The e-sports venture of the Wilf family, owners of the Vikings, is expanding into family-friendly territory.
Wise Ventures Esports on Wednesday said it formed a team that will compete in Rocket League, the cars-playing-soccer game that first emerged on Windows computers and PlayStation machines five years ago.
The game, created by San Diego-based Psyonix LLC, has since mushroomed onto multiple devices and online leagues, helped by its easily understood play dynamics and "E" game rating, making it available for all ages.
The new Wise Ventures Esports team, called Version1, will play in the Rocket League Championship Series starting on Friday, when a reconstituted schedule that ends a reliance on league play and seasons begins. With Version1, Wise Ventures Esports is also launching its first in-house broadcast operation and will have a channel on the Twitch streaming platform.
Wise Ventures Esports launched its first team last fall, called the Minnesota Røkkr, playing Call of Duty, a shooter game that is one of the most popular in the world. With the Rocket League team, the Eagan-based company gets a chance to reach a broader audience and appeal to marketers who may be averse to sponsoring a game oriented around violence.
"There are some brands for whom a shooting game is not a good fit," said Brett Diamond, chief operating officer for Wise Ventures Esports. "Now we have an opportunity to engage in conversations with potential partners with a game that does carry an E rating and is very popular."
He said the company had been considering expanding into other video sports besides Call of Duty in 2020, but it had not made any decisions when an opportunity to form a Rocket League team emerged less than two months ago.
At that time, Cloud9, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based firm that owns e-sports teams in about a dozen different video games, decided that it would no longer field a team playing Rocket League.
Version1 is being formed by two of the three players who were on the Cloud9 team — Kyle Storer, known as "Torment" by Rocket League fans, and Jesus Parra, known as "Gimmick." The pair won the Rocket League Championship Series championship in its sixth season.
They are joined by Alexandre Bellemare, known to game fans as "AxB," and coach Jason Nunez, who was a top scorer in several seasons when he was a player.
Diamond said the players won't be moving to Minnesota nor practicing in the e-sports center the Wilfs built near the Minnesota Vikings headquarters in Eagan.
As the company enters more video game leagues, some will be based here and others will be scattered around the country, he said. In part, that depends on the setup of the game leagues. The Rocket League Championship Series does not have city-based teams.
"There's not a timeline on adding teams, but we're always evaluating what that next opportunity may be," Diamond said.
While the game in Rocket League is easy to grasp — cars playing soccer in a kind of mega-arena where the rules of gravity are a bit different — like many sports it is difficult to master, particularly to a level of professional play.
"The nuance is incredibly complex," Diamond said. "It's almost like their own law of physics that the players at the professional level have to master."
Evan Ramstad • 612-673-4241