While Rockstar’s recent Newswire post confirmed that GTA Online isn’t going the way of the Dodo on account of Red Dead Redemption 2, speculation as to what the release of the latter will change in the former is still rife. In spite of the game’s current popularity, a massive release such as RDR2 is bound to cause some changes in Rockstar’s policies.
We now know that DLC isn’t going to cease this year, though as much was pretty much guaranteed anyway. However, chances are some price changes are in order to keep GTA Online as the top dog. While it may seem odd that the same publisher, and even developer, is treating two of their own games as rivals, when looking at the bigger picture, it all makes sense.
Sure, RDR2 is also a Rockstar title, and is going to be a major financial success, but it’s pretty clear that the game won’t hit the kind of popularity GTA 5 enjoys. With the latter being a constant and massive source of income showing no sign of decline, Take-Two Interactive is definitely going to want to keep it profitable.
As counterintuitive as it may sound, it’s actually in the company’s best interests to keep GTA Online relevant in the face of RDR2 even if the sales of the latter are hurt by doing so. The ever growing popularity and profitability of GTA 5 is such an unprecedented event that it’s tossing general conventions and protocol into the air.
One way to keep GTA in its position as top-dog financially is to do something that hasn’t happened since the game’s release: permanently decrease the cost of Shark Cards. Rockstar wouldn’t even need to do anything drastic like halving the prices either, as smaller reductions are guaranteed to generate another sales boom as well.
Currently, the Megalodon Shark Card, the largest of the microtransactions, costs $100. Those hundred bucks will get you GTA$ 8 million, which is the cost of the biggest yacht, and almost enough for a pointless gold plated private jet. 8 million is also enough to jump-start both your CEO and Biker business.
These prices prove that Shark Card pricing has become rather outdated. Back when the cards were first introduced, called Maze Bank Cash Cards back in the day, 8 million was a big amount, and the $100 seemed a bit more justified than it does now. Today, $GTA 8 million will disappear in the game before you catch up with even a fraction of the content. Really, there’s nothing about that yacht that could justify a $100 price-tag.
With the prices in GTA Online reaching the point that they make Shark Cards seem ridiculously overpriced coupled with the release of Red Dead Redemption 2, a permanent discount would definitely win Rockstar plenty of goodwill and a whole lot of sales. They might even take the current pricing method and use it for the first few years of Red Dead Online’s microtransactions (because who are we kidding, it’s going to have microtransactions).
Say, cut the Megalodon down to $60, which is still the full-price of a newly released AAA game, and similarly decrease the prices of the smaller cards to truly turn them into “micro” transactions, and a lot more players would buy in. Currently, it’s safe to assume that GTA Online operates on the Whale-model, wherein ~1% of the players account for 99% of the revenue.
While the Whale-model works well in mobile gaming, and evidently in GTA Online, in the long run, if the plan to keep the game profitable through 2020 stands, moving to a better-distributed model would be beneficial. If the Whales are the ones who jump ship and move to Red Dead Redemption 2 – and they’re likely to, since the Whales are almost definitely part of the core gaming audience, which is exactly the audience who is already in RDR2’s bag – the whole Shark Card business will come crashing down.
If more and more of the mainstream crowd, the bulk of GTA Online’s player, buy into the smaller cards, the flow of revenue will take a smaller hit when the Wild West title is released this autumn. Most of these people don’t really care about gaming or games other than GTA, so it’s not like they’ll bleed over to Red Dead Redemption 2.
We’ve explored other concepts of new pricing methods to keep the game on the top of those charts, such as an idea to split GTA 5’s single player component and GTA Online into two separate products. Let’s face it, the fact is that the vast majority of Online’s players are casuals, and probably didn’t touch single player beyond playing the tutorial necessary to access Online.
Now, if a gamer out there wants to play GTA Online, but doesn’t want to pay $60 for a game of which they’ll only essentially play half of, a $30 Online pass without the single player content would be much more appealing, and more likely to drive sales. Further incentivizing Shark Cards to the average player with more affordable prices will shift the balance of revenue to the majority, rather than the minority, which spells financial stability in the face of an upcoming major release.
Whatever may happen to GTA Online’s business models come autumn, you can bet there are changes on the way. While it’s guaranteed that RDR2 won’t sink GTA Online’s ship, it’s release will definitely be felt in the virtual streets of Los Santos.
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