Product Strategy in Rocket League

By  on 

This is the first post in my product strategy brief series. This series aims to stress-test a product strategy brief. The product strategy brief can be the strategy-level equivalent of product briefs.

In part 1, I will apply this product strategy brief to a video game my brother and I have been playing during quarantine. The video game is Rocket League. It is a game of rocket-boosted remote control cars playing indoor soccer.

Rocket League Example Pro Goal

Applying a strategy to Rocket League

The Strategy Brief can be broken down into a few sections. The first section is the "current situation" (Good Strategy / Bad Strategy calls this the "Diagnosis"). Not only does this detail the main challenges to overcome, but it also outlines any competitive advantages. After assessing the situation, it is essential to outline the customer segments the strategy will target. Finally, we can define the guiding policies. This strategy breakdown was influenced by Good Strategy / Bad Strategy and Shreyas Doshi.

Situation assessment / Diagnosis

The Diagnosis is an honest assessment of the current situation. What core challenges does the product/team face? What are the current advantages to leverage?

Challenges / Hurdles

What are the top structural things that make your situation challenging? Challenges could come from anywhere (market, product, customers, technology)

  1. Playing on a Switch - Both my brother and I are competing on Nintendo Switches. The Switch is a casual gaming console that lacks the precision controls of PS4 or PC. The joysticks are smaller, the input lag is higher, and the button spacing is tighter. In a game like Rocket League, Switch players are at a disadvantage.
  2. Lack of experience with similar games—Our experience with video games has mostly been with turn-based games like Civilization. Turn-based games require strategic thinking but not real-time, precise input. Rocket League is the first fast-paced video game we've played where input timing and precision are key to success. Our fingers can't keep up.


What are the top attributes of the situation that are suited for you? These could be changing market conditions, a unique insight, distribution channels, partner relationships

  1. Teamwork - Many opponents are randomly matched together. They often do not communicate via voice chat and are limited to a few quick chat options. A player can quickly send "I got it!" to their teammate. In comparison, My brother and I are always on a Facetime call while playing. This real-time communication gives us an advantage in this real-time game. We can tell each other where to move when we are planning to challenge for the ball and in which section of the field we are currently in. This communication has helped us often.
  2. Patience - We are older than our opponents (almost always). While this is a disadvantage for the quick reflex controller inputs, it is advantageous in remaining calm, not being overly aggressive, and letting the game come to us. As one opponent put it after we scored: "Don't worry, I think they are adults."

Diagnosis Statement

A short statement incorporating both hurdles and advantages.

Our gaming console and lack of experience put us at a distinct disadvantage when playing Rocket League, which requires quick, precise input. How might we use our superior teamwork and patience to overcome the hurdles?

Target customer segments

What are the different dimensions of segmentation that this product or service will focus on? What segments of customers will you ignore?

This section does not apply if the strategy is unrelated to a product or service. Our Rocket League team does not have any customers (yet).

Differentiation Pillars / Guiding Policies

Given the situation and target customer segments, what are your core strategic principles? These policies should take a stance. The opposite of each policy should also be a viable policy.

1. Focus on defensive positioning above all else

Since we do not have the dexterity of gamers with more real-time experience playing on a Switch, we have opted to focus on defense.

2. Capitalize on opponent mistakes

Focusing on defense allows our opponents to have more possession of the ball. As they fail to score for extended periods, most opponents sacrifice positioning to be more aggressive. This aggressiveness causes more mistakes, and we need to capitalize on those mistakes.

This guiding policy helps us keep our practice time focused. When practicing offensive skills, we prioritize hitting long balls from our defensive end correctly over trying closer-range precision shots.

3. Avoid aerials unless absolutely necessary

Aerials are seen as very important to Rocket League players. However, they also require precise joystick position and movement, which we aren't good at.

Making strategy useful

Guiding policies make decision-making easier. By clearly defining the policies we use while playing Rocket League, quick decisions become easier.

Question: Should I go get boost (makes the car faster) and risk being out of position?
Answer: No

Question: The ball is in the air (would require an aerial to reach), not in a threatening position. What should I do?
Answer: Do not challenge the aerial. Position yourself well to react to an opponent's hit.

Question: The ball is in the air (it would require an aerial to reach it), and there is a large risk of it going in our goal. How should I react?
Answer: Go for the ball, but take advantage of our real-time communication and let your partner know (so they can continue focusing on their defensive position).

Final thoughts

Defining this strategy and discussing it with my brother has helped us rank up in Rocket League even though we lack many of our opponent's flashy moves. The strategy lays out where to focus (and where not to focus). Having a clear strategy helps us compete with much more skilled competitors and makes the game more fun.