Barcelona's Rocket League move could be big for wider esports
The expansion of esports is always exciting, so when the news broke that FC Barcelona, UEFA’s favourite corporation and all-around football innovators, were investing into another esports title, it was pretty exciting. Could it be CSGO that the Blaugrana had bought into, or Dota for the doyennes of European football? After all, we’ve seen the likes of Schalke 04 and PSG in Valve’s favourite game, so that isn’t so unlikely…right?
As it turns out, wrong. The club, which is currently invested in Pro Evolution Soccer, no doubt as a result of the sponsorship deal which saw Barca installed as the official partner of PES 2019 (with the unfortunate Philippe Coutinho on the cover), has announced their entry into the professional Rocket League scene, with the news they have signed the Spanish player Adrián "Bymateos" Mateos and the British players David "Deevo" William and Daniel "Bluey" Brian, both of whom were winners of the last Rocket League Championship Series.
In addition to these moves, young French prospect Yanis "Alpha54" Champenois and British coach/manager Robert "Roken" Kendall have been signed to the club. In typically modest style, the press release spoke of how "the British will be managing Barça team with a style of game based on combination and group work, a way of playing closely linked to the values of FC Barcelona", which makes you wonder if they mean tiki-taka or speaking about how other Rocket League players have ‘Barca DNA’ in an attempt to facilitate a move…
With the addition of Barcelona to the Rocket League ranks, it is an exciting time for that game, which is one of the more unique esports titles to say the least. News this week in the Esports Observer that the publishers Psyonix are on the verge of introducing a revenue sharing system via the in-game shop for their commercial partners, which esports teams undoubtedly are, may also have been a factor in Barca’s decision, and potentially allow them to test the water for much larger investments.
That is the elephant in the room, though: that Barcelona are not doing this to support esports, but to get in on the money esports is generating at a time when their stadium attendances are down and their debt reaching astronomical levels. While that is still beneficial to the scene, it remains to be seen whether they will follow PSG’s lead and enter the space in earnest with a Dota or other tier-one esport, and for now this is nothing more than a club looking for a few extra euros.