The Rocket League phenomenon is one of the best stories in gaming out there. Launching a rocket boosted car into a giant soccer ball isn’t new. Hell, Psyonix did it in 2008 with Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars. Rocket League built on the foundation laid by that absurdly named game and brought rocket car soccer to the masses.
Danny O’Dwyer recently released a fantastic two-part series into the development of Rocket League. Watch how a mode in Unreal Tournament 2004 turned into the game I can’t stop playing in part 1 and part 2.
On Friday, O’Dwyer released an extended interview with Psyonix’s Jeremy Dunham. I’m going to touch on a few things below, but try to watch the nearly half-hour long interview when you get a chance. There’s a lot of great stuff in there.
Rocket League’s road to gaming stardom began with the decision to launch it free for the first month on PlayStation Plus. Why did Psyonix go that route? One big reason was budget. Psyonix was sitting on game they believed in, but didn’t have the money to market it. That’s where Sony and PlayStation Plus comes in. Sony gives the game prime real estate on their storefront and highlights the game in a monthly blog post they do with all the other PlayStation Plus titles. This, in turn, gets picked up by most media outlets.
The downside is the game is free for a month. If Rocket League became too popular, there was a worry Psyonix were losing out on massive sales. Those worries intensified as Rocket League became the most downloaded PlayStation Plus game ever. But the incredibly fun gameplay of Psyonix proved long lasting. Dunham reveals Rocket League sold nearly 2 million copies on PS4 after being a month-long freebie.
And Dunham prefers the approach Psyonix took.
“You can’t over analyze what the negatives are, because what happens is you can always find a reason not to do something,” says Dunham. “I would prefer, personally giving it out to as many people as we did to and letting word of mouth spread and having this audience that can now support us long term through DLC and other means.”
Rocket League is approaching 8 million copies sold says Dunham. About half of those are from PC (around 4 million), and the other half is split between PS4 and Xbox One (around 2 million each). PC is also home to the most hardcore Rocket League players. Both gameplay (most hours played) and financially (buy more DLC).
A quick peek at Steam’s player stats today shows a concurrent player peak of 52,000+ today. I know I routinely see 100,000+ players when I jump on the PC version at night. Now, that’s including PS4/XB1 cross-players too.
These numbers blew Psyonix’s expectations out of the water. Their projections were for 500k – 1 million copies sold depending on how well it was received on PlayStation Plus. For a game that cost less than $2 million to develop, the guys behind Rocket League thought 1 million copies sold would be awesome.
And these projections continue to get surpassed on DLC releases. Every time a piece of DLC is released, sales on all platforms exceed their most optimistic projections.
Keeping the throngs of Rocket League faithful playing isn’t cheap. Dunham won’t give exact server costs figures, but “they are definitely in the seven figures.” When five million players are playing soccer with rocket cars every month, servers aren’t cheap.
Dunham dives much deeper into other topics including e-Sports and more. Check out the full interview above.
I just want to thank the folks at Psyonix for creating one of my favorite games of all time. 16 months later and it’s still the game I play the most. Even with all the fantastic AAA and indie games out now, I can’t stop playing Rocket League. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had playing a game ever. I can’t believe I’m writing that about a game where you smash a giant ball with a rocket boosted car, but there it is.
Where does Rocket League sit in your top games in recent years, or even all time?