The Fate Of Grand Theft Auto Online After the Release of Red Dead Redemption 2
By Sam Miguel, Contributor
If you care about either 1) Grand Theft Auto (GTA) Online or 2) Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR2), then not only are you a part of an insanely large group of gamers who have propelled Rockstar Games into the industry’s spotlight, but you’ve also likely heard the rustlings about how the release of the latter will negatively affect the former.
We are here to tell you that that won’t be happening and why.
Now, it’s entirely true that Red Dead Redemption 2 has been getting a lot of media attention recently, and that media attention is based on literally a single cinematic trailer, meaning that the hype for the game is already immense. But there is an important thing to consider: the majority of GTA Online’s players aren’t the kind of people who get caught up in gaming hype. Or gaming in general.
Due to the mainstream factor, the majority of GTA Online’s weekly over 8 million unique logins come from the kind of player who has a console at home and only buys 2-3 games a year - the new Call of Duty, the new FIFA or Madden depending on preference, and GTA V.
These people do not consider themselves gamers, they don’t follow gaming news, and they don’t care about games in general other than those three that we’ve listed. They log into GTA Online fairly regularly and having finished the story mode of the game, probably only return to GTA 5’s offline mode if they want to blast away with some cheats.
Here’s the thing - RDR2 will be successful and it will sell an immense number of copies, but these sales will mostly stay within the bounds of the core gaming community. GTA Online won’t bleed too many players over to Red Dead Online simply because the audience will differ. Sure, it won’t be a clear cut divide. In fact, far from it, thanks to the media coverage the upcoming Wild West title is getting. Red Dead Redemption 2 will see the franchise explode onto the mainstream market but it won’t be enough to topple the titan that is GTA.
Look at it from Take-Two’s perspective: on the one hand, you have GTA 5. The game recently broke 75 million sales, enjoyed the number one spot on the sales charts three times in 2017 already, and sold more copies in 2016 than it did in 2014 and 2015. This is a game that will continue to generate revenue and attract customers. As we mentioned before, there are more than 8 million unique logins to GTA Online each week. These are insane numbers - but wait, there’s more! A year ago, GTA Online’s micro-transactions, the Shark Cards, brought in $500 million in revenue. Consider that the playerbase has only increased since then, and you can imagine the kind of revenue those things still move.
Now that’s a gift that just keeps giving.
On the other hand, you have Red Dead Redemption 2, a fairly hyped up game that’s predicted to sell around 15 million copies on launch, and gradually climb up from there - but it will never hit the same record GTA 5. The game will start off with a smaller player base, and will always have a small player base. Releasing on just 2 platforms instead of 5 in a staggered model spread over 3 years will drastically cut longevity compared to GTA Online, meaning whatever kind of microtransaction system is implemented (because you can bet there will be micro-transactions), will stop bringing in major revenue relatively soon.
Considering this, all those rumors about GTA Online DLC being ceased in favor of Red Dead Online suddenly seem a tad silly, don’t they? GTA Online forms one of the main financial pillars of Take-Two, and continued DLC is how this is achieved. The microtransaction revenue enables that DLC to be given to the players for free, which is a massive incentive to continue playing and continue buying. With the ever changing content, there is always reason to come back and play, which in turn gives players reason to buy Shark Cards. GTA Online is a sure-fire way, a steady source. No business in its right mind would ditch the steady source for a risky one now would they?
Really, in the end, there is no reason to worry for the future of GTA Online. It’s success has guaranteed it a position in Rockstar’s graces for years to come, regardless of how strong Red Dead Redemption 2 will launch when it does.