原作者：Christopher Dring 译者：Willow Wu
然而这篇文章的重点就是电子竞技在主流中的潜力。梦想着能在报纸体育版面看到电子竞技的报道，在Sky Sports的黄金时段播放赛事，把世界各地的家庭吸引到屏幕前，为他们最喜欢的队伍喝彩。绝大部分的人对足球都是看得多，玩得少——要是Call of Duty也是这样就好了对吧？
“Rocket League在2015年7月发售，社区小组们立刻对这个游戏产生了浓厚的兴趣，接着就发起了联赛，”Psyonix电竞部门负责人Josh Watson说道。
发行部门的副总Jeremy Dunham补充道：“通过我们和玩家的直接对话…了解到他们希望能有更多的机会让Rocket League成为一款规模更大的电子竞技游戏。”这正是我们现在努力所做的事。
“我们想要电子竞技给人的感觉是小联盟或者是足球联赛那样的，人们可以玩各种各样的级别，从新手级到专家级都有。”——Jeremy Dunham, Psyonix
后来，Psyonix又在游戏中加入了新的功能，类似于电竞一键直播功能（这样话人们就能在游戏中观看了）。他们还增加了新的联赛，扩大到新的地区范围，给观众赠送游戏道具，出席更多大规模的游戏节，并且还跟NBC, ESL, Gfinity, Dreamhack等等公司签下合约。
他们还制作了RLCS (Rocket League Championship Series) Overtime show，每周固定播出。它近期的电竞决赛成了该周收视率最高的节目，观看时间总计长达280万个小时——比League of Legends还多了100万。
公司甚至吸引来了非游戏赞助商，包括Old Spice, 7Eleven, Transformers: The Last Knight and Mobil1都签了合同，支持他们的联赛。
The Rocket League Championship Series正在改变。
“RLCS第四季，我们会把焦点转换到创造出一个适合玩家和组织的新环境，” Watson解释道，“游戏鼓励团队制作长期计划，目的是为了能让玩家在这种新环境下磨练技能，提高游戏玩法的质量，这也能为玩家、制作公司和赞助商对Rocket League的长期投资提供必要保障。
“这是跟Tespa合作的项目，他们曾举办过一些有名的校内活动例如Heroes of the Dorm，”Watson解释道。“我们在7月初发布了学院版本的Rocket League series，这是我们的在学院电子竞技的首次尝试。这能够让所有北美地区的在校大学生以三人为一组的方式加入到竞赛中，赢得奖励。”
Psyonix details its ambitious efforts to turn its car football game into a mainstream sport
The stories about esports going to the olympics, or airing on mainstream TV, are exciting.
In itself, these moments are not that important to the future of competitive gaming. This is a modern sport, there’s no need for BBC broadcasts when millions are watching on Twitch. And as cool as it may be to see gamers at official sporting championships, these competitions are not suited to the complex nature of esports with all those different games.
Yet what these stories highlight is esports’ potential within the mainstream. The dream of seeing esports on the back pages of newspapers, taking prime time slots on Sky Sports and drawing in families around the world rooting for their favourite teams. Millions more watch football than play it – wouldn’t it be great if that was also true of Call of Duty?
Unfortunately, esports is not mainstream. The games are complicated, or violent, or both. Some are hard to follow, while the ones that are easier to grasp are often based on existing sports (such as FIFA or NBA 2K), and the nagging question there is why watch the virtual versions when you can see the real thing?
Last year I attended an event about esports targeted at mainstream media and Government. The organisers wanted to demonstrate esports on stage, but were unsure over which game to use – violent shooters or densely packed MOBAs were just not suitable.
Psyonix’s esports boss Josh Watson
When UK retailer GAME launched its Belong range of stores (effectively local esports areas within a shop) it was faced with a similar challenge. Most of the popular esports games are simply not appropriate to show in the middle of the day in a retail setting.
Both eventually hit upon the same answer: Rocket League.
The car football game is the perfect title for mainstream sports. It’s easy to follow as it is just soccer with cars, but also crazy enough that it can only be done in a video game. It’s no wonder NBC Universal is using the game in its efforts to develop a TV presence in esports.
“Rocket League launched in July 2015 and immediately community groups latched onto the game and started to create tournaments,” says Josh Watson, head of esports at developer Psyonix.
“So Rocket League esports was very much born from the community. It is that grass roots support that has made for a passionate community of tournament organisers and fans. Today we have several dozen community groups who are doing hundreds of online tournaments and events annually, so it has really ballooned up from the grassroots.”
VP of publishing Jeremy Dunham adds: “The conversations we’ve had directly with players… they want more opportunities for Rocket League to become a bigger esport. That is something we are focusing on a lot.
“One of the biggest mistakes people make in esports is that they only focus on the smallest possible audience, the 50 to 100 people who are good enough to make a living out of it. We want esports to feel more like little league or football, where people are playing at all levels, from childhood to the pros. That way there is always an opportunity to play Rocket League and be a part of something. That requires a massive plan and a lot of infrastructure, but we’re spending a good amount of time putting that in place.”
That plan is accelerating rapidly. Last year, Psyonix ran competitions in three regions (Europe, North America and Oceania), with $600,000 in prize money. It did well, with 6,000 teams taking part, 1m unique viewers and 10m channel views on Twitch.
Now Psyonix is trying to grow that rapidly, with a $2.5m investment in developing Rocket League as an esport.
“We want esports to feel more like little league or football, where people are playing at all levels, from childhood to the pros”
Jeremy Dunham, Psyonix
The company has since added new in-game functionality, like an esports live button (so people can watch in-game). They’ve added new tournaments, expanded to new regions, offered in-game items to viewers, appeared at more major festivals and has signed deals with NBC, ESL, Gfinity, Dreamhack and a whole lot more.
It has developed the RLCS (Rocket League Championship Series) Overtime show, which airs every week. And its last esports finals became the most watched esport of that week, with 2.8m hours of viewership – 1m more than League of Legends.
“Some of the numbers we saw included 2.29m unique viewers, 208,000 concurrent viewers across seven broadcasted languages… so some pretty big numbers,” says Watson. “To put that in perspective, between Season 2 and 3 we had a 640% increase in video watched, 340% in peak concurrent viewers, 251% increase in social media impressions, and 208% increase in unique viewers. It is incredibly promising for the RLCS moving forward.”
The firm is even attracting non-gaming sponsors, with Old Spice, 7Eleven, Transformers: The Last Knight and Mobil1 all signing up to support their tournaments.
The RLCS Overtime Twitch show
It all sounds good, but then esports figures always do. Millions of concurrent viewer numbers and outlandish prize pools have almost become white noise. It’s all good marketing for Rocket League, but is this actually a profit-generating endeavour?
“One of our focuses is on giving our community a place to play competitively,” Watson acknowledges. “It’s really about servicing this community. They’re hungry for this high level competition.”
Yet big flashy tournaments don’t really service the community. It gives fans something to watch, but ultimately it’s still prohibitive for anyone outside of the most elite gamers. Dunham and Watson keep using the term ‘grass roots’, so how are they looking to support that?
“There is this notion in esports about the path to pro,” acknowledges Watson. “We want to create this ecosystem where you are taking good players who might want to play competitively, but they’re really not sure how, to attending tournaments. We are trying to build out this path to pro, where it is clearly defined how you get to that top tier.”
Part of that is transforming how the RLCS works.
The Rocket League Championship Series is changing
“For RLCS season 4, we are shifting our focus to creating a sustainable environment for players and organisations,” Watson explains. “Teams will be incentivised to plan for the long-term, and the goal is to create an environment where players can hone their skills, which will improve the quality of the gameplay and it should also offer players, owners and sponsors the necessary security to invest in Rocket League for the long-term with confidence.
“We are moving to a promotion and relegation system. The RLCS is basically a big open tournament at the moment, and then it funnels down to the top eight teams, and if you make it to the top eight you can play in a group stage, which happens over a long period of time. What that doesn’t allow for is if you don’t perform well on the day of the qualifiers, then you’re out of luck. That is something we are trying to solve with the promotion/relegation system. Each region will now be comprised of 16 teams, with the top eight making it into the RLCS as we know it now… the top division. And the nine through 16 teams will have access to a challenger, second division. We are hoping to provide players the opportunity to compete at the highest level, whilst being able to cultivate talent for tomorrow’s stars. That means we will have 40 teams across three regions competing in the RLCS.”
What’s more, Psyonix is supporting college esports.
“It’s in partnership with Tespa, which is a group that runs some notable collegiate experiences like Heroes of the Dorm,” Watson explains. “We launched with the collegiate Rocket League series in early July, and this is our soft launch into collegiate esports. It is where we are allowing players who are enrolled in colleges all over North America, to make teams of three and play in these competitive environments while earning prizes.”
Watson says he is open to expanding that beyond the US, assuming there’s the demand for it.
It’s certainly commendable, and Rocket League does have a certain simplicity about it that could see it go far. It’s now a case of Psyonix keeping that momentum going.
“One of our visions that we try to hold to is to create a premium sports product in the esports world,” Watson concludes. “That is something that drives us. We do think our game is one of the best suited games for esports in general.”(source: gamesindustry.biz )