The video game industry has grown immeasurably in terms of value and cultural significance over the past decade or so. On the back of such an increase in wealth and popularity, events and tournaments have begun to pop up around the world celebrating the best games and the best players. This trend is known as ‘Esports’, an umbrella term used to describe the collection of video games each with their own competitive calendars and an array of professional teams, players, organisers and sponsors backing them.
Esports has traditionally been dominated by veteran games such as League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, however, the recent Rocket League World Championship may just be an indication that this could be on the verge of changing.
The Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS)
Like with fellow Esports titles such as Riot Games’ League of Legends or Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch, Rocket League’s official competitive circuit is managed by the game’s developers, Psyonix. The Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS) is the official global circuit for the game, with the 2022/23 season hosting a prize pool of $6 million (£5.2 million). The World Championship, the grand finals concluding the season, made up a whopping $2.1 million (£1.65 million) of that prize pool.
The World Championship previously held a record peak viewership count on streaming platforms such as Twitch of 368,721. 2023’s World Championship took place in Dusseldorf, Germany and saw that figure smashed by nearly 100,000 extra viewers. It’s still a long way short of the 5.1 million viewers that tuned in to watch the 2021 edition of the League of Legends World Championship, but this growth is great news for anyone hoping to see Rocket League’s competitive scene remain at the top table of the Esports industry.
French Teams Provide The Eyeballs
It may come as a surprise to some reading this article, but the 2023 RLCS’ peak viewership record was actually registered during the semi-final stage of the event, rather than the grand final.
The figure was hit during the semi-final match between Team Vitality and Karmine Corp. Rocket League is hotly followed across Europe, but France is a country that takes its love for the Psyonix game further than most. The fact that both Vitality and Karmine Corp were both fielding French lineups for their semi-final matchup is sure to have played a big role in making this the biggest match of the event. Unlike the grand final, the semi-final was also co-streamed by Karmine co-owner Kamento, further inflating the viewership count.
The grand final of the 2023 RLCS featured Team Vitality against another French organisation in Team BDS and recorded a peak viewership count of 425,196 viewers. The Esports betting odds at Unikrn CA had Vitality as firm favourites for the grand final, and the French giants did indeed come out on top with a 4-0 win.
The impact of the French audience share was also highlighted in the French-speaking streams hosting the event. French-speaking streams peaked at a viewer count of 203,175 viewers, reasonably close behind the English ones at 291,646 peak viewers.
NA’s Poor Performances Halt Further Growth
Whilst the peak viewer count might have been surpassed, the average RLCS viewership for 2023 did dip slightly when compared to last year’s tournament. 2022/23 saw an average viewership of 154,302, compared to 147,858 for this year’s World Championship.
One of the biggest contributing factors behind this was the poor performance of teams representing the Americas. Like most Esports, North America makes up a huge slice of the viewership for most major events, however, the fact that no NA side managed to make it past the quarterfinals. South American teams also failed to make it past that point, as well as wider regions such as the Middle East and North Africa, both parts of the world where Rocket League is extremely popular.
Nevertheless, whilst the poor performances of NA-based teams undoubtedly denied the 2023 World Championship even more records, the future looks bright for Rocket League Esports. The return of LAN events in a post-pandemic world has allowed Psyonix to showcase the potential of the game as a breathtaking and adrenaline-pumping spectacle, and its accessibility is sure to make it a great entry point for casual gamers and Esports enthusiasts going forward as the industry continues to expand.