Rocket League celebrated its fifth anniversary on Wednesday, and we can hardly believe it. Introducing many players to Soccar back in 2015, this once-indie game has become a defining multiplayer experience for PlayStation 4 and, according to Psyonix’s latest figures, an incredible 75 million players have registered since launch. Scoring 29 billion goals altogether, you can just picture “What a Save!” being spammed in quick chat already.
Psyonix has prepared an in-game event to celebrate this landmark, bringing new cosmetic items and some limited time game modes. Like many hits, it came from humble origins -- but how did a small indie title become one of this generation’s most successful? To look at that takes us back to 2008, when Psyonix self-published the wildly named Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars! on PS3.
For the unfamiliar, SARPBC was Rocket League’s predecessor. Establishing the core gameplay mechanics we see today, players controlled a rocket-powered car to hit a ball into the opposing team’s goal across a 3v3 player setup. It gained a small fanbase but suffered from a lack of marketing, flying under the radar for many players. That lengthy title didn’t help matters either, later referred to by Psyonix’s design director Corey Davis as “The worst game name of all-time”.
Psyonix wasn’t ready to give up, though. Despite failing to find publisher interest in a sequel, it began taking out contract work for other studios, contributing to major titles like Mass Effect 3 which helped fund Rocket League. Come 2013, development was fully underway and lessons were learned from SARPBC, opting for the shorter “Rocket League” name with a greater focus on single player elements. Two years later, it was ready to launch.
Rather than rely on traditional advertising, Psyonix reached out to streamers and a public beta was released a few months before launch, garnering much attention. Soon enough, a gamble was formed and in a surprise move, Rocket League would become part of PS Plus’ Instant Game Collection immediately upon launching. For a game with no major publisher attached, it was a risky move but as they say in quick chat, it was calculated!
Seeing over six million people download on PS4 alone, reviews were widely positive -- our own included. Single player content proved fun, but multiplayer truly brought Rocket League to life. Offline or online, you could go for a quiet 1v1 match or a frantic 4v4 affair, if you felt particularly chaotic. Teamwork was essential across the field, whether you played as the goalkeeper securing those clutch saves or a midfielder creating crucial assists for teammates to convert into goals.
Pulling off victories was (and still is) completely satisfying, and here lied the key to its addictive quality. Rewarding skill but remaining accessible to newcomers, it drew in a wide audience. The concept lent itself well to eSports territory, so it was practically inevitable that Psyonix formed the Rocket League Championship Series almost a year later. Later expanding to Xbox One and Switch, Psyonix was an early champion of Cross-Play multiplayer, which saw full implementation last year once Sony relaxed its policies.
As with any game, players get bored over time, but Rocket League continued bringing new content to keep people engaged. This started with adding new cars into the fold via DLC, but free updates introduced new modes like Mutators, the Mario Kart-inspired madness of Rumble, and new stadiums. It kept proceedings interesting, not to mention the crossover events that made iconic vehicles like Ghostbusters’ Ecto-1 and Back To The Future’s DeLorean playable.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing though, and these DLC practices saw Psyonix come under much criticism, particularly regarding microtransactions. Back in 2016, Rocket League notably introduced a paid loot crate system, charging players for the keys to unlock them to minor controversy. Since Epic Games acquired Psyonix last year, a move that also drew ire from some players, these were replaced in favour of a Blueprint system that removed random content draws.
Ultimately though, neither issue had a major impact on Rocket League’s long-term popularity, and it maintains a steady userbase. Continuing to provide regular new content, its anniversary post teases further news later this summer, saying the best has yet to come. Whether that brings new expansions or a PS5 version remains speculation but as it stands, Psyonix’s commitment to its hit title remains strong, and there’s still plenty of fuel left in this tank.
Do you have any fond memories of Rocket League? Any ridiculous goals you pulled off or impossible saves? Let us know in the comments section below.