Rockstar really knows how to sell a game. Not only has GTA 5 recently shipped its 75 millionth copy to retailers (digital sales not included!), but the recent announcement that GTA 4 and Episodes from Liberty City are now available on the Xbox One via backwards compatibility jacked up the sales of those older titles as well.
Amazon, arguably the world’s largest online retailer, is kind enough to list changes in the popularity of its products. The website indicates a marked increase in the sales of both vanilla GTA 4 and the complete edition.
Namely, 7,696% and 4,536%. Those numbers are not typos. These spikes prove not only that the backwards compatibility program on the Xbox One is a boon to publishers and players alike, giving old and seemingly outdated games a new spurt of life.
GTA 4 was first released in 2008 and is the first game in the “HD” era of GTA. That said, the game wasn’t a pioneer of advanced graphical fidelity at the time like 5 was back in 2013. In fact, visuals were one of the most consistently criticized features of the game, being dark, and colors being muted.
GTA 4 instead won praise by virtue of polished, well-designed gameplay and what is lauded as the best plot and writing in a GTA game to date. Niko’s tale is arguably the darkest in the franchise and hits a more somber and serious tone while still retaining that trademark GTA style humor.
Episodes from Liberty City refers to a pair of standalone DLC expansions, The Ballad of Gay Tony and The Lost and Damned. Both feature characters from the main game and the same map but have different protagonists, stories, gameplay mechanics and the occasional unique vehicle.
This massive surge in sales proves just how much weight the GTA name has to it. From older fans who misplaced their original copies to newer players interested in experiencing this previous part of the series’ history, the announcement that the game is now backwards compatible motivated countless customers to pick up the game.
The backwards compatibility program is Microsoft’s way of immortalizing the 360 library, one game at a time. Those titles which are part of the program can be played on Xbox One. If you have an original 360 disc, you can pop it into the One and play. Same goes for digital copies.
This isn’t the first Rockstar title to join the program in spite of the initial reluctance of the company. Nor is it, actually, the first to see a major boost in sales. Red Dead Redemption also went backwards compatible, and also enjoyed s similar spike of around 6,000%. Bully was also added, but it’s a more obscure title.
GTA 4’s lasting popularity is thanks to the same factor which contributed greatly to the success of GTA 5: mainstream traction. The series has grown to become a household name, with even non-gamers knowing what it is off-hand. While this became most apparent with the insane juggernaut that is 5, it was the case before.
GTA 4 had its fair share of publicity and plenty of controversy. A not entirely legal docu-drama film has been made about the drawn out battle between Rockstar and one Jack Thompson who wanted to ban the game, and used cases where the title was (often erroneously) linked to a violent crime to sue time and again.
However, all this did was boost the publicity of the game even more. The game was released on three platforms and sold a total of 25 million copies. While that may not seem noteworthy next to GTA 5’s 75 million, it’s still a massive number compared to other major releases.
That said, the expansions didn’t enjoy similar fame, having only sold around 300,000 copies collectively, which is probably good indication of why we haven’t gotten any single player DLC for GTA 5. That number is especially scathing considering the amount of effort invested. They are full game experiences on their own, after all.
GTA 4’s lasting appeal shows just how much reach Rockstar’s work has among players. While the game may be old, we might know the story or balk at the amount of grey used, but in the end, it’s always fun returning to Liberty City.
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