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GTA Online's Success May Shift Rockstar's Focus

Feb 28 2014, 10:46am CST | by

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GTA Online's Success May Shift Rockstar's Focus

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GTA Online's Success May Shift Rockstar's Focus

It’s been quite a while since we’ve talked about GTA Online, or Grand Theft Auto V for that matter, but it seems Rockstar’s big experiment into persistent, mini-MMO-ish multiplayer is paying off. While perhaps the online portion of the game isn’t on fire in terms of staggering player count or buzz, it appears to have gathered enough of a robust community to satisfy Rockstar, and may warrant more resources devoted to it as a result.

Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick spoke to MCV (via Polygon) about how GTA Online has changed their landscape, and what that means for the future:

“A few years ago, we’d launch a title, it would be sold physically, then we would sell catalogue versions of it,” he said. “Today we launch a title, and often, if not always, put out DLC. We’ve talked about recurrent consumer spending, where we have offerings where fans can engage and spend money on an on-going basis.”

“With GTA 5, we have sold 32.5m units in to date, which is extraordinary. 70 per cent of people that have played GTA 5 while online have played GTA Online, which is a free-to-play experience. And recurrent consumer spending, which includes GTA Online revenue, represented nearly half of our digitally delivered revenue in the quarter. So people are voting that they want to stay engaged and they are voting with their wallets.”

All of this is to say that Take Two might see GTA Online as a good enough revenue portal to keep making content for that portion of the game, rather than say, immediately turning to full-on DLC like The Lost and the Damned or the Ballad of Gay Tony, or increasing the amount of total games or editions in the series. Rather, if they keep adding content to the multiplayer side of things in GTA Online, the revenue there could equal that of potential DLC for presumably a lot less work. GTA Online barely has a story mode, so if they could simply add in new mini-quests and content like clothes and cars, that could be enough to keep GTA Online loyalists happy (and more importantly, spending).

This sort of philosophy may seem surprising to many who initially regarded GTA Online as something of a miss, but I think many people are forgetting just how many copies GTA 5 sold. Even if only a fraction of those have stuck around and continued to play Online, that’s a potentially big number, especially if many of those players are shelling out for microtransactions. And many players who gave up on Online the first few weeks after launch may not have given it a second shot since the game has gone through a series of patches to stabilize things. Granted, the mode still isn’t without its issues (the uber rich owning the streets in tanks, for one), but it’s expanded quite a bit since launch.

That said, the success of GTA Online could potentially mean less single player focused DLC, or longer delays until we see some. Take-Two and Rockstar have led the field in doing DLC right with truly substantive content that far and away feels like it’s worth the money.

But the market has changed. Why should Rockstar spend all that time, money and effort to make DLC that blows other similarly priced content out of the water, when they could reduce their effort and still make the same amount of money? If they can bring in say, $50M from lengthy story-based DLC sales, or $50M from a handful of new GTA Online items to be sold as microtransactions, why wouldn’t they focus on the easier of the two? Ideally, we’ll get both, and we have been promised “substantial” story DLC in 2014 starring Michael, Trevor and Franklin.

I’m glad to see GTA Online succeeding after a somewhat rocky launch, and it’s always nice for our favorite gaming companies to find themselves new revenue streams. I just hope that they can continue producing both microtransaction-based content and big, bold story DLC side-by-side in a timely fashion.

Follow me on Twitter, subscribe to my Forbes feed, and pick up a copy of my sci-fi novel, The Last Exodus, and its sequel, The Exiled Earthborn.

Source: Forbes


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