We’re at that point where the new year has ceased being new by any stretch, and based on Rockstar’s recent reveal of their upcoming plans for GTA 5, 2017 will be as busy in terms of content as any other. However, amidst all the DLC the game will be getting, we’re pretty sure that story DLC will be missing. Players have been holding out hope for over three years now and it’s harder every year.
Those players who jumped on the bandwagon later on might not know that when GTA 5 first launched, Online didn’t – a month passed between the release of the base game and the multiplayer component. All those glowing reviews that praised the game were based on the singleplayer alone, written by reviewers who never touched Online at that point.
GTA has always been, first and foremost, a singleplayer game. Very few entries in the series even had multiplayer capability and none were as developed as GTA Online. This most recent entry stood strong on its campaign alone and gained popularity by virtue of its story, characters, writing and vibrant living open-world.
To think that there are players out there who only touched single player for the tutorial that has to be completed in order to access Online is almost angering, especially considering how much effort was put into the story of the game and the legacy of the franchise. GTA games of yore used to get story expansions, and each spin-off title would have memorable protagonists and stories for players to immerse themselves into.
And here we are, almost four years to the release of GTA 5, and the singleplayer is more or less identical to what it was on launch day. On the flipside, Online has gotten more DLC updates than there are games in this series. These updates range from the major to the minor, but they all added content to the multiplayer mode that cannot be accessed when playing solo.
While most GTA games that came before had glowing plotlines, GTA 5 had the deepest and best-developed storyline and setting. The plot was a complete package, but still allowed room for expansions to add to and continue the tale. There were so many characters in the game whose backstories were more than colorful enough to fill an expansion.
Rockstar was aware of this too of course and in good GTA tradition planned additional singleplayer content. They went so far as to officially announce-slash-tease singleplayer DLC on the Newswire at one point and promised to “continue the tale of Trevor, Michael, and Franklin”. Now, those of you who chose one of the non-C endings of the story will know that this either meant canonizing C or setting the expansion before the end of the main storyline.
Whatever the plan was, we’ll never know, because apparently the project was buried and forgotten in favor of more Online content. It’s an odd thing too, because over the years, the community demand for singleplayer DLC has been so consistently vocal that there’s no way there is no market for this sort of thing – an assertion our own poll reaffirms.
So why isn’t Rockstar producing any more story content? It’s simple, really, and we’re all to blame – Online is just vastly more profitable. Countless casual players buy the game solely for Online. Producing DLC for Online is relatively cheap, but the boost in Shark Card sales each update causes brings in heaps of revenue.
If we look at it from a financial standpoint – and since Take-Two is a business, they sure will – there are two options. On the one hand, you have story DLC, which would be a bigger and more costly project and thus a paid affair. Only a small chunk of the whole community is interested in it, and even less would actually pay for it. It’s a high-investment, high-risk, (comparatively) low-reward scenario.
On the other hand, we have GTA Online DLC which is much easier and cheaper to produce, doesn’t divide the community and sends the already-ambiently-high microtransactions sales through the roof. It’s a low-investment high-reward setup. If you had a quarterly earnings report to worry about, which of the two would you choose?
At the end of the day, we can’t really blame Rockstar or Take-Two for making the financially sound decision. It is, after all, their job. Rather, the unprecedented and record-breaking success of GTA Online is what killed any chance of story DLC from being produced. Of course, Rockstar hasn’t outright said that the idea is dead, but there really isn’t much reason to hope for it anymore.
The best outcome at this point would be to have Rockstar put a greater emphasis on narrative content within the bounds of GTA Online. A number of story-heavy MMOs exist out there and Rockstar might want to take a few pointers from them in order to weave whatever plans they had for that story expansion into the upcoming content for GTA Online.
Take the upcoming gunrunning update, for example. Instead of being yet another reskinned version of the typical CEO “get goods to warehouse, choose buyer, deliver to buyer” set-up that we’ve been playing for a year now, how about the gunrunning mechanic is introduced and expanded upon in a narrative environment?
GTA 5 provides the team with more than enough material to work with. You have factions like the corrupt branches of the FIB and Merryweather which could be embroiled in a secret proxy war fought through rag-tag militias using trafficked guns. The player could drop into the middle of this secret conflict. As you gain more renown as a gun smuggler, more and more aspects of the situation would be uncovered as you work in story missions to unravel the conspiracy which led to the animosity between the two groups.
Rockstar has already used in-game contacts to link Online and the story mode, however the narrative content of the contact missions is far too thin to be considered bonafide story content. We need a grand storyline, like that of the main game, transplanted into multiplayer form.
The insistence on separating the multiplayer from the story is somewhat archaic when it comes to gaming in this day and age. All GTA Online needs to do is to embrace the story-heavy nature of the franchise while still maintaining what makes the multiplayer mode so successful and popular.
That being said, we just don’t see the arrival of such an update as likely at this venue. Alas, no story DLC for us.
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