It’s February 2017, GTA 5 hit 75 million sales and spent a third week at the top of the sales charts just this year. This isn’t exactly news anymore since countless gaming outlets have been hammering this fact home for the past few days, but there’s good reason for it – such a sales curve this late after launch is unprecedented. However, based on what boosted the game to this achievement, Rockstar could squeeze even more out of it – so why isn’t it?
Here’s the thing: the key to GTA 5’s success was threefold, and one of the main contributors was the fact that it launched across 5 platforms spread out over the course of 3 years. This means the game blanketed the gaming audience almost completely, and enjoyed the spike in sales a new release grants three times, something that pretty much never happens.
Thing is, it could to it again. Twice. We’ve spoken about the potential of GTA 5 being ported to various VR platforms and the upcoming Nintendo Switch independently before, but now the lack of support is even more baffling. Sure, there are a few reasonable explanations why Rockstar isn’t rushing to toss their most successful game on these platforms, but in the end, it would be a win-win situation.
So let’s look at the counter-arguments first. Back in the day, we dismissed the possibility of GTA 5 hitting VR devices based on the comments of Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick. He stated, to paraphrase, that he’s cautious about the new medium due to it being expensive to jump into and covers a very limited market. Add to this the relative niche appeal of VR back at the time, and you didn’t have much incentive to pump immense amounts of funds to optimize the game for VR – something the possibility of which is questionable in the first place.
On the other hand, we have the Nintendo Switch. The new hybrid portable-home console will have a significantly larger third-party library than most previous Nintendo systems, and older games are getting rereleased for it, such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. If Skyrim is coming to the Switch, why shouldn’t GTA 5? Thing is, GTA 5 would need a significant downgrade if it was to hit the Switch, and Rockstar’s image doesn’t quite fit in with Nintendo’s family-friendly branding.
However, there are ample arguments in favor of these ports. In the past months, the VR market has seen a significant and unexpected increase, with far more systems being in the hands of consumers, and game releases ramping up as well. Optimization tech has advanced a tad, and major AAA games such as Fallout 4 are rumored to be getting the VR treatment.
Rockstar could benefit greatly from releasing a VR version of GTA 5. Fan made mods which achieve this prove that there is demand for such a title, and when throwing the weight of the game’s popularity behind the new medium, Rockstar could also majorly boost VR popularity. This move would benefit the developer while also having a great effect on an emergent market segment.
From a technical point of view, GTA 5 would need to take a significant visual hit to have reasonable system requirements. VR by default uses many system resources, and so rendering games with passable graphical fidelity in VR is something only the most powerful machines can handle. That said, if Fallout 4 is going VR, the same re-optimization can happen to GTA 5.
Switching back to the Switch, many of the same arguments hold true. Sure, GTA 5 would need to get a graphical downgrade to run on the limited hardware of the Switch – it is a handheld in essence, after all – but it’s not like such a thing is beyond the realm of possibility. And where Strauss Zelnick regarded VR with caution, he’s spoken highly of the Switch, and officially stated that Take-Two is ready to support the platform with more than just NBA 2K18.
And then there are the obvious benefits for the sales figures of GTA 5. Adding two more platforms to the line-up, as well as taking advantage of either one or two more launch sale spikes would shoot the already astronomical sales numbers through the roof. Again. The fact that more copies of the game were sold in 2016 then in either 2014 or 2015 prove that there is more than enough demand for the game still, and with couple-year-old games getting a second chance to shine on the Switch, GTA 5 is a great candidate for yet another re-release.
Of course, there is the issue of Online. We’re not quite sure what the online service for the Switch looks like, as Nintendo has been pretty tight lipped when it comes to details, and therefore we don’t know if it would be compatible with Rockstar’s business model. In the case of VR, adding a multiplayer component like Online would once again jack up system requirements, meaning that it’s possible that today’s tech could only handle GTA 5 VR as a singleplayer-only title – and we’re not sure how well Rockstar or Take-Two would take to that.
While there are a host of arguments in favor of releasing GTA 5 for the Switch and VR devices, chances are that the only ways to enjoy Rockstar’s main franchise on the go or in VR are with the mobile releases of the 3D era games and that one mod, respectively. Alas, one may dream.
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