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Rocket League's PS+ "success" nearly killed it (Steam saved the day)

Par Score

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Dec 6, 2014
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Part of a larger interview on Eurogamer:

Rocket League launched in the summer of 2015 and seemed to be everywhere at once. If you owned a PlayStation 4 and enjoyed having a nice time, you were likely one of six million players who downloaded the game within its first month on PlayStation Plus. Or perhaps you purchased a PC copy instead, in which case, you actually kept the whole thing afloat, whether you realised it or not. It turns out running a successful online multiplayer game is an expensive process.

"I didn't know if we were going to cover server costs," remembered design director, Corey Davis at a recent GDC talk. "Steam covered everything and they pay very quickly, which was important. I can't really imagine what we would have done if we'd shipped only on PlayStation 4 and got that many users."
I think it's interesting to see how even wildly successful games like Rocket League can still teeter on the edge of disaster if the business side of things isn't worked out to perfection.

Imagine a world where this was console exclusive for a time, or the PC version suffered some unexpected last minute delay, or something along those lines.

It's easy to picture the scenario in which a week after launch the Psyonix Multiplayer servers suddenly go dark, people write it off as some lame PS+ indie that nobody cares about, the PC release is met with a shrug, and Rocket League is totally forgotten. Truly the darkest timeline.
 

GhostTrick

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Jan 11, 2012
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Truth to be told, PS+ success was the best marketing for this game. Basically:
"Marketing cost can kill your game if it doesn't sell".
Basically, it's a virtuous circle. PS+ raised awarness which led to strong sales on PC, which led to even more sale on PS4.
 

Gestault

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Oct 18, 2012
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I guess this gives some window on the scale of compensation for titles given away through things like PS+. Though this was probably more of a sudden threshold thing with servers.

That being said, I've bought the game twice over, after getting the PS+ version, so it's danged good exposure if some of us are any indication.
 

Boke1879

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I can see where they are coming from but if it hadn't been on plus and gotten the insane exposure then I doubt they'd be as successful on other platforms
 

valkillmore

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I'll give them my $20 worth over the next several months via DLC. Already bought BTTF DeLorean and hope they release other classic movie cars like Ecto1, Kitt and such.
 

CountAntonius

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Not surprising steam is almost at 3 million sold. Launch day was insane with hundreds of thousands of people online. The game runs on dedicated servers so they needed to rent a ton to keep up with demand. The re unue stream from PS4 users didn't start till the first DLC pack so without Steam I could see how that indie studio could have had trouble.

.
 

toythatkills

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I think it's interesting to see how even wildly successful games like Rocket League can still teeter on the edge of disaster if the business side of things isn't worked out to perfection.
Presumably if it was console-exclusive they wouldn't have given it away for free, knowing there was a chance they wouldn't be able to pay for it.

They'd have gained less players, maybe failed, maybe not, but who knows.
 

Megatron

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Feb 22, 2012
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So basically they made a bad decision putting this on ps plus. They underestimated how successful it would be and wound up accepting penies on the dollar for their game from Sony rather than selling it outright. Which explains why they didnt repeat this mistake by putting it on games with gold. Thats not a good sign for future psplus titles, imo.
 

Jinfash

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Oct 16, 2007
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When it comes to PS+ games, Sony should consider covering (or helping with) server costs for online games, at least for the launch period.

That would be a cool incentive for small developers.
 
Apr 1, 2013
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If it wasn't free on PS+, the game would not be as popular as it is today.
I agree with this. The proof is there in their previous game which was very similar (besides having a much worse name) that did not move the needle much when it came out last gen. They got an enormous marketing boost by launching the game on PS+.
 
Dec 13, 2013
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Truth to be told, PS+ success was the best marketing for this game. Basically:
"Marketing cost can kill your game if it doesn't sell".
Basically, it's a virtuous circle. PS+ raised awarness which led to strong sales on PC, which led to even more sale on PS4.
Yeah, it seems a bit bizarre to complain that without Steam the game might not have been a success seeing how the passionate word-of-mouth from all the PS+ subscribers helped get the game off the ground.
 

Boke1879

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So basically they made a bad decision putting this on ps plus. They underestimated how successful it would be and wound up accepting penies on the dollar for their game from Sony rather than selling it outright. Which explains why they didnt repeat this mistake by putting it on games with gold. Thats not a good sign for future psplus titles, imo.
To be fair no one knew this game would be the breakout success it would be.
 

Bolivar687

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If it wasn't free on PS+, the game would not be as popular as it is today.
This. It would have came and gone as just another indie game in the sea of titles that release on Steam every week, were it not for the hype generated by everyone trying it on Plus. Not really the best thread title.
 

Ozium

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Truth to be told, PS+ success was the best marketing for this game. Basically:
"Marketing cost can kill your game if it doesn't sell".
Basically, it's a virtuous circle. PS+ raised awarness which led to strong sales on PC, which led to even more sale on PS4.
If it wasn't free on PS+, the game would not be as popular as it is today.
this is why Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars was a huge success right?
 

toythatkills

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So basically they made a bad decision putting this on ps plus. They underestimated how successful it would be and wound up accepting penies on the dollar for their game from Sony rather than selling it outright. Which explains why they didnt repeat this mistake by putting it on games with gold. Thats not a good sign for future psplus titles, imo.
If it wasn't on PS+, it wouldn't necessarily have sold 3m copies on Steam. Word of mouth went a long way.

I imagine it's a case that the two releases complimented each other and created a perfect storm, if you will.
 

The End

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kind of weird, did Sony force them to release on PS+?

I love the game but Psyonix has been acting weird towords Sony with this and cross play stuff.
I wouldn't have been shocked if they went hat in hand to sony to ask for an advance on PS+ royalties to cover server costs and were told to go screw. I <3 my PS4 but I'm under no illusion that Sony is anything but a giant stodgy corporation.
 

impact

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To be fair no one knew this game would be the breakout success it would be.
To be fair this game wouldn't have blown up like it did if it wasn't on PS+

I say this as someone who only owns the game on Steam. No one can deny the amazing word of mouth it got from being "free"
 

Soulflarz

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Reminder they actually took a good deal on ps+, lets not forget that or revise it.

As in they tried to back off of the ps+ idea and sony upped their offer notable.
 

MUnited83

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This. It would have came and gone as just another indie game in the sea of titles that release on Steam every week, were it not for the hype generated by everyone trying it on Plus. Not really the best thread title.
Lol. While the hype from the PS+ release certainly helped a lot, it wouldn't have "come and gone" in the "sea of titles". Game would still be pretty sucessful either way.
 

Yurikerr

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Jun 3, 2013
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So basically they made a bad decision putting this on ps plus. They underestimated how successful it would be and wound up accepting penies on the dollar for their game from Sony rather than selling it outright. Which explains why they didnt repeat this mistake by putting it on games with gold. Thats not a good sign for future psplus titles, imo.
I think you're reading too much into this. Do we know if Sony gave them only pennies?

Maybe the payment was schedule to be made only 1 month later and they needed to rent the new servers ASAP. As he mentions that Steam paying quickly was great it seems more like a timing than a amount problem
 

CountAntonius

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So basically they made a bad decision putting this on ps plus. They underestimated how successful it would be and wound up accepting penies on the dollar for their game from Sony rather than selling it outright. Which explains why they didnt repeat this mistake by putting it on games with gold. Thats not a good sign for future psplus titles, imo.
Yeah, it seems a bit bizarre to complain that without Steam the game might not have been a success seeing how the passionate word-of-mouth from all the PS+ subscribers helped get the game off the ground.
kind of weird, did Sony force them to release on PS+?

I love the game but Psyonix has been acting weird towords Sony with this and cross play stuff.
I'm already seeing the defensiveness. They never regret their decision about PS+ and know how much it had to do with the games success. This has everything to do with Steam covering early server costs which were insane because of the number of people playing. Dave was hoping to hit 10k concurrent... It ended up being in the hundreds of thousands within 24 hours.
 

Wereroku

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Is it because they didn't get much money or that Sony doesn't pay immediately?
Sony pays per download on some of the contracts so they probably don't pay until after the PS+ period has ended. However apparently the contracts are different for everyone so who know in their case.
 

Bolivar687

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Lol. While the hype from the PS+ release certainly helped a lot, it wouldn't have "come and gone" in the "sea of titles". Game would still be pretty sucessful either way.
I disagree. My heart breaks for some of the incredible titles that have bombed on Steam.
 
Feb 27, 2014
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this is why Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars was a huge success right?
I mean, it was a success but I'm not sure I'd say huge. It was downloaded 2 million times to ps4 but it was also free with PS plus the month that they gave everyone free games following the hack. I can't remember for sure, but didn't everyone also get free PS+ accounts that month?

Either way, RL has 5 times as many copies out there on peoples accounts now, so the margin of success is wildly different still.
 

Soulflarz

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I disagree. My heart breaks for some of the incredible titles that have bombed on Steam.
Eh, even the devs say RL was special
Again, they knew it'd be big enough that ps+ was backed out of almost, and sony wanted it badly enough they upped their offer.

This game would have been successful anyways.
 

GrantDaNasty

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It's a good-ass game. Between this and the sales for Stardew Valley, it goes to show that PC is still a very viable platform, especially for games that don't have huge budgets or marketing push.

I bought a copy from Steam, no regrets.
 

Megatron

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If it wasn't on PS+, it wouldn't necessarily have sold 3m copies on Steam. Word of mouth went a long way.

I imagine it's a case that the two releases complimented each other and created a perfect storm, if you will.
I mean, we will never know, but how many people would have bought it on steam or plus but didnt because it was free? Sales might actually have been higher.

Word of mouth is word of mouth. Minecraft didnt need psplus or gold to spread. Most of the games that launch on psplus or gold dont catch on like rocket league. This game would have been a hit regardless, imo (via hindsight, clearly). Perhaps it would have spread slower but perhaps not. Almost certainly Psyonix would have made more money if they didnt launch on psplus and instead put it on there later.
 

Alucrid

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So basically they made a bad decision putting this on ps plus. They underestimated how successful it would be and wound up accepting penies on the dollar for their game from Sony rather than selling it outright. Which explains why they didnt repeat this mistake by putting it on games with gold. Thats not a good sign for future psplus titles, imo.
lol

The opportunity to launch the game as a free download to PlayStation Plus subscribers was, Hagewood says, a straightforward one, even though doing so limit the amount of revenue a game is able to make in those crucial early days. "If you are trying to establish a new brand I believe it is far more important to get mind-share than revenue," he says. "This can be a tough call because making a new game carries so much risk. You are usually out of budget by the time you get to release." The Rocket League team, who had no budget for marketing, believed they had a game that people would love if only they had a chance to play it. "That was exactly what had happened with the original version seven years ago," he says. "So PlayStation Plus was an ideal route for us. It might not work for everyone though. If you aren't sure you have a 'sticky' game you might need to be more cautious."

Hagewood's instincts proved correct. Word travelled quickly, first via online forums such as Reddit and NeoGAF, then via popular streamers on Twitch and YouTube. When Sony offered it gratis to players, the floodgates opened. The response was far greater than the team had planned for. Servers, which had been allocated based on historical data and estimates provided by Sony, proved insufficient. During the first week the number of simultaneous players peaked at 183,000. "We could have done a lot more had we been better prepared to handle the influx," says Dunham. Indeed, the development team spent the majority of the launch week re-writing the game's net-code to cope with demand.
http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2015-11-01-rocket-league-the-long-road-to-overnight-success