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:
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”
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):
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:
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:
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
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:
- The game feels stale.
- The paid-for passes and loot boxes are (now) boring
- The UI changes are worse than before. Plus the move to Epic’s gaming platform broke the avatar system, meaning that many players still can’t have avatars in-game (3-4 years later!).
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:
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:
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.