Few could have predicted Rocket League's success. Even Psyonix, the studio that made the game, was surprised when it released last June to both critical and commercial acclaim. To date, Rocket League has generated more than $70 million in revenue, selling 4 million copies across PS4 and PC. And now, with a new player base on Xbox One, Psyonix is hoping to merge all three platforms in the wake of Microsoft's open invitation for cross-platform play.
We caught up with Psyonix VP Jeremy Dunham at Game Developers Conference last week to talk about the studio's success, being the potential first title to feature tri-platform cross-play, and the mounting pressure both have brought.
GameSpot: Following Microsoft's announcement to support cross-platform play, you seem optimistic that Rocket League would be a great title to support it. What would that triangle of PC, Xbox One and PS4 communities mean for your game?
Jeremy Dunham: We don't want there to be any perception that there's an inferior version of the game, or that you should only play on this one platform, because that's where the best players play, and they're not somewhere else. It's good for the community as a whole for the game, because everyone's starting from the same place, and then it's really just a matter of what platform you personally prefer to play on, versus having to choose because one version is better than another, so I think that's really good for the game and the community.
Maintaining a stable multiplayer base is a hard thing to do. Do you think crossplay would help that, even more so, because you still have so many people playing on PS4 or PC everyday?
Yeah, we have millions of unique players every month, and the fact that we could potentially bring in another pool... There's this weird psychological thing that happens with people if you let them know that their community is small, even though they're enjoying the game and playing it. Sometimes it encourages them to stop playing if they think nobody else is going to play with them, which creates a snowball effect where other people stop playing because they don't think anyone's going to play.
The more people you have to throw in there, the less likely that psychological anomaly will kick in. Then you have the actual reality of it, which is, more players means more games, and more games means more participation and community feedback, which we can then put into the game as a whole and not have to worry about siloing off certain features of certain platforms because this version doesn't have it, or whatever the situation may be.
In the aftermath of hearing about being the potential catalyst for Microsoft/Sony cross-play, what's it like to be setting a precedent for this kind of multiplatform stuff?
It's really cool. The only thing we have to do now is sort of find out where we stand politically with everyone, and then it's full steam ahead to finish the solution that we've already started. Technologically everything works, we've got it figured out, just a little bit of time to get everything up and running. Right now, excitement is the best way to put it. We just want to get in there and make it happen. Elation is probably another word I would use. We're just excited.
The big challenge is down the road, to figure out how we're going to outdo this. I don't know if we can. There's also the fact that I'm not convinced that Psyonix and Rocket League is what pushed Microsoft over the edge. I think it was an example of good timing and having a good relationship with them and having a game that lends itself well to a lot of the issues that might come up with a cross-network game.
You proved that it works well between PS4 and PC.
Exactly. There are a lot of things we do that prove it: You can't harass people across platforms. We have a recording feature. We have ways to communicate with built-in, all positive messages, all things that lend themselves well to not having to worry about being harassed by another platform.
There are lots of communities, lots of games hoping that it's there, so I think it's really good timing, that Microsoft decided to say, "OK, let's go ahead and do it." We're just glad that we're the first, and we're happy for it. But I wouldn't say we should take all the credit either. Maybe a little bit of it. [Laughs]
What with Sony and Microsoft being competitors, do you think crossplay would be beneficial for either party?
I do, yes, but that's the thing -- being competitors is the keyword. Because when someone's your competitor, it's really easy to find reasons not to do something, and sometimes they could be things that no one else would think of but those competitors. But on the surface, there are a lot of positives to doing this. This brings all communities together. You're going to allow people to play the game longer, there are more options for players to have a more regular release schedule, version releases are unified, there are a lot of benefits to this, but you never know.
I'm optimistic but cautious. If it happens, it's not just our game, that's essentially a worldwide policy change on all games, on all platforms. So it's not a small decision. I get why there's not a fast answer to it.
With cross-play, should Sony agree to it, would that affect your DLC plans going forward?
No. Well, let me take that back. It would only affect them in the sense that we would be faster at releasing them because there are now fewer considerations to take in terms of different certification times. You would have a unified certification time. It would make things slightly easier, but that's just a logistical thing. In terms of what that content would be, no. We have a pretty clear plan for the next eight months, nine months of what we want to put in there in terms of maps, and cars, and modes, and new ways that the players can get stuff.
The last thing: in the wake of the GDC awards, what's it like to win the best design award?
It's pretty cool. I think the best thing about that award is that it was within the Game Developers Conference. So we have other game developers affirming that feeling for us. It's always really nice to win awards, but when you have your peers letting you know that they thought your design was really great, that's pretty awesome.
I don't know. I didn't want 2015 to end. It was such a good year, and 2016's off to a pretty good start, too, so hopefully we can maintain it. But even if nothing else, if we didn't win another award for the rest of our lives, you can't take away from the fact that it's been a really good year, a really good 10 months for us. That's probably the biggest pressure: how do we ever top this? We might not ever do it, but that's OK. If Rocket League is what we're known for, that's a pretty good thing.