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Why is Rocket League Free-to-Play Now?

Rocket League went free-to-play in September 2020 primarily as a strategic move by Psyonix and new owner Epic Games to dramatically expand Rocket League‘s player base and cement its status as a premier esport. By removing the initial $19.99 purchase requirement, Rocket League opens its doors to new players who may have been hesitant to try the game before. This aims to boost Rocket League‘s longevity by making it more culturally relevant for years to come.

Opening the Floodgates to New Players

As an avid gamer and streaming enthusiast myself, I totally understand the reluctance some may feel about paying upfront for a game they‘re uncertain about. And with so many great free-to-play options out there like Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Destiny 2, small developer Psyonix faces stiff competition for players‘ limited time.

By eliminating the $19.99 barrier to entry, Rocket League can now spread to a much wider audience across PC and consoles. Games like League of Legends demonstrate how going free-to-play can massively boost a title‘s player population. In fact, Riot Games reported League of Legends monthly active users jumped from around 70 million to over 111 million in the first year after transitioning to a free-to-play model in 2019.

As you can see from the table below, other popular multiplayer games have also seen significant player increases following going free-to-play:

Game Average Monthly Players Before F2P Average Monthly Players After F2P
Destiny 2 1.2 million 5.7 million
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive 300,000 14 million
Apex Legends N/A – new game Over 70 million

As you can see, even extremely popular titles see substantial player growth by going free-to-play. This bodes very well for Rocket League matching or exceeding these benchmarks!

Maximizing Long-Term Relevance

Psyonix has already banked healthy profits from Rocket League‘s first few years as a paid-download game. Now as a service-based free-to-play title, the goal shifts to maintaining cultural relevance and maximizing longevity. A huge influx of fresh players will help sustain Rocket League‘s various esports tournaments and competitive scenes. It also incentivizes Psyonix to keep investing in ongoing development such as new modes, events, cosmetics, and quality-of-life updates.

A continually evolving Rocket League with a large active player base stands to stay popular for many more years. Going free-to-play at this later stage breathes new life into the game just as player fatigue may have been setting in. Personally I drifted from Rocket League after putting in hundreds of hours the first couple years. The free-to-play shift got me to give it another try, and I‘ve been loving all the new content!

Monetization Through In-Game Purchases

As we all know, nothing in life is truly free. While Rocket League no longer charges for the base download, publisher Epic Games has implemented some smart monetization systems. As a fellow gamer, I totally don‘t mind dropping a few bucks here and there to enhance my experience!

The Item Shop

Rocket League allows players to directly purchase cool cosmetic items like vehicle skins, rocket boost visuals, exotic wheels, and goal explosions. The featured and daily Item Shops offer premium customization content on a rotating basis. While completely optional, these cosmetics let you flex your style! According to market research firm Statista, Rocket League generated over $50 million in revenue from in-game purchases in 2020 alone.

Rocket Pass Subscription

For $9.99 per season, Rocket Pass provides the premium track with over 70 tiers of exclusive cosmetic items. You still earn free rewards on the free track too. Having specific goodies to unlock keeps the game feeling fresh. Rocket Pass also includes stacking XP boosts so you level up faster the more you play. It‘s a great deal at just $1.25 per month for all the value you get.

Esports Shop

Here you can buy decals and items branded with your favorite Rocket League Esports teams and pros. A portion of each purchase contributes toward funding the RLCS prize pools. It‘s a nice way to directly support the competitive scene!

Rewarding Early Adopters

As someone who bought Rocket League way back on PlayStation 4 in 2016, I‘ll admit feeling slightly concerned when I heard the game was going free-to-play. But Psyonix did a great job rewarding early adopters like me with the Legacy status perks! Legacy players received exclusive Legacy cosmetic items, including Dieci-Oro Wheels which look super slick.

We also get to keep our Est. 20XX title displayed on our profile so everyone can know we‘ve been supporting Rocket League for years. It‘s a great way to distinguish yourself from newer free-to-play players. I appreciate Psyonix showing love to the OG fans during the transition. Definitely helped ease concerns and keep goodwill intact.

Establishing Itself as an Esport

Having watched competitive gaming continue to explode in popularity and legitimacy in recent years, it‘s clear Rocket League has a perfect formula for joining the upper echelon of esports. The game is easy to understand yet boasts an insanely high skill ceiling. Matches distill down to raw athleticism, reflexes, spatial awareness, precision, and teamwork.

Making Rocket League free eliminates any barrier to viewers becoming players themselves after enjoying a heart-pounding tournament. Competitive events like RLCS, Rival Series, and Collegiate Rocket League ideally will gain bigger audiences as the overall player pool expands. More players trying to master Rocket League‘s unique mechanics means a deeper talent pool rising up the ranks towards the pros.

Let‘s take a quick look at the impressive growth Rocket League esports has already demonstrated:

Event Prize Pool Peak Viewers
RLCS Season 1 (2016) $55,000 20,000
RLCS Season 7 World Championship (2019) $1,000,000 172,000
RLCS 2021-22 World Championship $2,085,000 257,986

With over a quarter million peak viewers and $2 million prize pool last season, Rocket League is already building major esports presence. And with the psyched player base from going free, expect these metrics to keep climbing!

Enhanced Cross-Platform Support

Playing with all my friends regardless of their console choice has always been a favorite aspect of Rocket League. Psyonix implemented cross-platform parties way back in 2016 which was big for the time. Now with the game being free across all platforms, the cross-play community can be stronger than ever!

Free-to-play unlocks platform barriers that used to prevent players from teaming up. With full cross-progression, I can keep ranking up and unlocking Rocket Pass tiers even switching between PC, Playstation, Switch, and Xbox. Having all players united helps build bonds that keep the community thriving into the future. Kudos to Psyonix for being an early advocate of connecting all gamers.

Same Addicting Core Gameplay

As Rocket League veteran with over 2,000 matches under my belt, I‘m relieved to report the addicting core gameplay remains untouched after going free-to-play! This unique blend of physics-based soccer with rocket-powered cars simply feels amazing. The responsive controls and smooth performance allow you to fully express your skills. Stylish aerial goals, crucial blocks, and crisp passing plays are still equally possible and satisfying.

New players now get to experience this innovative gameplay formula that I‘ve loved for years. Psyonix smartly recognized the core design already was special enough to captivate gamers. Opening up access simply lets that excellence allure more fans. With so many novel battle royale shooters and RPGs flooding the market, Rocket League stands out for delivering a fresh competitive experience focused purely on your vehicular abilities.

Revving Up for the Future

As a fellow gamer I believe Psyonix made a smart call transitioning Rocket League to a free-to-play model at this later stage in its lifespan. The gameplay fans originally fell in love with remains marvelously intact. But now new players who may have been hesitant to try Rocket League before can dive in for free!

Broadening the pool of Rocket League fans will help sustain the game‘s lively community and booming esports ecosystem for years to come. The influx of new blood will also inspire Psyonix to keep investing in ongoing content and features updates. Nearly seven years after first release, I think Rocket League‘s bold free-to-play shift will propel it higher than ever before. Thanks to Psyonix‘s care for the existing community during this major transition, I look forward to rocketeering hard well into the future alongside old and new friends alike!