see what's happened in comparison to a complex Dota team fight which can be all over in a matter of seconds.
It’s a fun time to be involved in Rocket League. From casting to playing, admining to journalism and spectating, it’s proving that it deserves to be an upstanding esports title.
Now we wait and see whether 2017 is going to be a big year for Rocket League - could this be the year it breaks out of Europe and North America to go truly global?