2020 was a big year for gaming. It was already well on its way to becoming a behemoth in its own right, however its popularity and market share really began to step towards the astronomical following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns and free time at home players found on their hands.
The video game industry is now worth more than the worlds of film and music put together in the entertainment sector, and professional gaming for a living (known as ‘Esports’ in the industry) is now worth over a billion dollars thanks to the influx of investments and sponsorships from a whole host of impressive multinational companies.
But whilst the likes of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, Dota 2 and Fortnite have dominated the scene for years now and are very much the face of competitive Esports, there are numerous games out there that boast fan bases equally as passionate and scenes as impressive as the traditional heavy hitters.
One of the best examples of this reality is Psyonix’s Rocket League and its professional Championship Series (RLCS). Here’s everything you need to know about one of Esports’ most untapped goldmines.
Much like how an event like the annual World Championship is the culmination to the professional League of Legends competitive calendar, Rocket League’s Championship Series represents the most prestigious tournament and the end goal for every professional org active in the scene.
It is one of the most popular tournaments to bet on at Rocket League betting markets available at online Esportsbooks such as Unikrn.com, is directly supported by Psyonix and brings together 32 of the world’s best performing teams from qualifying rounds in North America, South America, Europe, and Oceania, and culminates in a playoff bracket with teams from those regions. The qualification rounds are played in an online round-robin tournament format and the finals are played live in different cities, creating a grand and global spectacle for fans to follow and really putting the game in front of as many people as possible.
Rocket League was first released as a sequel to Psyonix’s first vehicular soccer game, Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, in July 2015 for Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 4, though a Nintendo Switch and Xbox One version would later be released in June of the following year.
It was clear that the game was proving to be a popular hit on online streaming platforms such as Twitch, and that its impressive skill ceiling was generating one of the fastest growing and hyper-competitive communities in the gaming world.
The first edition of the Rocket League Championship Series was announced in March 2016, with the very first finals being held in Los Angeles between April and August. By the third edition of the competition between April and June in 2017, the overall prize pool had been upped to $300,000 and had been opened two positions up to teams from the Oceanic region.
A second division, the Rocket League Rival Series (RLRS), was announced ahead of the fourth season near the end of 2017 where the top two teams from the division could face off against the two lowest ranked teams in the Championship in a promotion/relegation system similar to real world sporting events, and thus helping to blur the line between Esports and real world alternatives.
The latest season, RLCS Season 9, was due to be hosted in Dallas between February and April, but was cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Online regionalised tournaments were set up by Psyconix as a replacement, with the winners of these tournaments picking up the lion’s share of the prize pool reserved for the tournament.
Season 10 of the tournament is due to be held sometime in the spring/summer of 2021, however the finals location and teams participating are still yet to be confirmed and, as with everything over the past year and a half, is waiting to see what the global situation is looking like as vaccines continue to roll out.
To date, no side has managed to win more than RLCS season. iBUYPOWER Cosmic won the very first edition back in 2016, with Flipside Tactics stealing the throne away less than a year later.
Since 2018, the tournament has been dominated by some of the biggest organisations in the Esports industry, with Dignitas, Cloud9, Renault Vitality and NRG winning all of the last four seasons to date.