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Rocket League, Fortnite, and the Future of Gaming

In 1968, 20th Century Fox did something that was considered to be a bit of an entertainment faux pas. Just days after the release of Planet of the Apes, the future Disney subsidiary ordered a sequel. The idea of a sequel wasn’t new, but it was always considered a lower form of entertainment.

A decade later, sequels would become the way of the future.

It was in this newfound world of successful sequels that the video game came of age. From Pong on, every hit game has had at least one sequel. Some companies go so far as to annualize their games, raking in the cash year after year. That’s why Rocket League game director Scott Rudi made news when he announced that there were no plans for a sequel.

Rocket League Exciting

Rocket League first came to gamers in July 2015 (Happy birthday, Rocket League!). Initially released for PS4 and PC, the soccer-with-cars game would be ported to the Xbox One nearly a year later. Psyonix, the developer of the immensely popular game, has continued to support the title with simple DLC. New cars, new modes, new fields to play on. None of these additions actually give a player a bonus – aside from the modes, it’s all cosmetic changes. Your car can now look like the Batmobile or the Delorean from Back to the Future. The only way to get better at Rocket League is to play Rocket League.

Three years may not seem like a long time, but in a world of sequels, this is almost unheard of. Since Rocket League came out, we’ve gotten five new Assassin’s Creed games. Five! With over 40 million players, why is Psyonix walking away from all those sequel dollars?

Because they figured out where the real money lies – friendly microtransactions.

The friendly microtransaction is a low-cost item that doesn’t actually change the gameplay but does allow the player to better represent themselves. The Batmobile. The Delorian. These are sold at impulse item prices that even the staunchest parent would have trouble saying no to. $3 a month is way less than the usual $60 for a game. But for Psyonix, a portion of the players paying $3 a month brings in lots of cash with little spend.

Fortnite Get That Crate

Another game that has this figured out is Fortnite, a free-to-play game that made $300 million in May. To be fair to history, Rocket League and Fortnite aren’t the first games to figure this out – they’re really just copying the mobile game model. This allows a game to not only have a long shelf-life but to continually build an audience at the same time.

We’re already seeing the market shift that Fortnite has caused – at this year’s E3, you couldn’t go more than ten minutes without a game being sold on its new “Battle Royale” mode. Will these developers also pick up on Epic Games’ other money making trick and focus more on low-cost content instead of sequels? Are we seeing an end to the annualized franchises like Call of Duty and Madden? Are gamers become accustomed to microtransactions over yearly spends? Or is this all just a flash in the pan – a brief fad before the market recenters itself on the old method and gets back to whipping the sequel horse until it’s time to send it to the glue factory?

Only time will tell.

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