What will it take to stop this game? GTA 5 continues to defy sales conventions and pretty much every established law and rule of video game market lifecycles. Not only did GTA recently break the 75 million shipped copies mark, but apparently it sold more in 2016 than it did in 2014 and 2015.
That’s right folks, sales for an over three-year-old game are trending upwards. Anyone marginally familiar with the basics of economics and any kind of finances regarding the video game industry will see that that’s absolutely batshit crazy. Even the biggest AAA releases typically follow a well-established model – a model that GTA 5 decided to throw out.
Basically, each time a major AAA game is released, there is a massive spike for sales in the first week or so, because pre-orders are counted here as well, and most people who care about the game grab it then. In the following month, the spike subsides but sales remain generally high.
Then, for the next 1-2, on rare occasion 3, years, the sales will settle on a rough average that can’t even touch the massive launch-spike but is still kind of significant. Overall, sales will trend downward over time, and settle for nominal after a few years, where they will stay until such a time that the game ceases to be commercially available.
Then came GTA 5, stomped everyone else into the ground with an insanely strong launch that has been unprecedented in the industry. Then, stepping into its second year, it took a look at the standard sales model for AAA games, and shook its successful head at this nonsense.
Sure, the whole “initial launch spike followed by sudden drop” was there, plain and clear, but that drop wasn’t as major as it usually is. The game was still moving tens of millions of copies each year, which is something most titles struggle with in their launch year. But that wasn’t the best of it.
As the years progressed, this thing kept selling more and more, and here we are, in the February of 2017, and more copies of GTA 5 have been sold than there are people in France (66 million). It’s pretty much guaranteed that the game will soon surpass Germany (80 million) as well.
Now, let’s assume that just half of all those copies were sold at full price, though in reality it’s more likely that ~75-80% were sold at the standard $60. That’s $2,250,000,000, plus all the cash brought in from the remaining discounted 50%, plus all the digital sales that aren’t accounted for in this figure, plus all the Shark Card revenue.
That is an amount of money most of us can’t even comprehend. Facebook purchased Oculus, a leading company in the VR industry (that is currently embroiled in more controversy than it can handle) for $2 billion. Vizio was acquired by a Chinese Tech company for $2 billion.
With the revenue generated by GTA 5, you could very likely fund an independent space program aimed at colonizing Mars. You could fund enough initiatives and programs to entirely clean the world’s oceans of debris, or buy enough land to start your own country.
As for GTA 5’s ever-growing sales? All this means is that those rumors about Online no longer getting DLC support seem all the sillier in retrospect. This juggernaut of a game is pushing forward without respite, and we’re guessing it won’t change much in the coming months.
Of course, there are a few things to consider that might cause those numbers to start trending down. Firstly, Red Dead Redemption 2 is going to launch this year, and while Take-Two’s CEO doesn’t expect the two titles to compete, it’s likely that GTA Online will bleed players.
Another factor is that GTA 5’s sales were kept strong by staggering the release of the game on various platforms. Initially it was launched on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 4, then on the current-gen consoles a year later, and then PC another year after that. All of these releases brought with them a smaller-scale launch spike, and since the game won’t be surfacing on any new platforms in the future, that bonus is dead and gone.
Of course, a recent move on Rockstar’s part will likely spike sales in February once more. GTA Online character transfers will end on the 6th of March. Initially it was thought that this only meant transfers between the previous generation games and the Enhanced Edition, however it was discovered that all transfers will cease.
This will likely push a large number of players who haven’t upgraded yet to do so quickly. Of course, for those players who cannot afford to do so, this will likely mean that they will quit the game, however it’s not like the old-gen servers are going down, so there is no reason to consider the platforms “dead”.
We’ll be interested to see where the game’s sales go in 2017. Will it continue to trend upwards, beating the 2016 numbers, or will it finally succumb to the tolls of time and start to decline? There are factors supporting both outcomes, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
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