Rocket League gets approval for free-to-play release in China

It's been two years since Rocket League developer Psyonix partnered with Chinese mega-publisher Tencent to bring its car-soccer hit to the east. China is notoriously restrictive when it comes to video games, so this is a big step forward towards expanding Rocket League's reach.

It’s not easy to release a video game in China. As we’ve covered extensively, it’s a long process that involves numerous restrictions and approval from an ethics committee, and in a region that limits the number and type of games released in any given year. These challenges are hard to overcome, so it’s not surprising that it can take years for western releases to make their way east. That’s just the case with Rocket League, which has finally earned approval for a free-to-play release in China.

The approval comes two years after developer Psyonix teamed up with Chinese company Tencent with this goal in mind, and four years after Rocket League’s original release on PC and PS4. A lot has happened in that time: Rocket League eventually came out for Xbox and Switch, the game became an esports hit, and Fortnite publisher Epic Games acquired Psyonix just a few months ago.

According to Lisa Hanson, founder and managing partner at Niko Partners, it’s difficult to predict just how long the approval process will take for any given title. Additionally, “Rocket League was subjected to the same delay as all other games foreign and domestic, when there was a halting to new licenses for nine months in 2018 and then a large backlog to get through when restarted and into 2019,” she told GameDaily.

Hanson called Rocket League “one of the lucky few foreign games to get licensed so far,” but there’s still no release date in China. In addition to meeting the government’s criteria, it’s a good fit for the region because of China’s competitive esports presence.

“Esports in China is hot and getting hotter,” Hanson said. “Rocket League might not impact the size and demand for esports, but will join the list of games that are played in esports and will be propelled in China because it is a competitive title.”

As reported by GameIndustry.biz, Rocket League is one of 24 titles to recently gain China’s approval, though 20 of those were mobile games. Despite its restrictive licensing, the gaming market in China is only getting bigger; analysts at Niko Partners have predicted a 35.5% jump to $41.49 million by 2023. Rocket League joins a thriving marketplace, and Chinese gamers are probably thrilled to have any new releases from the west.

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Sarah LeBoeuf is a freelance writer and editor with over a decade of experience in games media. When not writing about video games or playing video games, you can find her drinking obscene amounts of coffee, snuggling her cat, planning her next trip to Disney World, or starting fights on Twitter @sarahthebeef.

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