Inside Rocket League’s Journey To Become A Tier 1 Esport

Rocket League came from humble beginnings. Launched six-and-a-half years ago as a successor to 2008’s Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars (SARPBC), the sequel was developed on a budget shy of $2 million. Revenues had ballooned to $110 million by mid-2016, the latest figures publicly released before Psyonix was acquired by Epic Games in 2019.

Through those formative years, Rocket League dug out a formidable spot as a unique, mid-table “Tier 2” esport. While there is no official list, nor criteria, the esports tier system is an informal hierarchical ranking of the subjective popularity of different esports titles — as determined by an equally-informal consensus of the esports hivemind. Most fans agree Tier 1 is reserved for esports titles with the largest ecosystems, viewership, brand partnership deals and prize pools, like League of Legends, CS:GO, and Dota 2.

Unlike MOBAs and FPS titles, even non-gamers can follow Rocket League’s action. It offers a fast lane into a world of competitive gaming that is anything but hospitable for outsiders — something of a gateway drug to the esports experience. It’s also aided by its brand friendliness: no guns, bombs, or violence, which grants it a younger audience as well.

Universal appeal may be one benefit, but it also appeals especially well to one particular segment: Psyonix has been striking esports partnerships with car brands.

A slew of recent successes, however, risks masking the fact that Rocket League’s esports viewership still lags behind certain major esports titles. Both the RLCS Season 8 World Championship and the 2021-22 Fall Major — the two most recent international LAN events — received peak viewerships of around 280,000, according to data from Esports Charts. That’s magnitudes lower than most Tier 1 (and even some Tier 2) esports events, which regularly breach millions of peak viewers.

But last year’s Fall Major almost doubled the hours watched of the Season 8 World Championship, despite being a lower level of competition — a positive sign of what’s to come as LANs resume. There is a lot of hope that Rocket League will continue its upward trend. Given all that it has to offer, no one would be surprised to see it start attracting the numbers and attention that League of Legends, CS:GO, and Dota 2 receive.

(All information was provided by Esports Insider)

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