Is Rocket League Dying? – Is the Car Sport Game Alive in 2022?

The question of ‘is Rocket League dying’ is getting asked more and more these days. If you play Rocket League then you might know that the popularity of the game has dropped since the initial free-to-play spike in September 2020. This has led to lots of and frequent discussion about what can be done to revitalise the playerbase.

At some point it needs to be addressed by Psyonix. They are likely aware of this and working on ideas as the game is not going anywhere. However, the question as to what those changes might entail is still very much shrouded in mystery. That hasn’t stopped the community coming up with their own suggestions of course.

The Playerbase

There’s some belief that the playerbase spiked in size soon after the move to Free-to-play. The independent database ActivePlayer shows that Rocket League’s popularity actually hit its peak in July 2021. Nearly 100 million players were launching the game and hopping on across the month. Since then of course, there has been a slight noticeable decrease.

Worries were not eased and controversy only spiralled when in August 2021’s Season 4 Update post, Psyonix detailed that they would no longer display the concurrent player count in game. Instead, players got only the words “Good”, “Great” or “Amazing” to describe the population in each ranked playlist. To many this appeared to be a blatant covering up and ignoring of the problem. The system is still the same today and thus only Steam player counts has been accessible since.

Rocket League Player Count

Other individuals have done their own research using Steam charts. One found that in terms of PC players on Steam, the concurrent player count peak in September 2020 was 147,000. Recently, the peak has been just 45,000. These Rocket League stats show a decrease of nearly 70%, and is part of the reason many are asking the question ‘is Rocket League dying’.

The Viewership

Many content creators have been worried about Rocket League viewership in general all across the board. Understandably many are concerned about their livelihood being dependent on a game in decline. But what about the Esport? Rocket League tournaments have experienced good and many plaudits over the past few years.

From the lows of RLCS Season 1’s approximate 50,000 concurrent viewer peak, the premier Rocket League tournament has grown, reaching its peak at the Season 8 World Championship with a count of 280,495 viewers as per Esports Charts. Since then those numbers have not been achieved, understandably so in that Season 8 was the final season before the onset of the global pandemic.

Hopes have been up for this RLCS 2021-2022 season, with Psyonix announcing in September 2021 the highly-anticipated major expansion. This saw three new regions added to the global circuit (MENA, APAC North and APAC South) as well as support for Sub-Saharan Africa. The RLCS prize pool also grew to accommodate this by a further 6 million dollars. Even the Rocket League betting scene is on a sharp rise.

The Return to LAN

The return to LAN play at the RLCS 2021-2022 Fall Major may not have had a live crowd, but the peak viewership regardless reached an agonisingly close 280,226 viewers, nearly surpassing the previous peak. These Rocket League stats encouraged to some seeing as it was not a World Championship event. However, they are still admittedly low and in cases magnitudes less than the leading Tier 1 esports such as League of Legends or CS:GO.

RLCS Split

At least one thing Rocket League has always had going for it is the fact it is E for everyone. Because of this it attract large brands, such as 7-Eleven, Ford, BMW, Lamborghini, Nissan, the list goes on. They don’t need or have many endemic esports brands on board, because so many of the big brands and partners want to be a part of it. They know that Rocket League speaks to an audience that they would like to speak to too. These sponsors help bring new eyes to the esport and game in turn. This isn’t something long term fans and players really seem to care about though.

What Do Players Want?

Some of the most called for things are more content with regards to the game. A true and proper integrated creative mode is often asked for after seeing what is possible with the game’s Steam Workshop maps.

Other frustrations come from features that were initially exciting and promising when launched by Psyonix, but ultimately have never truly been expanded upon. The custom training for example, was a revelation when introduced but is long overdue some new features. Or the club feature, where you can be in a group with your friends. Outside of the small tag on the leaderboard of an online match this means very little.

An issue that only seems to cause more unsettlement in the community is the lack of communication from Psyonix. Roadmaps are few and far between, and even those don’t seem to stick. The lack of assurance from the game developer leads many to worry. The main thing on the horizon that it seems more and more widely accepted as something to look towards, is the rumoured move for the game across to Unreal Engine 5. Those in the field understand this would open countless doors in terms of possibilities and features for the game. If that potential is lived up to and the rumours are true, then Rocket League could experience a second lease of life.

So is Rocket League dying? Honestly, it’s hard to tell, but it seems too early to book the funeral just yet.