Game Archaeology: Rocket League

One of the most successful console games of 2016 has been Rocket League. It features cars playing football (soccer) rather than people. Cool!

Some would say it’s both a surprise hit, apparently coming out of nowhere, and also a novel concept. A while go I was chatting with Simon Hade, COO and Co-Founder of Space Ape Games, who made exactly these observations. At this point the game librarian in me couldn’t help but correct him, so I mentioned that it wasn’t novel at all. 😱

During my formative years I had played a game called Wild Wheels on my teenage crush computer—the Atari ST—some time around 1990, and I’d also played Konami’s GTi Club on my Wii in 2010. Both of these games offer a take on car soccer, and I was sure there had to be even more car soccer games I wasn’t aware of.

On my way home I put together a list. I do love lists.

We can see that Rocket League is the latest in a long line of car soccer games, and the sequel of Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars from seven years prior. The earliest game of this type is from 1977 and there are at least a couple of dozen others between then and Rocket League.

The Secret of Success

So what made Rocket League a success in light of all the preceding games? Perhaps it was a well executed online mode? But you could then argue that half of the games in the list also had online play.

The most important differentiator is that Rocket League was released on the right platforms to target the right users. The trifecta of PS4/PC/Xbox One means every platform that is home to those “hardcore” gamers who play online seriously. In that respect I think of Rocket League as being more similar to FIFA than you might first expect.

Apparently there are signs of life outside of mobile after all.