How Crazy Is It That They'll Be Airing Pro Rocket League on NBC Sports?

eSports has gone from the media's laughing stock to becoming a billion dollar industry. They're finally being recognized as a legitimate force in the media, which is a marked change from a few years back.

Rocket League is set to be broadcast on NBC's official sports channel with a $100,000 prize pool. While NBA teams have been sponsoring eSport teams for years now, official news channels have been slow to follow suit until now. The growth of eSports has finally reached a point where it can no longer be ignored, which marks a radical change in attitude compared to only a few years back.

Remember a few years ago when the media laughed their asses off over the ridiculousness of eSports? Well, they failed to realize that it was already a massive industry, even then. Had they bothered to do any research, they would have known that the League of Legends 2015 World Championship had over 36 million unique viewers for its finals, beating out the 2015 NBA finals, the 2015 World Cup finals, and the 2015 NHL finals.

A Little History

But for those not in the know, how did it get so big? Well, it took a long time. The first appearance of eSports actually began in 1972, in a little Stanford room where people free-for-all'd in Spacewars. Then there was the Nintendo World Championships, which took place all over America and ended in Hollywood, LA, which was the largest gaming event of the decade. While there were a variety of console eSports, it wasn't until PCs started having increased internet connectivity that multiplayer games took off. 

The first true eSports phenomenon came in the form of Starcraft. Following the 1997 Asian financial crisis, South Korea began building a massive broadband internet network. The high unemployment rate left many looking for something to do. In response, South Korea created PC Bangs, which were LAN gaming centers where people could play multiplayer games together. Eventually, Starcraft took hold in South Korea at which point it quickly became the most popular game at PC Bangs. By 2000, the Korean eSports Association was created to promote and regulate eSports in the country, something no other country since has done.

So, naturally, when Blizzard dropped the sequel in 2010, many expected it to blow up even larger than Starcraft did. Unfortunately, it never took the industry by storm like the first game did for a number of reasons, most of which can be related to mismanagement and slow response. 

Fortunately, League of Legends began rising as an eSport around this time and fixed many of the problems Starcraft 2 had. It had a sustained business model that scaled with its rising popularity, was more casual friendly than Starcraft 2 due to its focus on teamwork, regular balance patches, and most importantly integrated separate regions in its own eSport scene, which meant that players from each region no longer had to face off against the vaunted Korean players. Riot Games also supported the scene fully, sponsoring multiple smaller tournaments to help spread the word. 

We can see the effects that these changes have had. League of Legends is now the poster boy for the eSports scene, playing an instrumental role in its growth. The eSports scene is estimated to grow to be worth 1.5 billion by 2020, and even more games will no doubt join the industry by then. It would almost be foolish to be a multiplayer competitive game and not try to get a toe in before it gets too crowded.

However, the biggest problem with eSports is that you need to be familiar with the game to appreciate all its intricacies. There aren't many multiplayer games where newcomers can just hop in and instantly understand what's happening.

Car Soccer

That's where Rocket League comes in. It's one of the most promising games to join the fray, with unique gameplay that has an insanely high skill ceiling while still being very easy to follow for spectators. As an added bonus, it has very similar rules to an already existing sport (soccer), making it easily the most accessible eSport to newcomers right now.

The rules are simple: there's a ball. There are cars with rocket boosters attached to them. There are two goals on both sides of the court. There's a timer, and that's about it. Most people who've seen sports before can connect those dots together. What makes it unique is...well, the cars with rockets bit. There are a ton of ridiculous spectacles that come from the game. Whether it's watching cars juggle the ball in midair or ricochet the ball off of the walls and ceiling only to miraculously score a goal from an awkward angle the game rarely fails to impress.

Rocket League is sure to be a hit eSports games, and with NBC sponsoring it, there's no doubt that it'll go far in the industry. Hell, it might even be the most popular spectator eSport years from now.

Published Jul. 6th 2017

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