Packaging artwork, depicting the game's rocket-powered vehicles[a]
|Engine||Unreal Engine 3|
Rocket League is a vehicular soccer video game developed and published by Psyonix. The game was first released for Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 4 in July 2015, with ports for Xbox One and Nintendo Switch being released later on. In June 2016, 505 Games began distributing a physical retail version for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment taking over those duties by the end of 2017. Ports were also made for macOS and Linux personal computers in 2016, but as of March 2020, these platforms will no longer be supported for the online features in the game.
Described as "soccer, but with rocket-powered cars", Rocket League has up to four players assigned to each of the two teams, using rocket-powered vehicles to hit a ball into their opponent's goal and score points over the course of a match. The game includes single-player and multiplayer modes which can be played both locally and online, including cross-platform play between all versions. Later updates for the game enabled the ability to modify core rules and added new game modes, including ones based on ice hockey and basketball.
Rocket League is a sequel to Psyonix's Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, a 2008 video game for the PlayStation 3. Battle-Cars received mixed reviews and was not a major success, but gained a loyal fan base. Psyonix continued to support themselves through contract development work for other studios while looking to develop a sequel. Psyonix began formal development of Rocket League around 2013, refining the gameplay from Battle-Cars to address criticism and fan input. Psyonix also recognized their lack of marketing from Battle-Cars, and engaged in both social media and promotions, including offering the game for free for PlayStation Plus members on release, to market the game.
Rocket League was praised for its gameplay improvements over Battle-Cars, as well as its graphics and overall presentation, although some criticism was directed towards the game's physics engine. The game earned a number of industry awards, and saw over 10 million sales and 40 million players by the beginning of 2018. Rocket League has also been adopted as an esport, with professional players participating through ESL and Major League Gaming, along with Psyonix hosting their own competitions through the Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS).
Rocket League gameplay is largely the same as that of its predecessor, Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars. Players control a rocket-powered car and use it to hit a ball that is much larger than the cars towards the other team's goal area to score goals, in a way that resembles a soccer game, with elements reminiscent of a demolition derby. Players' cars have the ability to jump to hit the ball while in mid-air. The players can also pick up a speed boost by passing their cars over marked spaces on the field, enabling them to quickly cross the field, use the added momentum to hit the ball, or ram into another player's car to destroy it; in the latter case, the destroyed car respawns moments later. A player may also use a boost when in the air to propel themselves forward in flight, allowing players to hit the ball in the air. Players can alter their car's orientation while midair, which combined with midair boosting allows for controlled flight. Players can also perform quick dodges, causing their car to do a short jump and spin in a given direction, which can be used to nudge the ball or gain positioning advantage over the other team.
Matches are typically five minutes long, with a sudden death overtime if the game is tied at that point. Matches can be played from between one-on-one up to four-on-four players, as well as in casual and ranked playlists. The latter serves as Rocket League competitive online mode, where players compete in various tiered ranks within game seasons, with victories or losses raising or lowering a player's rank, respectively. The game includes a single-player "season" mode, with the player competing with computer-controlled players. An update in December 2016 introduced "Custom Training" sequences that can be created by players and shared with others on the same platform; players are able to specify the ball's path and the presence and skill of opponents on the field as to practice specific shots-on-goal over and over.
A few months after it was released, Psyonix released an update that added game modes known as "mutators", modifying some aspects of gameplay, such as increased or decreased gravity, ball size, ball speed and bounciness. For the 2015 holiday season, another update replaced mutator matches with an ice hockey-inspired mode (called "Snow Day"), played on an ice rink and the ball replaced with a hockey puck with different physics. Positive reception to the ice hockey mode led to it being extended for a few weeks after the holiday season. Snow Day was permanently added to the mutator settings for private matches and exhibition games on February 10, 2016. "Hoops", a game mode based on basketball, was added on April 26, 2016. A separate "Rumble" mode, which incorporates unusual power-ups, such as the ability to freeze the ball in place or cause a single opponent to have difficulty controlling their car, was added on September 8, 2016. An update in December 2016, known as "Starbase ARC" (based on Psyonix' mobile game ARC Squadron) added support for custom arenas for Windows players supported through Steam Workshop, along with other new content.
A new game mode, Dropshot, was added in a March 2017 update. It takes place in an arena without any goals and a field made of hexagonal tiles, and uses a ball that becomes increasingly electrified after successful strikes or passes. The more the ball is struck by players without touching the ground the more electrified it becomes, and the more tiles it damages once it finally does hit the ground. The goal of the mode is to damage the opponent's floor enough to break a hole into it, allowing the ball to drop through and score. Once a team scores, the floor on that side of the field resets to normal (while the floor on the scoring team's side retains any existing damage).
As part of a means to monetize the game beyond downloadable content, Psyonix has tried a few different approaches. In September 2016, it introduced a loot box system known as "Crates", where players could purchase them with a random selection of in-game customization items, opened through the purchase of Keys using real-world funds. Due to increasing governmental concern over loot boxes, Psyonix replaced the Crates system with Blueprints in December 2019, which offer a known specific item with potential modifiers as potential end-of-match drops. These Blueprints can then be crafted using the game's premium currency, purchased with real-world funds, if the player so chooses. Separately, Psyonix added a battle pass feature to the game in September 2018, known as the "Rocket Pass". Each pass, which lasts a few months, has challenges and other opportunities through playing Rocket League that allow players to increase the tier of the Pass, from which new unique customization options tied to that pass can be unlocked. While the Rocket Pass is free to all players, a flat-cost premium option can be purchased which accelerates the level up rate and unlocks additional items at certain tier levels.
Psyonix had previously developed Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars in 2008 for the PlayStation 3. That title itself bore out from previous modifications that Psyonix' founder, Dave Hagewood, had done for Unreal Tournament 2003 by expanding out vehicle-based gameplay that Epic Games had already set in place in the engine into a new game mode called Onslaught. For this, Hagewood was hired as a contractor by Epic for Unreal Tournament 2004 specifically for incorporating the Onslaught mode as an official part of the game. Hagewood used his experience at Epic to found Psyonix. Among other contract projects, Psyonix worked to try to find a way to make racing the Unreal vehicles in a physics-based engine enjoyable. They had toyed with several options such as race modes or mazes, but found that when they added a ball to the arena to be pushed by the vehicles, they had hit upon the right formula, which would become Battle-Cars. Further to the success was the addition of the rocket-powered cars; this originally was to be a simple speed boost, but with the physics engine, they were able to have the vehicles fly off and around the arena, furthering the possibilities for gameplay.
As Psyonix finished development of Battle-Cars, the studio had tried to gain access to a publisher by selling their game as "soccer, but with rocket-powered cars", but none of the publishers seemed interested. Ultimately, they opted to self-publish the title on the PlayStation Network with almost no marketing. Though the title was downloaded more than two million times, it was not considered very successful even after the studio cut the price. The studio continued on to other projects, though kept the idea of building on Battle-Cars as an option, recognizing the game had a small but dedicated fan-base that provided them with ideas for expansion. These other projects, which including contract work for AAA titles, including Mass Effect 3 and Gears of War, helped to fund the development of Rocket League.
Full development of Rocket League started around 2013 and took around two years and under $2 million to develop, though they had tested various prototypes of a Battle-Cars sequel in the years prior, including an unsuccessful attempt at pitching the game's idea to Electronic Arts in 2011. Psyonix used some of the feedback from Battle-Cars to fine-tune the gameplay in Rocket League. A key requirement for Psyonix was to increase the game's frame rate from 30 to 60 frames-per-second, a known criticism from Battle-Cars and essential for newer hardware, according to Corey Davis, the design director at Psyonix. Hagewood recognized that Battle-Cars was considered "too hardcore" with the game becoming too inaccessible to novice players against skilled ones. They eased up on some aspects to make it more approachable, such as by slowing the pace of the game and allowing players of all skill levels to reasonably compete against each other while promoting team-based gameplay. Though they tried to add elements like power-ups, they found these to be too distracting to gameplay. They also explored other changes such as making the game more gritty, akin to Monday Night Combat, developing several mini-games related to handling of the car, working on making the graphics give a sense of scale to the players to give the impression they were controlling full-sized vehicles rather than radio-controlled cars, and creating an open world structure where the player would drive between stadium and stadium to participate in matches. Instead, the team opted to strip the game to its core, focusing on more visual elements to enhance the title. From Battle-Cars, Psyonix recognized very few players actually went online, and developed Rocket League single-player season mode to encourage players to try online matches once they completed it.
Psyonix's team were aware of past difficulties that they had with Battle-Cars and other racing games with online play and client-side prediction, and the issues that would arise from that with Rocket League fast-paced play style. To solve this, the physics in the game are based on using the Bullet physics engine within the Unreal Engine 3's PhysX engine, which tracks the movement of all the cars and actors, allowing them to periodically re-synchronize the game state across players based on the stored physics states, which enabled players to have quick reactions from their client. At the time of Battle-Cars, Psyonix could not afford a dedicated server network and were forced to rely on individual hosts, which could lead to poor performance with slow Internet connections. With Rocket League, Psyonix was able to put a dedicated server network in place, writing their own service protocols to interface with Sony's and Valve's online services so as to enable cross-platform play, as well as improving matchmaking capabilities. Psyonix's previous experience in contract work for AAA titles had exposed them to the larger developers' approach to release and quality control, and they were able to apply those principles and aim for the same level of quality requirements in the final release of Rocket League.
Psyonix had at one point considered having Rocket League as a free-to-play title with microtransactions, inspired by Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2 free-to-play models. Though they had put in efforts to establish a free-to-play model, Psyonix decided instead to switch to a traditional sale method, and offer only cosmetic elements as downloadable content, assuring that no players would have any additional advantage beyond their own skill. The name Rocket League was selected in part to reduce the size of the game's title in order to appear fully in digital storefronts, and also served to be an easier to remember name as well as a more mature-sounding title than Battle-Cars, according to Hagewood; speaking on Rocket League development in March 2016, Davis opined that Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars was "the worst game name of all time".
Rocket League has been one of the leading games in supporting cross-platform play between personal computers and consoles. Dunham sees cross-platform play helps establish a stable player base and avoid the snowball effect that can cause isolated player bases on individual platforms to wane, particularly in the transition from one console generation to the next. Though the Xbox One version lacked this feature at launch, Microsoft in March 2016 announced that Rocket League would be the first game in a new initiative they were taking to enable cross-play between Xbox One and Microsoft Windows players who have Xbox Live accounts; this cross-platform play feature was added in an update in May 2016. Microsoft has stated that they offer other networks, such as Sony's PlayStation Network, the ability to integrate with Xbox Live to allow full cross-platform compatibility for titles like Rocket League. Dunhan noted that this cross-platform idea had been something they asked Microsoft about when Rocket League was set for an Xbox One release, but he stated that Microsoft did not seem to be on board with it. Only after they had neared the release date would Microsoft take the initiative to offer the title as one for their new cross-play efforts and started working towards this possibility in the game.
Psyonix determined the required technical steps needed to enable cross-platform play and have tested it in closed environments, and were only waiting for the legalities of cross-connecting players between different networks before proceeding. this work also includes how they would be able to distribute updated content patches in a unified and more frequent manner to enable them to continue to expand the game for at least another 9 months. In a July 2016 interview with IGN, Dunham stated they had done all the technical work and could enable cross-platform play between the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions "within a few hours" of Sony's approval. As of March 2017, the company is ready to enable this feature, but was still waiting for the console manufacturers to come to the required agreements to allow it.
With the announcement of the Switch version, Psyonix affirmed that it would support cross-platform play with PC and Xbox users. Sony still opted not to participate in this; PlayStation global marketing head Jim Ryan said that while they are "open to conversations with any developer or publisher who wants to talk about it", their decision was "a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders". Dunham says that in contrast to Microsoft or Nintendo, who agreed to allow cross-platform play within a month and with the day of Psyonix' request, respectively, Sony has been asked on a nearly daily basis about this support and have yet to receive any definitive answer. The cross-platform party feature is planned for an update in early 2019. This will allow players to create in-game friend lists across platforms and play in matches with them. This will be limited by the current cross-platform limitations: while Windows players can add friends from other Windows users and Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Switch users, PlayStation 4 users will be limited to Windows and PlayStation 4 users.
In September 2018, Sony had altered its position on cross-platform play following the release of Fortnite Battle Royale for the Switch, where the lack of cross-platform play had been a point of significant criticism. Sony allowed Fortnite to be cross-platform play compatible with all platforms and stated they would review other games on a case-by-case basis. By January 2019, Psyonix announced that Sony had granted the same for Rocket League, allowing cross-platform play between the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch and PC versions in February 2019.
The original soundtrack for Rocket League was released both physically and digitally on July 1, 2015. It contains original compositions by Psyonix sound designer Mike Ault, as well as contributions by Ault's electronic music group, Hollywood Principle. New songs were added to the game with post-release updates, including "Chaos Run Theme" by Kevin Riepl, "Escape from LA (Instrumental)" by Abandoned Carnival and Ault, and a remix of Hollywood Principle's "Breathing Underwater" by Ether. These songs were later compiled in the second volume of the soundtrack, which was released on July 7, 2016.iam8bit published a three-disc vinyl version of the soundtrack, consisting of the above two volumes, in late 2016. The game's 2nd anniversary update included a musical content pack featuring releases from the EDM label, Monstercat. The label have also released a series of standalone albums featuring the music, titled Rocket League x Monstercat.
Psyonix plans to continue to support Rocket League with downloadable content (DLC), intending to keep all gameplay updates as free and only charging for cosmetic items. In November 2015, a free update added the ability to "Mutate" a match, allowing for a number of different custom presets and match settings, including a low gravity mode and a cubed ball, among other improvements and additions. Through this, Psyonix is able to offer custom game playlists to test out new modes or for holiday-themed events. For example, during the latter part of December 2015, Psyonix introduced an ice hockey-based mutation alongside a special event featuring holiday-themed decorative items, replacing the normal ball with a hockey puck, and changing the floor to ice. This mode proved very popular and was permanently added to the standard playlists on February 24, 2016. In February 2016, a new game playlist called "Rocket Labs" was added to offer new experimental maps to players as a means to gauge feedback and interest in a map before adding it to the game's standard map playlist. In April 2016, the developers added the basketball-based playlist to the standard playlists. A new "Rumble" mode, which adds unique power-ups on various maps, was released in September 2016.
The game's first DLC pack, titled Supersonic Fury, was released in August 2015, along with new arena Utopia Coliseum. It contains exclusive cosmetics, including two new cars, rocket boosts, wheels, five paint finishes, and twelve decals for both new cars. The same month, it was announced that Rocket League would be ported to macOS and Linux later that year, in order to run natively with SteamOS hardware; Rocket League and Portal 2 were part of incentives for those that pre-ordered a Steam Link, a Steam Controller, or a Steam Machine. The game's second DLC pack, titled Revenge of the Battle-Cars, was released in October 2015. The DLC adds two more cars from Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, along with exclusive cosmetics for both. In another event, players had a chance to collect six Halloween-themed items from October 18 to November 2. The game's third DLC pack, titled Chaos Run, was released in December 2015. The DLC added two more cars, along with more cosmetics. A new arena, called "Wasteland", was released for free alongside the DLC. The map is notable for being the first non-standard arena to be released, having a different size and shape than the others and inspired by the Mad Max films, the first of which Psyonix plans to release over time.
In June 2016, a new arena, Neo Tokyo, based on the Rocket Labs layout Underpass, was added to the game via an update. The update also introduced cosmetic items awarded at the end of matches with various rarity grades, and gave players the ability to trade multiple items of the same type and rarity grade to obtain an item of a better rarity grade. Also included in the patch are a number of painted and certified items, the latter of which are cosmetic items with statistics-recording tags, and eight new achievements. Psyonix added the ability for players to trade items with other players within the "Rumble" update, including item and crate drop systems comparable to Team Fortress 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, in which players have the chance to gain locked crates from playing in competitive matches. Players are able to purchase keys to open these crates through microtransactions, revealing special decorative items for their cars. Players can opt-out of this feature to disable crate drops. Though items received in crates are tradable within the game, these items cannot be sold on the platform's respective marketplaces so as to prevent issues in the same vein as the Counter-Strike skin gambling controversy. The funds from microtransactions would be used to support the esports tournaments organized by Psyonix. In October 2016, a major update titled "Aquadome" launched, featuring a new arena placed under the sea, along with two new premium water-themed cars, and a new crate containing new items and seven new achievements.
Psyonix was able to make licensing agreements to include vehicles and decorative items from other franchises within the game. On launch, the PlayStation 4 version included Sweet Tooth's car from the Twisted Metal series. As a separate DLC, the DeLorean time machine from the Back to the Future film franchise, was released on October 21, 2015, corresponding with Back to the Future Day. The Xbox One release includes platform-exclusive Gears of War and Halo-themed vehicles. The Batmobile, as seen in the 2016 film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, was offered as a playable vehicle in March 2016, while Dominic Toretto's Dodge Charger from the film The Fate of the Furious was added to tie in with the film's release in April 2017. An update released in July 2017 introduced a new arena celebrating the one-year anniversary of the game, along with cosmetic items based on the American animated show Rick & Morty. Alongside the theatrical release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Psyonix released Jurassic Park and Jurassic World-themed content, including a Jurassic Park-themed Jeep Wrangler car model.
In September 2015, Psyonix held a cross-promotion with Torn Banner Studios, adding two free new flags themed after Torn Banner's Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. At the same time the "Chaos Run" DLC was released, Psyonix added free cosmetics and accessories from the Portal series by Valve. Themed content based on Goat Simulator and Euro Truck Simulator were added to the game in April 2016 as part of cross-promotional deals with those games. Other themed promotional content includes decorative items based on The Witcher and Worms W.M.D. With the release of the basketball game mode in 2016, Psyonix partnered with the National Basketball Association (NBA), offering flags with all 30 NBA team logos as car customization items. In February 2017, two iconic Hot Wheels cars were added to the game, along with other cosmetic items based on the brand.
For the 2019 Radical Summer event, Psyonix released two new car packs; the Ecto-1 from the Ghostbusters film franchise in June, and the KITT from the 1980s television series Knight Rider in July. Psyonix had hoped to include KITT as early as 2016. For the 2019 Halloween event, cars and other cosmetics based on the television series Stranger Things were added.
Rocket League was officially announced as the sequel to Battle-Cars in February 2014. Building on the effects from the lack of marketing with Battle-Cars, Psyonix developed a different marketing approach to Rocket League. This included engaging with YouTube and Twitch video game streamers with early release copies to help spread the word, recognizing that clips from the game would be readily shared through social media. They also opened the game to early alpha and beta testing for several months following the game's announcement. Davis noted that they otherwise did not spend any money on traditional marketing approaches.
They had originally planned to release the game around November 2014, but had missed this deadline to implement better matchmaking and servers, high frame rates, and removing the free-to-play elements. The game was released publicly on July 7, 2015 for the PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows. Davis considered this serendipitous, as this moved the game out from a busy period of many major releases during the holiday season to the relatively quiet mid-year period, reducing the amount of competition from other titles. Further, the game on release was made part of Instant Game Collection on the PlayStation 4 and free to PlayStation Plus subscribers; within the week, Psyonix had seen more than 183,000 unique players, exceeding their server capacity and requiring them to improve on their network code to handle the influx of players. Davis estimated there were six million downloads of the game from this promotion, and considered this the "best decision" they had ever made.
Ports for macOS and Linux were released as a beta on September 8, 2016. A retail version of Rocket League, in form of the game's Collector's Edition, was announced in February 2016, and was released in Europe on June 24, 2016 and in North America on July 5, 2016. The Collector's Edition is published and distributed by 505 Games, and includes the first three downloadable content packs for free, as well as four additional cars to be available as digital download on July 18: Aftershock and Marauder (both from Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars), as well as Esper and Masamune. In October 2017, Psyonix announced that Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment would begin to publish an updated version of the game for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles by the end of that year, which includes additional content for both versions.
The PlayStation 4 version was patched in February 2017 to offer PlayStation 4 Pro support, allowing for 4K resolution and constant 60 frames-per-second rendering at 1080p for one and two-player split-screen players; three and four-player split screen will render up to 60 frames-per-second when possible. Similar rendering improvements were also made to the standard PlayStation 4 to approach constant 60 frames-per-second for most arenas and modes.
After reviewing the feasibility of doing so, Psyonix announced that Rocket League would also be released for the Nintendo Switch, as revealed during Nintendo's press conference during E3 2017. It was released later that year on November 14, and includes Nintendo property customization options, including Mario, Luigi, and Metroid-inspired car designs, and supports cross-platform play with the PC and Xbox One versions. Due to the Switch's lack of natural support for Unreal Engine 3, some compromises had to be made in the porting process, such as by reducing the graphical quality to 720p. Despite having to do custom work to make the game run smoothly on the Switch, Psyonix's Jeremy Dunham was impressed with the work that had been done before release.
Austin, Texas-based studio Panic Button assisted Psyonix with the Xbox One and Nintendo Switch ports, and graphical updates to support the PlayStation 4 Pro. In April 2017, Psyonix announced that they had partnered with Tencent to bring a free-to-play version of Rocket League to the Chinese gaming market, with users able to purchase cosmetic items through microtransactions. It was successfully licensed through China's approval process in July 2019.
Because of the continued growth of the game's player base, Psyonix's Dunham said they do not anticipate creating any sequel to the game, and instead are expecting to continue to add new features to the game over several years' time, calling this an "infinite support window". A small team within Psyonix was set up to explore new features and gameplay ideas to continue to expand Rocket League.
In May 2019, Epic Games announced that it had acquired Psyonix for an undisclosed amount. Psyonix has had a long-standing relationship with the studio (its original North Carolina headquarters were only 12 miles (19 km) away from those of Epic), having worked with it on development tools for the Unreal Engine. As a result of the purchase, the game was planned to be added to the Epic Games Store by late-2019, but Psyonix was unclear over whether the game will become exclusive to the store. Epic stated that they had not announced any plans to pull Rocket League from Steam, while the game's Twitter account stated that "long-term plans will be announced in the future", and there would be "continued support" to those who purchased the game on Steam. The game became subject to review bombing on Steam due to this sale, triggering Steam's "off-topic review activity" system, which hides reviews that do not correlate with the game itself.
Psyonix announced in January 2020 that as part of a major upgrade to the base game systems, they would be dropping support for macOS and Linux from the game by March 2020. After March 2020, these versions will no longer be able to connect and use the online parts of the game, but can still be played in single player or local multiplayer. Psyonix said in a followup message that macOS and Linux players represented less than 0.3% of the total player base, and could not justify keeping these as supported platforms as they advanced the other platforms to newer technology, such as moving the Windows version from DirectX 9 to 11, with macOS and Linux lacking anything equivalent. The developer offered full refunds to the game for macOS and Linux owners regardless of how long they had the game.
Psyonix teamed with Internal Drive to provide Rocket League as part of the latter's iD Tech summer educational camps for children, using the game for both recreation and for teaching elements of game design. In 2017, the game served as a sponsor of WWE pay-per-view events Backlash, Great Balls of Fire, and SummerSlam. The following year, the companies announced a further partnership, with WWE cosmetic items introduced to the game in April.
Psyonix partnered with Zag Toys to produce a series of pullback toy cars based on the Rocket League vehicles, which released in June 2017. Some of these included a redeemable code that can be used within the game for unique customization items. The developers also filmed television advertisements for Rocket League that started airing the same month. Alongside these ads, Psyonix offered free copies of Rocket League alongside purchase of selected Nvidia graphic cards. In December 2018, toy car brand Hot Wheels released a radio-controlled car (RC car) game set based on the game that features two RC cars that are controlled through Bluetooth devices, a play field, a ball containing infrared sensors for scoring purposes, and charging devices.
Psyonix had observed the popularity of Rocket League matches on Twitch and other live streaming platforms, and in February 2016, were looking to use the game more in esports. In March 2016, Psyonix announced the first Rocket League Championship Series; the finals took place in August 2016 with a $55,000 prize pool. More than $1 million in revenues from the sale of in-game crates and cosmetic items were used to fund additional competitive events throughout the year, including smaller competitions at major gaming conventions and support for community-run competitive events.
Soon after release, Rocket League became an officially sponsored esport, joining ESL. In September 2015, Major League Gaming (MLG) announced the first season of the Pro Rocket League, which was held in September through early October. A $75,000 Rocket League tournament was held outside U.S. Bank Stadium at the Summer X Games in July 2017, with the finals streamed live on ESPN3.NRG Esports claimed their first live Rocket League championship by winning the tournament, defeating Gale Force eSports in the final. As NBC's first foray into esports, NBC Sports Group, in conjunction with Faceit, ran its own $100,000-prize pool tournament which was broadcast across its eight worldwide regions in July-August 2017. Starting in September 2017, Psyonix and Tespa, a collegiate esports organizer, held the first collegiate tournament for teams to win a share of $50,000 in scholarships. In December 2017, Turner Sports organized a US$150,000 ELEAGUE Cup event for eight teams was broadcast live on streaming media, with a three-part series of shows detailing some of the teams' path to the Cup and some of the match results, which aired on TBS later in the month.
Rocket League, upon release and throughout its lifetime, has been given positive reviews by video game critics.[d] Similar scores were attained by the game's later ports. Positive feedback was aimed towards the game's multiplayer gameplay, and its graphics and visuals, especially in comparison to Battle-Cars; later reviews praised the player experience in the game.[d] Criticism was mostly aimed at the game's physics engine, though a consensus on the topic has been mostly unclear, with some defending the engine.[d]
In a review of Rocket League beta preview, Ozzie Mejia of Shacknews praised Psyonix's approach to updating Battle-Cars using the PlayStation 4's hardware, describing the graphics as "brilliantly detailed" and "crisp" and noting its consistent frame rates throughout. Robert Summa of Destructoid shared Mejia's view that the game was "fun option for anyone looking to mix their racing and sports games together", himself describing that the game was "addictive and fun as hell." Reviewers from Polygon, PlayStation Universe, and Videogamer.com shared positive views towards multiplayer gameplay in Rocket League. Ben Kuchera of Polygon wrote that the game "introduces a well-known concept and then adds a complication." Kuchera disagreed with Pinkerton and asserted that the game's physics were "internally consistent", and summarized his experience with the game as "joyful" and rewarding in its progression. The game's physics engine continued to be a point of contention in later reviews, including Steven Burns' review for Videogamer.com, in which he shared his opinion that the speed of the ball should have been increased in certain modes to compensate for the "floaty" physics. Neil Bolt of PlayStation Universe shared a similar view, writing that the physics "causes frustration in 4v4 bouts where everyone ends up huddling under the slow-descending ball for long periods."
|"||...the physics, floaty as they are, not really suited to seeing the ball constantly being punted about: it can often feel like chasing a balloon around a children's party, but the children are in high-powered rocket cars and are taking no shit. [...] you feel Psyonix would be better off making the ball move just a tad faster: often you'll crash into it at speed only to see your car move quicker than it after collision.||"|
|-- Steven Burns|
In a review for PC Gamer, Matt Elliott defended the physics engine by pointing out the "[nice] contrast" between the fast player-controlled cars and the slower-moving ball, colorfully describing that the ball "gormlessly invites impact like a punchable cousin." Elliott also wrote positively of the multiplayer gameplay, comparing the "destruction" mechanic to the Burnout series, and praising the overall player experience. In complimenting the game's points system, Elliott recounted, "the most valuable players I encountered were workmanlike wingers who selflessly chugged along the flanks, crossing the ball for greedy goalhunters like me. It stops players from clustering in the same spots and reinforces the concept that Rocket League is a team game." Alec Meer of Rock Paper Shotgun, in a restrospective review written two years after its release, shared similar feelings about the player experience in Rocket League. Meer claimed that the game remained "very open, friendly, and accessible to new players across all ages, in contrast to other games with online longevity that tend to be dominated by expert players and difficult to breach by new ones."
Following the Blueprint update in December 2019, players expressed concern that the costs of completing blueprints was more expensive than the cost to open loot boxes, that players got more items for opening a loot box, and that in general, the loot box system felt more rewarding. Within a week of the update, Psyonix reduced the prices of blueprint by half and refunding credits for those that had spent them already.
On July 11, 2015, Psyonix announced that there were around 120,000 concurrent players across both Windows and PlayStation 4. By the end of July, the game had been downloaded over 5 million times, and had 179,000 concurrent players. Psyonix stated that Rocket League's quick paced success far exceeded their expectations.
Psyonix announced that over one million copies of the game had been sold on Steam by August 2015. By the end of 2015, the game had been downloaded over eight million times, and grossed over $50 million. In February 2016, Psyonix stated Rocket League has earned $70 million in revenues with at least four million copies sold, not including downloads on the PlayStation system; they have tracked at least 12 million unique players of the game, including both purchases and during free play offers such as its availability on the PlayStation Plus membership program. Within three weeks of its release for the Xbox One, Psyonix observed at least one million unique players for that system. By July 2016, a year after its release, Psyonix reported more than 6.2 million sales of the game across all platforms, including 5.5 million purchases of DLC, with more than $110 million in revenue; 40% of these sales have been for the PlayStation 4 version with the remaining split roughly equally between PC and Xbox One. Psyonix has tracked more than 25 million unique players by January 2017, averaging 1.1 million players a day, and reaching 220,000 concurrent players at one point. Sony stated that Rocket League was the most-downloaded title from the PlayStation Store in 2016. By the beginning of 2018, the number of players had risen to over 40 million, and subsequently reached 50 million by September 2018.
By March 2017, Psyonix reported that Rocket League had sold more than 10.5 million copies across all platforms, and had 29 million registered players, with about a fourth of that having played during February 2017. Dunham estimated that 70% of the game's players had purchased some of the DLC offered for the game by March 2017. In April 2017, Psyonix reported that in addition to 9.5 million digital sales, the game had also sold over a million physical copies at retail.
After the E3 2015 event, Rocket League received multiple nominations and won several awards, including PlayStation Universe's "Best Sports Game of E3" and Gaming Trend's "Best Multiplayer Game of E3".
At The Game Awards 2015 in December, Rocket League won the award for Best Independent Game and Best Sports/Racing Game, and was nominated for Best Multiplayer. At the 2015 National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers (NAVGTR) awards, the game won Control Precision & Game, Original Sports and was nominated for Art Direction, Fantasy. At the D.I.C.E. Awards in February 2016, Rocket League also won the award for Sports Game of the Year, Outstanding Achievement for Online Gameplay and the D.I.C.E. Sprite Award.Rocket League was awarded the Best Design at the 2016 Game Developers Choice Awards. At the 2016 SXSW Gaming Awards, Rocket League was awarded the "Excellence in Multiplayer" prize.Rocket League won three BAFTA Games Awards for Multiplayer, Sports, and Family, and was nominated for two others, Best Game and Game Design. It also won the following year for the BAFTA's Evolving Game award.
In 2017, the game was nominated for "e-Sports Game of the Year" and "Still Playing" at the Golden Joystick Awards, and for "Best Spectator Game" in IGN's Best of 2017 Awards. It won the award for "Best Post-Launch Support" in Game Informer 2017 Sports Game of the Year Awards. In 2018, the game was nominated for "eSports Game of the Year" at the Golden Joystick Awards. The game won the award for "Fan Favorite Sports/Racing Game" at the Gamers' Choice Awards, whereas its other nomination was for "Fan Favorite eSports Game". It was also nominated for "eSports Title of the Year" at the Australian Games Awards. In 2019, the game was nominated for the "Still Playing" award at the Golden Joystick Awards.