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Sparkball, a game described as “League of Legends meets Rocket League,” is about to launch an early access weekend to let people try out the competitive experience for the first time. And developer Worldspark Studios has enlisted a slew of popular esports teams to help show it off to the world.
Worldspark will host the Ascension Invitational online competition on Saturday, and the teams involved are esports heavyweights. The organizations include G2 Esports, Cloud9, Team Liquid, Evil Geniuses, NRG, Spacestation Gaming, Fnatic, Heretics, Method, and Ninjas in Pyjamas.
In some cases, the teams include players from squads in other games—such as G2’s Rocket League team—or notable Twitch streamers and content creators. They’ll compete online in the 4v4 “mobrawler” that looks like a fast-paced, sports-tinged riff on League of Legends.
TIME TO PLAY WITH SOME BALLS
Welcome the G2 Sparkball roster pic.twitter.com/wULsy5AcOF
— G2 Rocket League (@G2RocketLeague) June 21, 2023
The Ascension Invitational will take place a week before the game’s early access weekend, which will be held from June 30 to July 3. The competition, which has a $32,000 prize pool and will stream on Twitch, was designed to drum up excitement for the upcoming game.
Chandler Thomlison, founder and CEO at Worldspark, told Decrypt that his team wanted to prove the “legitimacy” of the game to potential players ahead of its early access period.
Sparkball—previously called Edenbrawl—takes a little time to grasp, he said, and the ability for esports fans to watch the pros play it first might get them to check it out and stick with it.
“If a player sees the game on stream via their favorite creator, or sees their favorite org playing it competitively, we think it makes them want to like the game,” he said. “It's that want that we think will drive players to get over the hump.”
Landing the “absolutely ridiculous lineup” of teams, as Thomlison described it, was a challenge for a small game studio that was founded by veterans from Riot Games and Bungie. Worldspark “cold called every org imaginable,” he said, and only started to build momentum after one of the teams played the game. That initial commitment helped get other clubs onboard.
Even with prominent esports brands attached, Thomlison said that he’s less concerned with getting “super wide reach” from the competition and more focused on “deep reach.” If the online stream pulls modest eyes but converts a lot of those viewers into players, then he’ll be satisfied.
“If our viewer count is 1,000 people, but 750 of those became players for the early access weekend, we'd call that a massive success—more so than getting a 10,000-viewer count,” he explained. “Marketing reach is an easy solve with money. Conversion is not.”
Esports and crypto startups have been easy allies in recent years, but even so, many gamers still aren’t keen on the idea of NFTs and token-driven game economies. Worldspark gets that, Thomlison said, and Sparkball’s blockchain elements aren’t even present in the current version of the game. They won’t be for some time.
“We firmly believe that in order for mass adoption to happen, Web3 shouldn't exist in the game until it's actually a game, and people are actually playing it for fun,” he told Decrypt. “Given the negative stigma around Web3 in gaming, we want to be abundantly clear to potential players that this is just a game—and not a ‘Web3 game.’”
Worldspark plans to roll out crypto features in the future after the game has launched its eventual beta period, and they’ll be “light touch cosmetics at the most” that won’t impact gameplay.
If all goes well with early access, the studio hopes to raise more money and “pour gasoline on the fire”—that is, expand the game with more characters, maps, items, and progression elements to pull players in and hopefully keep them around. A beta launch is planned in eight to 12 months, Thomlison added, following further early access play opportunities.