Epic Games taking Rocket League free-to-play was perfectly timed.
Since the times of Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battlecars, the popular high action game has evolved in a way that has led it to become one of the most enthralling esports titles in the world.
Rocket League has moved from strength to strength over the years, and Epic Games' influence on the title has become increasingly important for the future of the esports scene and the game as a whole. Their decision to take Rocket League free to play this summer flies under the radar, but it could be argued to be the most crucial turning point in the short history of the game we've all come to love.
Going free to play has a whole barrel full of positive outlooks, and fits perfectly into the direction the Epic is steering the game towards. With Psyonix's help, Epic can take Rocket League to the pinnacle of esports, and going free to play was a stroke of genius within the master plan.
The Digestibility of Rocket League
Going free to play has opened Rocket League up to a huge influx of players. Since it was implemented, the game nearly peaked at 2 million players, with a steady 900,000 constantly on the game, a huge increase on the previous numbers. This is Epic partly playing on how digestible Rocket League is to a casual gamer and spectator. With the fundamentals of "car football" appealing to many new fans including a younger generation, the lack of price tag and digestibility make this game a no-brainer to at least try. As the die-hard fans will know, it's at this moment where a high percentage of these will learn to adore the game and its (much more complex) infrastructure than what meets the eye. Going free-to-play has attracted and retained players, and it will continue to do so.
Mainstream / Olympic Influence
It's part of a bigger picture though. Epic doesn't intend to simply just give everyone a great free game. They appear to want to drive Rocket League into the biggest esports title in the world, and capitalise on the influence that mainstream media can have on it too. We've already seen the RLCS and other Psyonix Community event make their way onto television, with the likes of BBC and ESPN both broadcasting the game so far. This is yet another tactic deployed by Epic, as they realise that the game makes for great viewing (party due to its digestibility again - it's much easier on the eye than League of Legends, and politics-free when compared to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive).
Using the mainstream media and the Olympic Games, Epic can catapult Rocket League too so many eyes, and encourage players to get involved as it's not going to cost a penny to play. Only your parents' electricity bills. The Olympics added Rocket League to the Tokyo Games' list of sports, alongside Street Fighter, as the first esport to have an official medal.
- Related - RLCS 2020 Match Of The Year
RLCS X Format
The Rocket League Championship Series Season X (RLCS X) format also encourages players to make the step up from casual to professional. There are, of course, flaws in the early stages of RCLS X, but having open qualifiers for any team to sign up too is key for attracting new talent. It allows anybody who has jumped on the game to take a crack at becoming professional. So far, many teams that were not in last seasons' RLCS have made the jump into the hierarchy, showing that new and exciting players are on the rise. The opportunities for players to begin making a living off the game through rising up the ranks are becoming much more frequent. A perfect model for a free to play game.
There are many more factors as to why Epic Games have targetted the youthful voyage of Rocket League and steered it in a path that can see it dominate esports viewership numbers in the future, and their journey is only just embarking. But, it's clear to see that going free to play is one huge step in its adventure. The future is bright for Rocket League.
Image via Psyonix | Epic Games