Hi Psyonix, it’s Colin MacInnis.
I’ve been a huge fan of Rocket League for years and am also an avid digital marketer. The things you’ve accomplished with Rocket League over the last 4 years absolutely thrills me.
I decided to write this article as a tribute to you, your team, and the amazing lengths you’ve gone through to apply product marketing to your video game, Rocket League.
Thank you and all the best.
Soccer. Cars. Rockets. Combine these 3 things together and you get Rocket League, a popular video game available on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
The game is simple – the players control cars and drive into a giant soccer ball with the intent to score on the opponent’s net. It’s literally soccer with cars.
Games last 5 minutes. That’s it. That’s the game.
Now let’s look at some stats about the game:
- As of September 2018, Rocket League is said to have more than 50 million players
- According to Steam Charts, it nears 60,000 players every 24-hours
- 2018’s live championship event in Vegas dished out $500,000 in cash prizes
Obviously, Psyonix (the company behind Rocket League) used some sort of magical wizardry to pull off this raging success.
In this article, we dive into the product marketing that drives Rocket League’s growth, success, and community (and some opportunities for development we think would be awesome).
For any SaaS Founders or Entrepreneurs joining us, read between the lines. Use Rocket League as a foundation for ways you can improve your products/services.
Standard Marketing vs Product Marketing
Standard marketing is really about making noise and building your brand. It’s your website, landing pages, opt-in’s, email, etc. Think of it as an external form of marketing.
It’s the entire process of having someone come into your door and retargeting them to come back later; eventually closing on a sale.
Yes, there are different shades of marketing mixed into “standard marketing” such as advertising, content marketing, and social media, but it’s all serving the same mission to go on the outbound (making noise).
Then there’s product marketing. This is when we take an internal look at the products our customers buy and make them awesome. It’s the internal way of doing marketing; similar to a ‘build it and they will come’ approach.
So when we refer to product marketing, we’re really talking about things that can be applied to your product (or service) to ‘wow’ people and entice them to talk about our products with friends, colleagues, etc.
Organic ‘wow’ moments and the customer experience are the items we hope to highlight through this article.
Warning: Risks with a ‘Build It, They Will Come’ Approach
Sometimes as entrepreneurs and founders we build solutions to problems WE experience. Things become challenging when we open up our products and solutions to suit the needs of many people.
Be careful. Over-engineering your product, its purpose, and core utility can steer your company into a spiral of no return.
Consider Hubspot. To some people, it’s wonderful. It handles emails, contact records, social media, etc. On the upside, you don’t need 6-7 apps to manage your operations. It all lives inside of Hubspot.
But where that all-in-one approach can hurt is when you create too many features. Eventually users realize Hubspot’s social media component isn’t as powerful as having a dedicated app like Hootsuite. That Hubspot’s landing page builder doesn’t match the quality of Unbounce. The list goes on.
So right here and now as you consider ways to implement product marketing into your business, don’t think of it as all the features, bells, and whistles your product could have.
Product marketing is about highlighting key moments of the customer experience (not prioritizing the development of many features).
Key Aspects of Rocket League’s In-Game Marketing
Diving into the details of Rocket League, there are a few key moments throughout the customer experience that they’ve really mastered.
Players don’t just “play” Rocket League. Every time they open the game, they enter a competitive state of mind. Rocket League is the arena. The place where their fans cheer. Where they practice, play, lose and try again. The field is their workshop. It’s THEIR game.
Energizing Opening Sequence
The very first in-game moment for Rocket League is the opening sequence. This consists of 3 parts:
- The Developer Titles
- The Music
- The Start Screen Reveal
The beauty of Rocket League’s introduction is what it achieves – energizing players.
The screen starts as black and the music starts. It’s not dull music. It’s music designed to build energy (contributing to the gameplay mentality). It often starts low with a lead up to a bass drop.
When the bass drop comes in, the start screen is revealed.
Welcome to Rocket League.
Things Achieved by the Opening Sequence:
- I’m ready to go to work – to practice
- The music has me energized and I’m ready to win some games
- The start screen reveal is my official welcoming. I have arrived
The Main Menu – Players’ Base of Operations
After the start screen, we arrive to the main menu. It’s not just a navigation area though. As you can see below, there is an emphasis on the car.
Now this main menu areas breaks some rules of user experience (UX), but in a really clever and effective way.
Most UX folks would likely look at the main menu screen and ask ‘what’s the main thing I want people to be able to do?’. Likely, play the game. So under that mindset, the designer might emphasize the “Play Online” button from the main menu.
But let’s take a look at what a product marketing mindset has arrived to.
- Give players a menu to navigate components of the game
- Emphasize the part of the game where true fans can access more (Showroom)
- Really drive home the connection between players and their cars
- Give a window into the community and updates; showing transparency and belonging
Mission accomplished, Psyonix.
Car Customization – Further Attachment Between Player and Car
A big part of Rocket League’s core offering is car customization.
Players sink time, energy, and money into developing their Rocket League skills. They play game after game, lose matches, win matches, complete training, hire coaches and more.
Considering the lengths a player will go to improve their skills, surely they’d like a way to show off their hard work among peers, teammates, and opponents.
This is the magical wonder of car customization.
Choose your vehicle, your decals, your paint colors, your paint styles, wheels, antenna, boost, and more. You can even choose country flags as your car’s antenna (more on this later).
But Psyonix didn’t stop there. They wanted to layer in that social component among community members. This is where they added grades to the items (Common, Uncommon, Rare, Very Rare, Exotic).
This introduced a whole new dimension of customization.
Now players could show off their hours, experience, and dedication to the game in the form of in-game items. This was a great addition for hardcore fans and people ready to dedicate the time to unlock all the newest exotics.
But what about people who didn’t have that same attachment to in-game exotics? What about players who held other brands and games closer to their heart.
This is where another brilliant concept came to life: connection to non-Rocket League interests.
Bridging Interests – Drawing Affiliation to Brands Not Related to Rocket League
Remember earlier when I mentioned selecting a country flag as your car’s antenna? Well, that opens up another series of opportunities related to external brand affiliation.
Country flags allowed players to make social statements while playing Rocket League. I am Canadian. I am USA. I am Mexican.
Psyonix leaned into the principle further and started to bring other items and features into the game. I am a Rick & Morty fan. I am a Major League Gaming fan.
But then it appeared a ‘wow’ moment happened for Psyonix. They realized the power of brand affiliation with outside parties.
This is where, in my opinion, Rocket League stepped further beyond any other brand or video game in terms of product marketing (and frankly why I chose to write about them).
Introducing crossover promotions and brand affiliations.
Crossover Promotions & Brand Affiliations
Fast and the Furious, Jurassic Park, Batman. What do all of these things have in common?
Yes. Psyonix did it. They brought these real brands and interests into Rocket League. Players can actually go drive the Batmobile.
This was affiliation on a whole other level. Remember that “I am Canadian” affiliation? Well, now they’ve accomplished social statements like “I am a Jurassic Park fan”.
As a marketer, I remember thinking “Holy sh*t, they did it. They reached the pinnacle moment of product marketing. They’ve achieved what so many product marketers hope to achieve in their careers”.
But that wasn’t the end. Psyonix stepped even further beyond other video games and ascended to a god-like state of product marketing.
It was when they achieved this state that I knew I had to write about Rocket League. That other marketers, entrepreneurs, and founders NEEDED to observe Psyonix. That Rocket League was without comparison, the most successful case of ultimate product marketing.
See for Yourself – Rocket League’s Radical Summer 2019
Psyonix has officially ascended to greatness.
On June 10th, 2019 (my birthday), Psyonix released their summer update – a retro-themed introduction of the summer season.
This update came packed with new crossover brands, cars, items, 80’s soundtrack, and game modes.
They just nailed it. I can’t write anything more than that. Watch the release trailer and see for yourself.
They even introduced seasonal in-game tokens, cassettes. Players can use cassettes to buy items from the Radical Summer event store.
In-Game Revenue Opportunity From the Fans – Nigel Westbury
When originally shared my draft outline for this article, Nigel Westbury reached out to me over Facebook. He shared he was deeply passionate about Rocket League and was a hardcore fan.
Nigel shared some opinions on Rocket League and areas he felt Psyonix was missing an opportunity to satisfy him, as a player, and for them to make more money.
After his explanation, I knew I had to include it in this article and Psyonix, I hope you’ll hear him out (because I agree with his observation).
A New Aesthetic for the Post-Game Victory Screen
The post-game victory screen is an important one – it’s where the winners get their dedicated screen time.
Yet since Rocket League’s inception, it hasn’t gotten a huge makeover.
Nigel pointed to Fortnite and its notorious dance celebrations. He suggested Rocket League could attempt to do something similar.
At first, I thought it was a strange suggestion given the post-game screen is where victors jump and flip; achieving that celebratory dance moment. But hear Nigel out.
What if there were a driver (or mascot) standing behind each winner’s vehicle. Like Fortnite, players would be able to pick and choose the actions that person/character did at the end.
This is a small detail to suggest, but it carries some potential; that players could unlock and customize their driver/mascot.
This would open up to more items for the in-game store, holiday events (think of a dancing Santa Claus), or even some wacky aesthetics to complement future themes like Radical Summer.
Imagine if you would, Rick Sanchez (Rick & Morty) entering the post-game victory scene via a portal.
There’s a lot of potential for this small detail and could give Rocket League another way to make money from in-game purchases.
Personally, I’m in favor of the suggestion. It would be cool to find new, fun ways to express myself through the victory screen.
Whether or not this suggestion is something Psyonix has already considered is unknown to me and Nigel, but we wanted to take this opportunity to share the idea regardless.
About Nigel Westbury
Father, paramedic, husband, and life coach. Nigel Westbury wears multiple hats. In his spare time between saving lives and coaching people, Nigel enjoys tearing up the field and scoring ariel goals in Rocket League.
- Competitive Rank: Diamond I, Standard; Platinum 3, Doubles
- Total Matches Played: 10,454
- Favorite Non-Competitive Game Mode: Snow Day
I also want to give a quick shout out to Nigel’s small business, The Hub Downtown. The ‘Hub’ is a life coaching business dedicated to helping everyday people overcome emotional challenges associated with career guidance, self-acceptance, success, and motivation.
This analysis heavily emphasized product marketing as a means to enhance the user experience, build community, and earn fandom across your user base.
Psyonix put many years into developing the experience Rocket League delivers.
A strong takeaway I recommend to readers is to go thoroughly assess your customer experience. Whether your business is a website, a blog, a product, or a service, to ask yourself ‘how can we make this more enjoyable to customers?’.
The answer might not pop out to you right away, but consider the all-around aspects of how someone consumes your product or service.
How do you welcome your customers/clients? Do you send thank-you cards? Run an onboarding series? Touch base 6 weeks after purchase?
Are there ways you could enhance the physical experience of your product? Improve your packaging? Integrate music? Add animations?
These are the highly detailed items that differentiate your product’s experience from competitors. They are the small delightful moments that get people talking about your brand.
Whether you’re in the B2B space or B2G, millennials are the majority of the workplace. Jazz things up to deliver an excellent experience.
- Rocket League by Psyonix
- PC Games – Rocket League Now has Over 50 Million Players
- Rocket League: The Official Site – Cloud9 Brings #LanVegas World Championship Home!
- Nigel Westbury – Avid Rocket League Player, Paramedic, and Founder of The Hub Downtown
- There were no academic sources listed in this article. The tips and advice mentioned in this post came strictly from our marketing experience over the years helping startups, small businesses, and large enterprises build and engage their audience.