In a blog post released today, Rocket League developer Psyonix has announced it is joining Epic Games. The full nature of the relationship is not clear from the text itself. However, the post script of the blog mentions “customary closing conditions” and the word “acquisition,” which clears things up a bit.
Founded in 2000 by Dave Hagewood, Psyonix is the San Diego-based developer best known for Rocket League. Although it started out with Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, a game using Unreal Engine 3 that served as a precursor to the wildly successful Rocket League — all the way back in 2015. The studio has been independent since its inception, but Rocket League quickly grabbed several million users nevertheless. Psyonix has been at the center of acquisition talks from several corners of the games industry ever since.
Psyonix insists (via the blog post) that “nothing will change” in the short term, and fans can expect to see the same quality and community focus they’ve gotten since Rocket League’s launch. In the long term, Psyonix suggests that leveraging Epic’s resources will allow it to do things the studio hasn’t been able to do before. Although no details were given as to what that might mean. Language indicates the game will indeed be on the Epic Games Store, but nothing is clear about stopping the game’s sale on Valve’s Steam platform.
Epic Games has, of course, risen to great heights in the games industry off the success of its proprietary Unreal Engine. That’s not even including the surprise mega-hit Fortnite: Battle Royale. Over the past year, Epic Games launched the Epic Games Store, which has signed prominent exclusives like Metro: Exodus — much to the chagrin of ardent Steam supporters. More recently, Epic was scrutinized and criticized for its harsh working conditions, as they relate to the punishing release schedule of Fortnite updates.
Psyonix’s acquisition appears to be the latest major move for a studio clearly looking to carve out an enormous chunk of the games industry.
Psyonix is a completely sound investment on Epic Games’ part. It represents a niche in the esports market that no one else really has access to. Epic could stand to learn a thing or two from Rocket League as it potentially ramps up plans for Fortnite esports — something that has yet to take off despite their Pro-Am from last year’s E3.
Rocket League has also charted near the top of Steam sales since its release. We can safely assume the game’s next iteration could very well be an Epic Games Store exclusive. That is, of course, if Steam doesn’t loosen its stance on developer revenue share. Epic Games’ co-founder, Tim Sweeney, recently talked big about pursuing fewer exclusives — and potentially putting Epic Games on Steam — if Valve moved to a different model. Epic currently takes a 12 percent cut from developers that sell through its store, whereas Valve uses a much more common 70/30 split. Regardless of exclusivity, though, Psyonix is another arrow in the quiver of resurging juggernaut Epic Games.
Epic is probably glad this story is distracting from growing, understandable concern that chasing a grueling update schedule for Fortnite is putting their employees in harm’s way, too.
We will update this piece once we receive clarification about Rocket League‘s status on Steam.