If you’ve ever watched Rocket League esports you know his face: Alex Rodriguez, better known as Axeltoss, is the host of the biggest Rocket League events such as RLCS or Dreamhack, a commentator of the Rocket League scene and one of the most fabulous figures of the community.
This weekend Axeltoss will host the Finals of the Ting Open, an online tournament sponsored by the mobile provider Ting. The tournament has been going on all of January, this weekend the best 8 teams will face each other in one last showdown that will be broadcasted via Axeltoss’ Twitch channel. Rocketeers.gg reached out to Axeltoss to talk about the upcoming Finals.
Axeltoss, you’re just back from Dreamhack Leipzig. How are you? Still a bit jetlagged?
I’m fine, thanks. It was a brutal level of travelling. We had to take the train from Leipzig to Berlin and then our flight from Berlin to Heathrow got delayed so it was a close call to get my flight back home.
Was it your first time in Germany?
No, I’ve been there before. But it was my first time in Leipzig and also my first time in Berlin, even if it was just a very short visit at the airport. But I’ve been to the ESL studios in Cologne.
Now that a few days have passed, how was Dreamhack from your point of view?
Honestly: Dreamhack was cool, I think the event was just perfect and actually one of the best events in Rocket League history. The competition was great, the experience for the spectators was amazing. It was of course brutally long, but not in a bad way.
“I always wanted to do something close to the community”
Even though Dreamhack probably was quite stressful for you, you’re already back in action. This weekend you will host the Finals of the Ting Open, an event that started early January. Please tell me a bit about how this event came into existence.
It’s a cool story, actually. Ting Open is sponsored by Ting Mobile, which is a mobile provider. Years ago I helped them get into esports. Back then lots of companies got into esports and they were interested, too. They wanted to do something with Starcraft and I hooked them up and connected them with the right people. I wasn’t really working with them, because I was never a huge Starcraft guy, but I got them in touch with some of the best pro-players and from there on they did their own thing.
Last year I met the guy from Ting at Blizzcon. We had never met before, which was funny, but we got to talk and they were interested in Rocket League. They knew that I was involved with the RLCS and were interested in putting up their own Rocket League tournament. I loved the idea, because I always wanted to do something close to the community, you know: have my own event, where I can bring friends in, lots of cool players and everybody has fun. I wanted to offer something consistent aside the Rocket League ladder, which can be boring and stale for the players. I was thinking about doing some sort of King of the Hill format or an Open Tournament. I put up a Twitter poll and the King of the Hill format even got a majority of the votes, but I went for an Open Tournament because I really liked the idea.
How many teams did sign up when you first started the Ting Open?
We had two NA qualifiers and two EU qualifiers. We had a lot of feedback. For the first day of the NA qualifiers we had 55 sign-ups, the second day even 61. EU was a bit less: 23 teams each day. After the event is done and when I’m back at the drawing board I will analyse why there were fewer EU teams.
You held the Ting Open every week with weekly cash prizes. Now the bracket is down to the Top 8. There are a lot of pro-teams on that list. We have guys like Fnatic, Envy, Gale Force… How did you manage to get so many professional teams interested in that tournament? I don’t want to talk down your prize pool, but $3500 is not exactly Dreamhack money.
You’re right. When I was balancing the budget I wanted to go for something that would attract the pros but at the same wouldn’t scare off smaller teams from the community. The reason why still many pro-teams were interested in the tournament is that they just love to compete. I think that is the biggest part. We gave parts of the prize pool away each week, so every weekend $500 were up for the best teams with $300 for the winner of that weekend. It’s a good deal for them: The first team gets $100 per player for an evening of Rocket League and they are simultaneously able to train and compete with other professional teams. At the Grand Final we will have $900 for first place.
— Alex (@Axeltoss) 31. Januar 2018
Of course you as the host have to stay unbiased but still: do you have a favorite among the 8 teams that are left?
Yes and yes. I have to stay unbiased, but I also have a lot of teams that I really look forward to see. I’m a huge Deevo fan and Envy are always fun to watch. Fnatic are super fun and I’m excited to see how the new roster plays out, Flipside looked really good. And Gale Force ist just Gale Force. I could go on and on. Cloud9 are always one of those favorites, but Flyquest are also interesting to see. They are one of those bubble teams. Equinox will be fun to watch because they have Jacob and Dignitas are the team of the month because of their incredible run at Dreamhack.
It will be interesting to see Envy after their surprising loss against London eSports at Dreamhack. They probably want to show everybody what they’re capable of, right?
That was a tough one, yeah. But if I’m not mistaken they beat Gale Force in our qualifier. But let’s be clear: There is not a single easy match in the Grand Finals. Any team can take it. Of course there are some favorites here and there, for example Cloud9 are definitely favored against Flyquest, but if Flyquest have a good day they can easily take it.
“There is not a single easy match”
You will also welcome some of the most well-known casters. Given your standing in the community: was it easy to convince them to hop on that casting desk shortly after dreamhack, for example Gibbs and Shogun?
Shogun and Gibbs helped me out the whole month. They were on board immediately. The rest of the guys – Liefx, Wavepunk, Lawler, Quinn, Jamesbot – I just contacted and everybody was like “Yeah, sign me up”. I am really excited to have them involved and bring the diversity in. I am good friends with all of them and happy to be commentating the Quarter Finals with 4 different people and just have fun with them. Each Quarter Final will be a bit different and on Sunday I’m gonna kick back and relax and let the pros take it away. I’m really excited to see Liefx and Lawler together. We haven’t seen them in a while. Putting them together was definitely on purpose.
— Alex (@Axeltoss) 31. Januar 2018
Taking a look at Ting Mobile going into Rocket League. Do you see many non-endemic brands pushing into Rocket League nowadays?
Yeah, if you look at Rocket League there are events popping up here and there. And the sponsors of the RLCS are as non-endemic as it gets: MGM Resorts, Cup Noodles, Brisk, Old Spice. Ting Mobile was already involved in esports with Starcraft and now they love the opportunity to do something in Rocket League. The pace of Rocket League is growing and a ton of businesses are getting into it, more and more sponsors are going to be involved. Rocket League came only out a few years ago, its growth has been incredible and it aligns with orgs getting into it. Mark down a year ago and count the new orgs – that’s a huge number and there are more coming in.
Will Ting Open return for a second run or is this a one-time thing?
Good question. We will see. So far the numbers we’re getting are pretty awesome, but I have to get back to the drawing board and see what makes sense for the future.
The Ting Open has pretty EU friendly times. It will start at 11am on Saturday (PST) and 11am on Sunday as well.
Yes, that was on purpose. The EU matches are earlier than the NA matches. I think it should be 8pm CET, right? And the Grand Final starts at 1pm Pacific Time on Sunday. It’s also – fun fact – Super Bowl Sunday, but calm down: Our Grand Final will conclude 2 hours before the Super Bowl starts. Ting Open is the better Super Bowl on that day and maybe we will host them if I feel generous.
Do you watch the Super Bowl?
I watch it passively, but I am not tailgating or anything. I’m not someone who has to watch it no matter what. But sure, I will probably go somewhere and watch it a little on Sunday.