If Franklin Roosevelt were alive, he’d prattle something along the lines of “December 5th, 2023 will live on in virtual infamy.”
Whether you delved deep into Rocket League cosmetic swaps or not, the decision to remove player-to-player trading from the game will leave a lasting ripple on how gaming cliques view virtual in-game currency.
I’m ashamed to admit how much I’ve traded keys and credits for sweet, sweet car-soccer cosmetics. As the weary, disheveled owner of a dozen painstakingly-rare striker cert sets, I spent hours pinging snarky strangers camped half the world away.
That meant encountering RL price gougers and setting stupid alarms at odd hours in the night. There were scammers… and scalpers… and liars.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the thrill of it all. Trading in Rocket League felt like scoring neat little thrift shop trinkets. We could pin them upon our virtual personas before running a few rounds of ranked with the homies.
Sometimes we struck gold, selling off vanity items during colossal price spikes. For me, Dune Racers and seasonal crate wheels funded shopping sprees.
It’s funny. I’ve always argued that splitting item colors felt like a predatory business practice. Everyone screamed and scrambled about how “cosmetics didn’t affect gameplay” and “helped fund server costs.”
Yet, now that swapping those same high-dollar inventories fades into the realm of impossibility, Rocketeers riot.
We can boil RL items down to mere lines of code. Still, Psyonix sunset a tangible economy. People take their car-soccer swag seriously.
In 2018, Gold Rush Alpha Boost hoisted a $6,000 price tag. There are 300 known copies of Gold Rush. Until the very end, they swapped hands about 5 times a week.
Anyway, you’re here to learn why Psyonix would remove trading from Rocket League. You’re wondering how the controversy could impact your cherished Soccar. I’ve got answers.
Pushing blame on the Epic Games buyout is a lazy opinion. Psyonix’s humble beginnings began in an Epic office, developing Unreal Tournament’s onslaught mode. The buyout was imminent. Psyonix never stopped working with Epic in the first place.
And the Psyonix you relished no longer hovers around their prized creation.
Their founder, Dave Hagewood, married some Instagram hottie he met at a Burning Man festival. Then he sailed off in an enormous Galaxy-themed Yacht in 2019. That isn’t a cheeky metaphor. I’m dead serious.
Likewise, Devin Conners finessed himself a flashy new title during the Epic buyout: Senior Manager of Community Support. He’s no longer the simple community messenger. He dispatches the Psyonix support ticket army, too.
Jeremy Dunham, Psyonix’s former Vice President and Brand Manager, deserted Epic in February 2023.
The point is:
The devs who adored their game enough to weather storms now parade around in suits. They’ve stepped up or stepped out. That ragtag group of 12 starving developers now commands a legion nearing 200 on-site employees.
On September 23rd, 2023, Tim Sweeney jabbed his thumb into a “send” icon. He transmitted a mass employee Email that would reverberate throughout his entire Epic Games empire. He laid off 16% of his employees – 870 people.
It was an echo of the overarching tech economy.
But are we feeling the results of a company in pain – or the shockwaves of the 2020 gaming boom? After all, a reported 82% of global consumers were tagged as gamers during the quarantine times.
It’s time I introduce you to what Sweeney dubbed “Project Liberty.”
Epic’s CEO loathes sharing profits with distributors. It’s why we saw Rocket League plummet from the face of Steam to live imprisoned within the Epic Games Store.
On August 13th, 2020, Epic baited Apple (and Google) into removing Fortnite from their mobile storefronts. Sweeney declared that 30% cuts too deep into profit margins. He injected an illegal link to in-app purchases, bypassing distributor charges.
While riding the gaming surge surplus, Tim straight up released propaganda to children – dubbing it “Nineteen Eighty Fortnite.” He locked and loaded it for same-day release.
In the clip, we see an Orwellian Apple-headed dictator threatening to snatch our precious games. And, just when it seemed all hope was lost, Sweeney’s mega-cute-waifu avatar tossed her defiant unicorn-llama sledgehammer at the oppressive broadcast, liberating all the little munchkins of Fortnite-land.
The directors cued the ominous music. The following text rolled across the screen, embellished with the playful, iconic Fortnite text we’ve seen for years:
It’s a direct ripoff of Apple’s 1984 commercial against IBM – except one key difference. The original characterized definitive traits of a commercial. The refit claimed to wage a war on our socioeconomic equilibrium… to 6th graders.
And Epic sued Apple, claiming violation of antitrust laws.
Fast-forward to 2023 and one appeal later, Epic took two fat L’s from Apple and a third from Google. Even if they’d won, leaked documents reveal that Google plotted a hostile corporate takeover with Tencent anyway.
Factor in Epic’s failed acquisitions like Band Camp and SuperAwesome – that loveable children’s marketing team – and the fact that Epic pays devs pretty well…
And, yeah, it starts sounding like Tim can’t afford his utility bill. But it’s hard to sympathize with a company leader strutting like a prophet after one lucky streak.
Here’s my dive into how the 2023 layoffs harmed Rocket League. Here’s the abridged version:
Epic shaved their marketing, community outreach, and customer support teams. They’re de-compartmentalizing.
Less trading means fewer support tickets to rifle through. And, as far as marketing is concerned, Rocket League wins parallel promo deals by slinging licensed cars.
Epic expects the mountain of popular RL content creators to deliver RLCS event schedules, regurgitate Devin’s cryptic tweets, and issue positive press for the sake of their channels’ survival.
It’s a bold move, Cotton. Merging teams translates to lost specialization techniques. We’ll see how it pans out.
Devin’s tweet cites a link claiming player-to-player trading inhibits Epic’s grandiose cross-game cosmetic injection plan.
The timing aligns with the release of Fortnite’s next season. Then there’s this rumored Rocket League racing project that everyone started chattering about back in May:
Epic Games began referring to Fortnite as their Metaverse. It all started when their cash cow hosted its first successful in-game concert.
Tim Sweeney undertook the overzealous project of merging popular titles. It explains why Corey fiddled with the Fortnite creator grounds before he bounced.
I can’t speak for whether the shift to Meta forged opportunities for Facebook. Judging by the newfangled ad spam, I’d wager it’s a money pit. I can, however, pinpoint a Sweeney tweet that labels altering established practices as bait-and-switch:
Gobbling up Psyonix was one of Epic’s wiser moves. But I’m frontloading some hard data because this story only gets wilder as you scroll.
Until now, Rocket League players were 80x more likely to spend than average gaming populations. As a result, Rocket League has generated over $943 million in revenue.
So the question becomes: Will Rocket League remain lucrative without trading?
I should mention it’s not 2018 anymore. Psyonix began carving zero-trade policies eons ago. They introduced shop/tournament “exclusives” and secondary currencies. We don’t trade like we used to. Here’s a forum traffic comparison between General Rocket League buzz vs. Rocket League Trading:
This image suggests we’re hearing a vocal minority shout about trading removal. Still, sympathy shouts pierce much harder. I ran a player spending poll after Epic’s announcement to remove trading:
Then I broke the data down into spending tiers. After all, screeching internet voices are worthless until we recognize their spending behaviors.
Between this data and the 2023 layoffs, Rocket League’s future appears turbulent.
Here’s the talking point that’ll catch all the long-term media. After all, World of Warcraft currency once held a value higher than Venezuelan currency, and Chinese prison workers started enslaving prisoners to farm gold for them. Virtual goods create a hot generational topic.
The company with a track record for manipulating children might whip up arguments for protecting users from scams. But actions speak louder than words, and Epic showcases a strong dislike for sharing profit streams with outside entities.
Having said that, the RL economy hasn’t been an innocent stroll through flowery fields.
We had color swap scammers and password fishers. Back in prehistoric times, trade windows had low currency ceilings, and cross-platform transactions were impossible. It forced us to police transactions with community-sanctioned middlemen.
And you better believe a handful of bandits impersonated our top officers.
Between Psyonix customer support, a UI update, and 5 community-driven scammer lists, we trampled deviants early.
But we’re just scraping the tip of a virtual iceberg.
Some hustles were tame. Typical min-max gamers linked dozens of burner accounts to Twitch reward pools until nuking their merit. And we can climb the ladder from there:
Only 33 white hats exist in Rocket League, and Eric Meiggs owned 7. One day he mysteriously ditched his $60k inventory at a loss and vanished. It’s now known he’s an ex-sim swapper who ransomed phones for bitcoin.
“E” was a high school dropout who wove himself into the indulgent virtual world – and programming. He credits bipolar type-3 to dangling through prolonged episodes of self-centered euphoria, addiction, and delusion.
The craziest part? He dismissed CNN and major publication outlets, but welcomed a cold call from a Rocket League YouTuber. And, throughout his lawbreaking frenzy, E’s personal code restrained him from scamming Rocketeers.
He unearthed camaraderie in our tight-knit RL band. With us, E was home. Many social outcasts in desperate search of acceptance and general life advice burrow here.
That epilogue fits the recent RL trading narrative. The sketchy folk wandered out ages ago. Between court rulings to overturn loot crates and the serendipitous crypto boom that followed, they all disintegrated into smoke clouds.
The problem sorted itself out.
According to the founder of Rocket League Garage, recent “big-time” traders averaged around Platinum ranks. That checks out.
There’s another elephant in the room.
Profit traders often banded together, unloaded countless shekels into monopolizing specific items, drummed hype on social media, and waltzed away snickering.
I’d argue price manipulation affected every item in Rocket League. But the ultra-prosperous flippers plucked random discontinued items, like:
…And they’d blast prices straight to neighboring galaxies.
Still, these guys genuinely loved Rocket League. Most of them flung their credits right back into the item shop. They fancied themselves as stock traders.
Personally, the upper-middle “profit trader” bracket jostled my impatience. This small pocket of traders infested platforms like roaches. They each scattered thousands of daily listings. They blitzed our DM’s with overconfidence. They always spit buzzwords like “lowballer” and “overpay.” They fabricated over-the-top pending deals from questionable sources. It always felt… narcissistic.
But it never felt malicious. RL profiteers are more akin to misprint collectors in TCG’s. These guys started geeking over RL history and assembled some virtual bucks in the process.
At the precipice of trader peak, we glimpse upon three men standing firm in a relentless, trade-abolishing blizzard. We see MisterDrProf, Vicegold, and Pigeon Man. A heap of content creators like Pikapixel will need to shift gears to stay afloat, too… But that’s just the miserable world of content creation revealing her fangs again.
The first is our heroic OG middleman. He filtered out Gotham’s scum eager to make a quick buck on monumental transactions. He’s helped carry out a tireless streak of honest transactions for almost a decade. Doc. Prof’s valiant commitment to keeping trading safe has amassed him a pretty penny in free credit tips. And, with that, he flaunts the crown of Burnt Sienna King. Doc. Prof owns over 150,000 Burnt Sienna cosmetics. He owns every item of every rarity – in our least favorite color.
Vicegold co-founded the Rocket League Garage trading platform. [I decided that the legacy of RLG deserved a separate post with a full-fledged interview.] But, needless to say, a single tweet toppled Vicegold’s labor. He’s coping well. Despite the explosive news, he believes removing trading helps ease licensing deals for Psyonix. Perhaps he’s already moved on. Perhaps he’s optimistic that his team drifts back to their RL Stadium roots. Still, Psyonix is clubbing the baby seals who helped form the foundations of RLCS.
Then there’s the father of absurd collections, The Pigeon Man.
An otherwise inconspicuous Redditor named Johnz12321 garnered internet stardom for flexing an army of 6,500 pigeon toppers. He’s just an old railroad conductor who raises pigeons, but his legacy grazed the eyes of Psyonix. He earned a glowing, one-of-a-kind unique in-game title: “The Pigeon Man.” Outside of RL, he fosters over 50 domesticated pigeons. Many are rescue pets!
I could drone on about the teams behind apps like RL Insider or that one weirdo off-brand GameFlip site I was always too afraid to click into, but I’ve got serious ground to cover.
Nobody’s shocked that trading ate the hatchet. Epic Games made the presentation Let’s Go Whaling their corporate Bible.
I mean, what else can we expect from the guy who named his one-man company Epic MegaGames to swindle people into believing his studio resided among tech giants? In 2012, Sweeney willingly sold off 40% of his company to Tencent in exchange for their insight into gaming-as-a-service.
Want to know the practices that provide these corporate buildings their luster?
Rocket League piled Loot Boxes into the equation, too, until it started costing Epic lawsuit L-bucks. But, make no mistake, the trade-up system still quantifies the Gacha model with equal precision. It isn’t the gambling that gaming companies are after, it’s the effort-draining IkEA effect. It’s the “Pride and Accomplishment™” of building your own furniture, filling your heart with joy and particleboard splinters.
Companies strive to spark a feeling of earning your purchase with persistence. The bottom line is that trading makes acquiring items too easy.
But let’s keep diving, shall we?
You haven’t gotten worse in Seasons 11 and 12. Let’s eyeball 2v2 rank distribution:
I wouldn’t discredit the idea that Epic tinkered with ranks to combat the dying flame of competitive playlists. Studies discovered that players chain item purchases when they’re easing their minds from a slump.
Rank is a total scam. Wayton Pikmin unveiled that 31% of Diamond 3 lobbies now contain a Smurf.
Much like the spicy list above, rage produces a customer “Hot State.” Players in this mindset seek instant gratification. Epic coerces you into blowing credits on undesired items, so they can secure another purchase when real coveted items trickle into the shop.
And when Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones assessed gamers caught in this gamble-ridden grind, she noticed prominent trends of domestic violence and refusal to attend school. Kids began frothing at the mouth, nabbing credit cards, and prowling for nearby Wi-Fi connections to rejoin their virtual utopia. They released the audible cries to unalive themselves and others.
But it’s still not enough money for Big Boy Epic.
It’s time we look inward and be honest with ourselves.
With each minor tweak toward maximizing Epic profits, we’ve turned a blind eye. We weren’t ready for our 10,000+ hours to plummet down the dark abyss of sunk-cost fallacy.
Look, I get it. I’m not ready, either.
That dedication is the same hand Epic continues betting on.
And when that juicy new Anodized Multichrome Roasted Infinite [insert recycled popular goal explosion here] drops, there’s no price sheet to underline that invalidates the absurd $30 toll.
When the exodus dust settles, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
I get that Rocket League isn’t the most popular franchise in the world. But she’s a major piece in the modern live-service gaming jigsaw that’s swept the industry over the past few years.
RLCS is a consistent top 10 contender in eSports, in an arena where titles flash in and out at lightning speed. It’s the one game you can show to gramps that’ll pull the response, “You know what? I get it now, kid. They’re like mental athletes.”
Every console party boasts at least that one Rocket League guy. At every workplace I’ve hopped into, I unsheathed a handful of my people hidden in the ranks.
RL’s 2015 release window spills into a critical era. It’s when gamers began warming up to the concept of spending cash to bolster games they enjoy. And the RL demographic jumped in with more open-mindedness than most. We blazed the hot-footed trail to current microtransactions tolerance.
But ripping away the value of these items overnight leaves a sour taste in our mouths. We’d already deemed these objects as fake, and many understood the potential EULA’s held to further depreciate our purchases.
We jumped in with trust.
We pictured the developers’ endless hours breathing life into a passion project. We imagined how our contributions could help drive our beloved hobby to new heights. And it didn’t hurt that our friends complimented our designs along the way.
And, after pulling the trigger, it almost felt like we declared our own untouchable little pocket of universe to build a sturdy collection.
Rain massacres trading cards. An angry ex could pour gasoline over our fiery sports cars or computer rigs. We dumped old furniture to the curb as inflated rent prices shoved us into smaller spaces. But the fact these items were impalpable meant they posed the capacity to be everlasting.
Many of my poll respondents mentioned how Rocket League trading helped them escape difficult times. Thinking back to my binge in 2018, I’d say I agree. And those sentiments align with how Henrietta explained early onset gaming addiction.
Take a deep breath. That hurt to type, and it probably hurt to read.
Now that we’re free from our shackles, there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll flood other gaming rings with tragic backstories and total mistrust.
Look, I reached out to everyone involved. I did everything in my power to form an objective opinion. Watching Epic operate mirrors young children enforcing playground antics. You can’t keep shuffling the rules mid-game and expect everyone to play with you afterward.
When I flooded the inboxes of those shot down by the decision to cut trading from Rocket League – the businesses, the content creators, the community, the collectors, the middleman – they responded. Hell, even the shady black market merchants and the British psychology professor obliged me.
But the guys firing the shots kept quiet.
That’s a solid metaphor for the overall theme of where our relationship with Rocket League rests.
Sure, maybe dicing an outdated trade feature in a video game isn’t a big deal in the grand cosmic scene. It won’t affect ongoing wars or climate crises.
But the loyal customers who’ve supported Rocket League aren’t satisfied with the recent loss of transparency. We’ve sat in an insufferable, silent room pitched dark as midnight. Tension compounded like a callous tumor pressing violently into our skulls.
Like me, 93 million monthly users are crashing into goalposts, begging for Psyonix to execute the critical overtime save.
But they’re camping their spawn, AFK. Dave’s controller is vibrating on the table – as he sails adrift the endless sea, lightyears from humanity.
Enjoy your second-rate childhood fantasy of exploring the stars with your pops, Dave. Keep drinking until it feels real, I guess. But you’ll never overcome the guilt. I’d wager it’s the same cackling demon Einstein suffered after his discoveries paved the craters of nuclear warfare.
And I’ll pitch a special shout to Tim Sweeney for the awakening. Content creators like myself shed sweat and tears, hoisting a device that preys upon addiction. Those years belong to an eternal void now.
At the end of the day, Epic isn’t wielding the “almighty” Sledgehammer of Liberation, nor is Apple. The consumers wield it. Epic just laid off over 16% of their consumer base.
As always, thank you for reading. Much love!