Rocket League Is (Sort Of) Dying: But There’s Still Hope

I love Rocket League. I got ‘slightly’ addicted to it in 2019. And when I say ‘slightly’… I mean that I have played it for almost 1,000 hours so far:

Almost 1000 hours of gameplay in Rocket League
Almost 1,000 hours of gameplay in Rocket League

Whoops. That’s 41½ entire days, or almost 6 entire weeks sat playing Rocket League! Ah well, it’s one of my favorite games, so I guess that it’s worth it. Plus it’s far cheaper entertainment than buying 500 cinema tickets.

So I have been left disappointed at some recent changes in the game, which have resulted in people saying that “Rocket League is dying”. Why are they saying this – and is it true? Let’s dive into some of the concerns that people have about Rocket League.

Reasons Why Rocket League Might Be “Dying”

Rocket League graphics were slightly grainy due to a weird driver or settings bug I experienced
One of my cars in Rocket League

While I still (regularly) play Rocket League, there are a number of reasons why people are concerned that Rocket League is dying: from declining player numbers, to a bot problem. Let’s explore each one in turn.

Far Fewer Players Than In 2021

If you look at the number of monthly Rocket League players, you will see that it’s never been lower (data courtesy of Statista):

Number of Rocket League players per month from statista
Number of Rocket League players per month from statista

It hasn’t been since early 2016 (when the game first launched) that the average number of Rocket League players dipped below 50k. But player numbers have now been consistently below 50k players since 2022.

This trend is even worse when looking at just 2021 and 2022 data:

Comparing Rocket League numbers from 2021 to 2022
Comparing Rocket League numbers from 2021 to 2022

So what gives? Is this a clear sign that Rocket League is dying? Well, yes and no. Let’s take a look at the 2016-2022 graph again, this time highlighting one key area:

Showing when the pandemic was
Showing when the pandemic was

The Covid-19 pandemic led to many more people staying indoors from early 2020 until mid-late 2021, resulting in many people playing PC games. This led to a big surge in Rocket League player numbers.

Indeed, research by Nielsen found a massive increase in pandemic-related gaming:

In the meantime, engagement with video games is at an all-time high.

Nielsen research

So looking at month-by-month (or even yearly) player numbers isn’t really fair, because there people are going back outdoors a lot more nowadays – resulting in Rocket League naturally seeing far fewer players than in 2020 and 2021.

But of course, the average number of monthly players does appear to be down from 60k (in pre-2020) to 45k now: so there is still some cause for concern.

Rocket League’s Massive Bot Problem

RLBot is an online community, designed to allow people to make and share bots “for offline play”. They are clear that their bots are not for online (multiplayer) matches, because this is a breach of Rocket League’s rules – and it’s naturally unfair to use bots when playing against real humans in competitive modes.

The Nexto bot is particularly amazing, allowing you (well, the bot) to make some amazing dribbles and shots:

Unfortunately while this bot was intended for offline only play, some people found a way of running it in multiplayer mode. While this is very clearly cheating, some players still used this bot to game the system, rapidly rising from bronze or silver ranks into the grand champion ranks.

This concerned a lot of genuine players (including myself), because we would innocently join a ranked match – only to be comprehensively beaten by a lower-ranked player who was performing almost-impossible dribbles and shots.

This issue became quite prominent at the end of 2022, but to a large rise in cheaters using the Nexto bot in multiplayer matches. I actually stopped playing the game for a few weeks, due to this problem.

Thankfully in mid-January 2023, Psyonix (the game developer) announced that they had manually banned a number of players who were using Nexto bots. They also said that they are working on releasing anti-cheat software, to prevent this issue permanently going forward.

This is a really positive step, however there’s no guarantee that Pysonix’s anti-cheat software will block every cheating attempt. We will have to wait and see whether they succeed. Until then, bots might still pop up, making it harder for genuine players to enjoy Rocket League.

People Are Still Nervous About Epic Buying Rocket League

The Epic Games logo
The Epic Games logo

Epic Games purchased Psyonix in 2019, and while there have been some neat features and developments since then, some Rocket League fans are still cautious about Epic.

Some well known Rocket League players have said that:

It almost feels like Epic bought Rocket League, then put it on auto-pilot for a few years. 2016 and 2017 seemed to introduce many major new features and game modes (including hoops and rumble) – but since 2019, there have been comparatively few new features.

Having said that, the Rocket League Championship Series carries on each year, and challenges and world cup football banners were recently introduced (in late 2022). So there are some cool new features – just not as many as 2016-2017.

“I Can Never Join A Game!”

Some players have complained that they are struggling to join matches online, and this might indicate that Rocket League is dying. After all, if barely anyone is playing the game, it’ll be harder for the matchmaking system to add you to games – right?

Well that logic is correct, but it doesn’t apply to Rocket League (thankfully). Rocket League has always had some issues with matchmaking, but in recent months, there seems to be an increasing number of outages with the matchmaking servers.

Heck, just a few days ago Rocket League’s status Twitter account said there was yet another issue with matchmaking:

Rocket League Status tweet saying that matchmatching is having issues
Rocket League Status tweet saying that matchmatching is having issues

This is an all-too-common occurrence with Rocket League, but it’s more of a quirk than a sign that Rocket League is fading away!

All products have issues of some sort – from panel gaps in Tesla EVs to overpriced cables with Apple – and Rocket League’s issue is with matchmaking.

Next time you try joining a match, only to wait 10 minutes without a match, head on over to Epic’s status page to see if any issues are documented there. It’s likely that there’s a temporary system glitch, instead of a massive decline in player numbers.

So… Is Rocket League Dying? Not Just Yet!

To sum up: no, I don’t think that Rocket League is dying. It is receiving fairly regular updates, after all, which include both bug fixes and new features:

A list of recent updates from Rocket League in the Steam client
A list of recent updates from Rocket League in the Steam client

However I do think that Rocket League is declining. The game could really use an exciting new game mode, instead of yet another new wheel, loot box, or Rocket League pass. It continues to feel like Epic Games have put Rocket League on auto-pilot, instead of trying to actively grow the community.

I think that player numbers will continue to slowly decline, however Rocket League is still a fairly fun and active game… right now.

cropped A picture of me Tristan
About Tristan Perry

Tristan has been interested in computer hardware and software since he was 10 years old. He has built loads of computers over the years, along with installing, modifying and writing software (he's a backend software developer 'by trade').

Tristan also has an academic background in technology (in Math and Computer Science), so he enjoys drilling into the deeper aspects of technology.

Tristan is also an avid PC gamer, with FFX and Rocket League being his favorite games.

If you have any questions, feedback or suggestions about this article, please leave a comment below. Please note that all comments go into a moderation queue (to prevent blog spam). Your comment will be manually reviewed and approved by Tristan in less than a week. Thanks!

6 thoughts on “Rocket League Is (Sort Of) Dying: But There’s Still Hope”

  1. Good read. I do think that if the other websites are to be believed though, the number of players is slightly going up.

    I also love the game and miss my ICE CHARGER

    • Thanks, glad you liked it! Yes hopefully – there was a lot of people complaining about the bot issue a few months ago, but it does seem like the game is trending up again now. Fingers crossed – it’s such as fun (and addictive) one!

  2. Great read. I have noticed that I am playing the same people repeatedly. I even had the same tournament partner in 3v3 for the round of 32 (we lost), and again for 2nd chance. At first I thought it was my imagination, then the same thing happened the next day. I also find myself playing with the same players on a surprisingly frequent basis. This feels to me like a clear sign of a shallow player pool, or am I wrong?

    • I agree Craig, I have noticed this at times too. Maybe the RL devs have just changed the matching algorithm (to prefer repeat players) but it does seem suspect at times. I guess we can just wait and see if it improves.

  3. Me and my friends have all but stopped playing this game due to the servers being very laggy. It did seem slightly worse after the Epic purchase, but now almost every match is unplayable. This is in the US EAST region.

    • I’ve heard a few other people say that recently. Laggy matches suck. I hope they can get it sorted soon. For me (in EU region) it’s still decent – most of the time. But I do get the occasional laggy match.


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