If someone told me ten years ago that people playing video games would generate a bigger audience than the NBA, NHL, and MLB, I would have laughed.
Rocket League has seen an incredibly exponential rate of growth over the last year, jumping roughly 40 per cent over the entire year’s worth of players in 2016 – just in the first three months alone.
Better yet, as we enter the third Season for the Rocket League Championship Series – or RLCS for short – we clearly see that incredible growth in the extreme array of new names entering the professional Rocket League esports community.
For the past two seasons, Psyonix have kept their ever-expansive and growing international community at bay, holding spots for the Rocket League Championship Series to be exclusively from North American and European regions – however, this year, we are set to see a change.
With the third season on the horizon, players will be set with new challenges with the Oceanic Rocket League region entering the midst of the competitive play; but there is a clear, distinct difference between the new competitive region and the pre-existing NA and EU regions.
Following the announcement of the region’s addition, Psyonix updated their esports rules to include Oceania’s potentiality for the RLCS, stating the following outline for qualifying teams from the region:
“A tournament series employing the Title Game will take place in the region of Oceania by a third party organiser from March 10, 2017 to May 5, 2017 (the “Oceania Series”). The top two teams from the Oceania Series will be invited to participate in the World Championship.”
This, in its shortest form, essentially states that a 3rd-party organiser (confirmed to by ThrowdownTV) will host the ongoing Oceanic League Play and finalist LAN event between March 10th (registration date) and May 5th (finals date).
The final contenders from Throwdown’s RLCS LAN finals will be invited to participate in the World Championship, and the teams will also take away and increasing share of the $20,000 prize pool.
However, unlike the North American and European regions – which are often not bound by the difficulties of high ping and extreme disarray – Oceania is a region that has very much been locked in on itself, not carrying the ability to play internationally without having an extreme disadvantage.
That being said, the Oceanic Rocket League region has its own fair share of powerhouses that each could pose their own threat at the very pinnacle of International Rocket League play.
Regionally speaking the top contending teams like Alpha Sydney, JAM Gaming and Athletico are all filled with incredibly strong players who absolutely could hold their own at an international LAN event; so long as they can hold their nerves away.
However, it really boils down to one specific question – is Oceania ready to take on the Rocket League Championship Series?
We got the chance to talk to CloudFuel, a very well-respected member of the Rocket League community – known widely for his incredible dedication to esports on Twitch, as well as his primary dedication to the development of the international Rocket League community.
What is your take on the addition of Oceania as an RLCS region? Do you think the region deserves the addition at all?
Cloudfuel: We’re very excited to see the RLCS growing and expanding into more regions. For me at least, Oceania was a fairly obvious choice for the first expansion due to the active and passionate community, viewership, and consistency of tournaments being run.
That’s not to say that other regions don’t belong in the RLCS as well, I just think Oceania as a competitive community is a little closer to what we see in North America and Europe at this time.
As an external party, what do you think is the current state of Oceania as a region coming into RLCS?
Cloudfuel: It’s difficult to predict how well Oceania will stack up against the likes of North America and Europe. There really hasn’t been too many opportunities see those regions mixing it up and any time they do, it’s typically with a massive ping disadvantage.
From what I’ve seen recently, it appears that there are a couple of teams consistently at the top with some wildcards that could upset them, given the right circumstances.
That’s pretty similar to how I see North America and Europe right now. Personally, I’d love to see Oceania come in and surprise everyone with a strong run at the World Championship.
What aspects do you think Oceania is doing right in comparison to the rest of the world, and what do you think the region is doing incorrectly?
Cloudfuel: When I’m comparing regions, I always start with North America and Europe since we’ve seen so much growth and activity from there.
To have a healthy competitive ecosystem, you need a good variety of top-tier events to facilitate “pro” level play, draw in viewership, produce content and incentivise players. However, you also need mid-tier and lower-tier events, to provide semi-pro and relatively new players a place to compete and practice and get a taste of competition relative to their competitive skill level.
This creates a cycle where elite players bring in viewers and new competitors who will start out in open tournaments, grind their way up to mid-tier, and potentially make it all the way up to the professional level of play.
Overall, it’s hard to say – with the regions’ lack of international competitive play, shaping up against their opponents who can only continue to improve off each other will be an uphill battle to say the least.
However, as with every underdog, there’s always the hope and belief of the community that something incredible will happen – whether that’s necessary for Oceania to perform well at the RLCS playoffs or not is an entirely different question.
In addition, having a constant stream of content (like power rankings, articles, weekly recaps, podcasts, etc) that creates discussion and interest within the community helps keep everyone engaged.
Oceania has all of the above, but due to the size of the population and time difference it’s difficult to generate the level of participation and viewership that North America and Europe regularly experience. This can make it easy for some to overlook what the community has been able to accomplish over the past 2 years.
Personally, my suggestion would be to simple keep growing what’s already in place and find new ways to bring competitors and fresh viewers.
I, for one, am personally extremely excited to see how Oceania performs on the big stage. With the ability to watch and monitor as the region continues to grow, as well as have an almost third party perspective on the Rocket League eSports community as a whole, I’d say that Oceania has the potential to do some great things at the upcoming RLCS LAN event – so long as the players who qualify are able to calm themselves, play their best game and, most importantly, enjoying themselves.
On the other hand, Oceania as a region has developed incredibly quickly – over the past year, the competitive player-base in general has grown, and the standard of competitive play coming from the region has also brought up the attention of international Rocket League organisations such as Rocket Dailies – a community-driven twitter that showcases the most impressive Rocket League plays; of which, Oceania has begun to be featured more consistently.
Of course, the praise being delivered doesn’t come without some criticism – and while the level of play coming from Oceania Rocket League players has dramatically increased, the region still has a long way to come in tournament structure before it can be considered a powerhouse region like North America and Europe.