Where does the hype come from with Rocket League Championship Series rookie Daniel? Daniel Piecenski entered the professional Esports world in 2020 when he was just 13 years old. He reached Rank S in Rocket League 6 Mans, putting him at RLCS level. The minimum age to play in RLCS events is 15, so Daniel wouldn’t join the league until this year. He signed with Spacestation Gaming and is already competing at what many would say is at a “Rookie-of-the-year” level.
Despite his fanfare, Daniel has stiff competition for Rookie-of-the-Year. Daniel may be a top prospect, but other rookies like Seikoo and Vatira are performing well above what many would say is prospect level. Seikoo led Team Endpoint to wins in two of the three Fall regional events, making his team the top seed in Europe. Meanwhile, Daniel’s stellar play culminated in a peak of second place at the Winter Regional Event 1 – X Games Open.
During the Winter Europe Regional Events, Vatira made his case for Rookie of the Year. Team Queso took first place in two of three regional events, including a win over Team Endpoint in event three’s Grand Final. This matchup saw Vatira come face to face with his Rookie of the Year competition in Seikoo. Although Team Queso walked away with the victory, Vatira did not massively outplay Seikoo. Seikoo’s score across seven games was the highest on his team, with many asserting that Vatira got more production from his teammates.
Where was Daniel in all of this? Spacestation Gaming was bounced out of the playoffs in round one of the third North American Regional Event. The squad finished in 10th place, which is a bit of a regression from their performance in the Fall regional events before Daniel joined. Daniel has put together a great first showing, especially considering how young he is and the improvements he’ll be able to make from playing at RLCS level. But compared to others in the Rookie of the Year race, his team hasn’t accomplished enough to overtake players like Vatira and Seikoo.
During the day, NFL running back Boston Scott is hitting the gym, practicing with his team, the Philadelphia Eagles, and scoring touchdowns on the field. At night though, he’s grinding on Rocket League where he ranks in the top .52% of players all-time. Scott has been a long-time Rocket League enthusiast, and his hard work culminated when he officially entered the esports world! Scott recently signed with Dignitas to play for their Rocket League team professionally, making him the first two-sport NFL and Rocket League pro. Here is Boston Scott’s eventful history with Rocket League…
During the 2021 NFL off-season, Scott began streaming Rocket League on Twitch with content creators like SunlessKhan. When training camp began, his streaming grind slowed; but he made it clear how much he missed playing the game live. He formed a relationship with Gridiron Gaming Group, promoting and competing in their Rocket League tournaments. He showed great interest in not only the game itself but the esports scene and its surrounding culture. Following a tough loss on the NFL field, playing Rocket League was Scott’s distraction of choice.
He’d often post highlights from his games, and tag Rocket League‘s official accounts to share his passion. Later in 2021, Scott expressed his disappointment when he wasn’t invited to participate in the Gridiron Games. Fans were just as confused and disappointed, but this was just the beginning, with more opportunities lying ahead. In early 2022, Scott took to Twitter to declare Rocket League a top-five Esport. He, himself, would join the Esport shortly after, signing with Team Dignitas.
Scott noticed the increasing popularity of Rocket League among NFL players and pitched a Twitch Rivals streamer bowl featuring NFL athletes. He’s remained heavily involved in creating a bridge between the NFL and Rocket League esports, working behind the scenes on a to-be-announced project. He should have fewer issues getting invited to events as he’s proven his commitment to the Rocket League Esport and community. Factor in the fact that he’s pretty good at the game, so Dignitas certainly has an interesting journey ahead with Boston Scott.
With the outbreak of the Covid-19, esports, like the rest of the world, ground to a halt. Starting with IEM Katowice in 2020, hundreds of events were canceled, switched to online, had their crowds removed, or were otherwise changed in response to the coronavirus.
But even as the rest of the esports world was canceling and moving their biggest tournaments online, Riot Games managed to put on three enormous tournaments: Worlds 2020, Mid-Season Invitational 2021, and Worlds 2021. But how did Riot Games succeed where so many other tournaments, such as Dota 2’s The International and CS:GO’s Majors, were forced into cancellation?
The feat of Worlds 2020
Riot Games and their League of Legends competitive scene was not immediately immune to the cancellations that ripped through the esports world in the wake of Covid-19. With their leagues moved online, taken out of studios, and in some cases, postponed, competitive LoL and the newly revealed Valorant competitive scene suffered in early 2020.
Most notable was the cancellation of MSI 2020. The Mid Season Invitational 2020 was initially scheduled for May 2020. But after the outbreak of the Pandemic was canceled in April of that year. It looked like, in all likelihood, Worlds 2020 would share the same fate. After all, several massive international events like Worlds had to be canceled that same year.
But Riot had an ace up their sleeve: The backing of parent company Tencent. It’s impossible to know just how much sway the state-backed Tencent corporation pulled to ensure that League of Legends got its Worlds 2020. But suffice to say, Worlds 2020 was held in China, with a limited crowd for some days.
But beyond just greasing the gears with some corporate connections, the measures taken to ensure a safe environment were astronomical. Taking place on a closed set in the Shanghai Media Tech Studio, teams traveling to the event were all placed in the same hotel. Each squad was forced into a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Employees faced similar strict restrictions. Ultimately there were no reported cases during the event.
Many would criticize Riot’s all-spanning control of the competitive scene for League of Legends. But when faced with needing to operate an international tournament in a bubble, it’s hard to fault the total control.
Iceland saved the day in 2021
With the Pandemic continuing into 2021, instead of the eight or 12-month crisis, many had initially predicted, more competitive events would have to be scaled down or canceled. With Riot’s newly launched VCT for Valorant and the new 2021 season of League of Legends starting, it looked like the continuing Pandemic would scupper it. But for several reasons, that wasn’t an option.
In many ways, Riot Games was snookered by its past decisions. To have held Worlds 2020 and set expectations of what could be achieved in a pandemic so high, only to scale things back in 2021, would be unthinkable. It would have sent two messages: Firstly, Worlds 2020 was a mistake; an event born of hubris and brute force (accurate on many accounts). And secondly that it was a one-off miracle and not something that could be replicated by Riot Games again. Especially not outside of China, without the influence of Tencent on its side.
Scouring the globe, the ideal venue for Riot Games 2021 events became clear. Iceland and its capital of Reykjavík was the perfect location. Nominally a European location, but with enough restrictions and a small population to have prevented huge numbers of coronavirus cases, Iceland was ideal for esports events.
Valorant Masters, MSI 2021, and Worlds 2021 were all hosted in Reykjavik in the Laugardalshöll arena under similar lockdown conditions to Worlds 2020. As a result, the three huge events were pulled off with no press, no audience, and just players and staff isolated in arenas.
Looking ahead to MSI South Korea
With all these successes, it’s no surprise Riot Games is again looking to hold an event during a global pandemic. This time it’s rumored to be in South Korea, with the League of Legends MSI 2022. What measures Riot Games will put in place remains to be seen. The company has operated well with strict measures, but the overall attitude to the Pandemic has changed over the past two years.
We live in a world where most competitors will be double or even triple vaccinated against the virus. The cases in South Korea have steadily increased over the past months, but so has testing. And in many cases, the Omicron variant of Covid-19 seems to have less severe symptoms, especially for the vaccinated. Under these conditions, Riot Games once again attempts to hold an international tournament. Over the past two years, they’ve proved they’re more than capable of doing so.
Akrew found success during the pandemic with the creation of Nookazon and Traderie, two platforms where players can trade and sell video game items. Akrew again found success with the launch of their Valorant esports team, amassing a win streak of over 30 games. They looked to follow up on this momentum when they announced their entrance into Rocket League esports. The organization acquired Vibrance, a North American team comprised of Ty “Astro” Bullinger, Fernando “Fefe” Hulzar, Arlin “Oath” Burns, and substitute Rhys “Gear” Peña. Unfortunately, things have not immediately gone as well as they have with Akrew’s other ventures.
Akrew’s Rocket League team just competed in their first series with the organization, the Winter RLCS 2021-2022 North American Regional Closed Qualifier. The team finished in 12th place with a sub .500 record of 8-9, failing to qualify for the third Regional Event. They’re performance in round one against Torrent was already underwhelming and fell below what we’ve seen from Astro and company in the past. They lost the series three games to two, including two straight overtime losses and a scoreless finale. While playing as Vibrance, this same team finished in second place at the Fall 2021-2022 RLCS North American Regional Event Closed Qualifier with a 9-5 record.
Right out of the gate, it would appear as if the team is was showing signs of regression while playing for their new organization. In reality, it’s more likely that the team is simply not improving at a rate fast enough to rise the ranks. This makes sense considering they’ve operated as a mostly independent team up until this point. Rosters they’ve beaten decisively in the past, like Version1 and XSET, have made it to the main event and are seeing increased amounts of success. The ability to not only compete with but also defeat these teams is there; Akrew will just have to find ways to refine their team strategies and execute new ones.
This could actually be the perfect dynamic since Akrew has more than enough resources to enhance the team’s training, and a talented roster for the molding. From an organization standpoint, Akrew will need to invest in the development of the team and remain patient as their players grow and improve. Both Oath and Fefe just joined the team last year in July with Astro being the only on-field mainstay to this point. He’s been with the team since 2020 and was a part of its revival in May of last year. With a talented and young cornerstone to build around, Akrew has the chance to create their own identity for this squad and etch a unique path.
So what does this mean for Akrew’s future in Rocket League? It means that fans are probably going to see roster changes and gameplay adjustments in the coming year. As the organization becomes more abreast in the esports world, it’s important for them to take their time and avoid expanding too fast. Two teams competing in two different games, especially when one is already struggling, is a tall task as is. Fans should definitely be intrigued by Akrew’s Rocket League venture; and keep an eye on what the adjustments they make for the next series.
Esports organization 100 Thieves made their entrance into the World of NFT (Non-Fungible Tokens) earlier this week with the 100 Thieves Championship Chain digital collectible release. As a free NFT was given away to celebrate the team’s LCS Lock-In victory, the relatively small backlash was one of the more notable factors about the announcement.
NFTs have been a contentious subject within esports and gaming, as many organizations rush to capitalize on the current boom. But the response from fans has been tepid or worse, with examples like Ubisoft Quartz seeing universal criticism and Team 17’s MetaWorms project dead on arrival.
That’s why 100 T’s relatively uncontroversial release of a digital image of the actual chain they gave their players is so surprising. The team has managed to dodge much of the negative PR. But how exactly did they manage this?
They controlled the narrative
Careful use of marketing and branding meant that 100 T’s Championship Chain didn’t initially trigger the automatic backlash that NFTs have garnered. The term NFT is already tainted due to highly publicized scandals, scams, exit cons, etc. Just using the terms “fungible” or even “token” in a release can mean instant death for a launch like this.
Instead, 100T concentrated on the digital collectible aspect, comparing the project to trading cards, comics, and memorabilia. It’s a smart move, as while NFT’s are pretty much radioactive as investments, gaming collectibles and trading cards are surging in value. So while this is also a bubble that is perhaps inflated by disingenuous investment, it’s still a more prestigious and valuable option.
In fact, the first mention of NFTs is in the FAQ section. While savvy consumers will have already noted that you needed to connect a token wallet to get the collectible, the less informed or interested just won’t get that far. The marketing and messaging on this release were targeted at 100T fans who are already investors in crypto, NFTs, and interested in digital collectibles.
It did not make the mistake of attempting to appeal to the general fan base aggressively. This limited the criticism to elements that they’d prepared for. They explained the environmental impact, comparing it to “sending ~2.5 emails.” And they headed off people asking why you’d buy a digital chain by explaining it as an achievement system or a collectible.
They gave it away for free — for a reason
Giving away the Championship Chain was a smart move for several reasons. Firstly, it’s hard to criticize giving away something for free because it’s free at the end of the day. Secondly, 100T has created a built-in consumer base for its next NFT.
The release already alluded to the fact that the team hopes “fans can look back on the moments in our history that they were there for and have pride in.” This would suggest the team will be creating more tokens in the future. Whether these will be free or not remains to be seen.
While currently the collectibles “aren’t intended for resale,” there’s nothing to say that will be the case in the future. The high-minded, read between the lines pitch of these tokens is that you will have a collection of 100T Championship collectibles in the future. At some point even further in the future, this exclusive and limited collection will be valuable because of its scarcity. And then, the free token that 100T has given fans will reward both parties with financial boons.
It’s theoretically one of the smartest moves into NFTs we’ve seen in the gaming space so far. But like with most NFT projects, it’s built on assumptions about the future that all parties are now gambling will come true.