Psyonix Vice President of Publishing Jeremy Dunham has recently announced that their studio has been considering a franchising model for Rocket League eSports. Apart from this announcement, however, Dunham did not give out any details regarding their plans.
“We’ve been evaluating that for a while now and whether or not we do it is still a question for another time, but it’s definitely something we’ve talked about,” Dunham said. “It’s something the organizations have been interested in, but there’s no outright evidence that says that is the only way to go.”
If the studio’s plans push through, it wouldn’t be the first time that franchise models have been used, as studios like Riot Games have used franchise models for the League of Legends Championship Series as well as the European Series. Activision Blizzard also used a franchise model for their Overwatch League and Call of Duty League. It is worth noting that not every franchised league uses a city-based approach. They do require a significant financial buy-in from teams that want to secure a continued spot in the leagues, regardless of their performance.
Dunham further said: “Franchising is a big question with a lot of implications and potentially new investors and voices added to the mix, so before you want to take on something like that, you want to be sure that is the desired direction.”
The biggest downside of franchising is that it practically closes off the competitive scene. Teams and organizations that do not belong to the franchised league are essentially forced out of the game either due to a lack of access or a lack of resources--or maybe even both. This was evident in the 100 Thieves and Call of Duty Leagues. Additionally, league organizations hold the rights to the spot, and not the roster itself. At present, with the Rocket League Championship Series not being franchised, it uses a relegation system where weaker teams are potentially dropped.
Released by Psyonix in 2015, Rocket League is now backed by Epic Games and is currently being positioned for growth in the competitive gaming scene. Rocket League is a video game where cars play five-minute soccer games. The simplicity of the game has helped it build a solid following, causing industry executives to be bullish on its potential as an esport. Rocket League was, in fact, one of only two games chosen for the Intel World Open event at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“From our perspective, Rocket League has strong potential and we’re just now starting to scratch the surface,” Dunham said. “We’ve always been very bullish on Rocket League as an esport because it is one of the only video games/esports that we’re aware of that is based on an endemic sport...but is also very different from traditional soccer because you fly and use vehicles instead of feet, so it’s a very nice twist on something familiar.”
Dunham was sure to point out that the Psyonix team sees both the pros and cons of adopting a franchise model for Rocket League. This is why he will not give a timeline on making a decision. The calls for franchising are being made in part to help teams in such areas as revenue sharing. According to Dunham, Psyonix is still focusing more on growing the game, rather than simply making money from it.