While everyone was watching Barcelona thump Liverpool in the Champions League semi-final tonight, a different kind of sports drama was unfolding. Rocket League developers Psyonix announced their acquisition by Fortnite developers Epic Games.
It’s a tectonic shift for the speedy-cars-punting-balls-into-goals-’em-up genre, which is entirely served by developers Psyonix. While a blog post from Psyonix suggests that any and all changes from the acquisition will be positive, it is bad news for the game’s vocal and sizeable community on Steam, because although nothing is changing right now, Psyonix mention in a blog post that they’re planning to bring the game to Epic’s Game Store towards the tail end of 2019.
It seems unlikely Epic will want to share their new toy with Steam after its launch on the games store that they themselves own.
In an article on the acquisition from entertainment site Variety, there’s a telling paragraph that hints this will be the case:
“The PC version of “Rocket League” will make its way onto the Epic Games Store in late 2019. In the meantime, people can still buy it on Steam. After the transition, Epic said it will continue to support the Steam version for all existing purchasers. Epic clarified to Variety that means continued patches, DLC and all other content that hits the PC version of the game through the Epic Game Store will also appear on Steam for those who already own the game.”
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While Epic and Psyonix both claim that a long term plan for the game will emerge in the future, it seems clear from reading this that Rocket League’s days on the Steam store are numbered.
However, this could be viewed as a homecoming for Psyonix. Rocket League was created using Epic’s own Unreal Engine back in 2015, and went on to pick up more than 57m players on a variety of different formats. Psyonix, and their 100+ employees, will continue to work on Rocket League after the deal officially closes, expected to happen sometime in late May or early June.
In the meantime, if you haven’t picked up Rocket League but feel the urge to have a vehicular kickabout through Steam, it’s probably a good time to pick the game up. It could be a false alarm, and Epic could (and should) keep the game available on Steam, but considering this your early warning system.
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The thorny issue of Epic Games Store exclusivity has been a big one in recent months, and writing this before I head to bed, I expect the review bombing campaign from entitled fans on Steam to start before I wake up tomorrow.