Will Rockstar’s Deal With Sony Affect GTA Online?

Timed exclusive content and why not to worry about it

Those of you who are also fans of Red Dead Redemption 2 probably know about the exclusive deal Rockstar brokered with Sony regarding future Red Dead Online content coming to PlayStation 4 earlier than Xbox One. Seeing this might have raised concerns over GTA Online, but really there is no need to worry.

Content Exclusivity is something of a minefield when it comes to gaming. Many profitable deals working with exclusivity end up driving business up for the parties involved, however they are also pretty controversial each time they pop up.

Understandably, when the users of one platform are given privileges over other users, those who miss out of the goodies feel cheated or devalued. In the case of multiplatform games providing exclusive content to just one of the supported platforms, usually all users pay the same amount for the game, even though a slice of them gets more bang for their buck.

Of course, deals aren’t always about the quantity of content, but the timing of its accessibility. This is where ‘timed exclusives’ come into the picture, which means that small bits of DLC or even entire games that, in spite of being multi-platform, are released on some systems before others.

In the case of Red Dead Redemption 2, Rockstar has a deal set up with Sony, the result of which is Online DLC becoming available for PlayStation 4 players earlier than for Xbox One players. Since this deal is placing Xbox One players at a disadvantage, even though they pay the same amount for the game as PS4 users, many fans are bothered.

But does this affect GTA Online, another multiplatform title in any way? Well, it’s highly unlikely. While it is true that Rockstar has altered the model of content distribution before, cutting the past-gen consoles out of the loop (PS3 and Xbox 360 don’t get GTA Online updates any more), this was done entirely internally and in order to streamline development.

Shedding the past-gen platforms allowed the developers to spend more on the actual content, rather than bothering with porting it to outdated systems which limited the scope that the updates could entail anyway. While this did cut a chunk of the players out of the new improvements, all DLC up to that point was free, so it’s not like Rockstar could be blamed in any sense of the word.

In the case of Red Dead Online, this is a deal set up for future content, a model that will define the DLC accessibility for the game from launch. Rockstar is unlikely to add a similar clause into their model for GTA Online for a number of reasons.

The main reason is also the reason why these deals exist in the first place. Rockstar grants Sony a timed-exclusive deal, meaning RDR2 is “better” on PS4. Sony then does marketing for RDR2 on PS4, promoting it with the special deal. Rockstar gets free or cheaper publicity from Sony, while Sony gets the benefit of RDR2 fans being more likely to grab a PS4.

 

In the case of GTA 5, this motive isn’t present. While it is true that game sales are trending upward, most players are buying for a platform they already have, rather than buying the game alongside a console. If suddenly GTA Online DLC arrived in PS4 a week or two before Xbox One, chances are there wouldn’t be a significant increase in the number of PS4 consoles sold by Sony.

Lacking much by way of benefits, Sony wouldn’t enter a timed-exclusivity deal which would require them to spend on the marketing of a three-year-old game that is available across five platforms. GTA 5 doesn’t get marketed these days anymore, partially because it doesn’t seem to need it.

While in the case of GTA 5, the people buying it likely already have something to play it on, chances are buyers of RDR2 will be in need of a console to play it. Not everyone has jumped to the new generation yet, and in the case of players who did play the original on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, RDR 2 might be reason enough for the upgrade.

And if they are buying a new console just to play Red Dead Redemption 2, they might as well buy the console on which the game is more enjoyable, right? This same circumstance is not present in the case of GTA 5, making such a deal pretty much pointless.

Another thing to consider is the competition. Red Dead Redemption 2 is launching on the Xbox One and PS4, whereas GTA 5 is available on PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One and PC. When you have two choices, it’s easier to change the scales with something like a timed exclusivity deal to push players towards your own platform.

But when you’re dealing with five, there are too many variables. On last gen, both the game and the platform is cheap now. On PC, you can get the game cheap, have the definitive GTA 5 experience and use mods, however the hardware needed is pricey. Current gen consoles offer DLC support and an easy plug-and-play platform as opposed to the tinker-heavy PC.

When it comes down to Xbox One and PlayStation 4, things are more level. Sure, there are some minor differences in the upcoming upgraded editions, with things like 4K and VR to consider, however these are niche concerns. To the average consumer, the two consoles are the same thing with a different name and controller. If one gives them DLC faster than the other, its chances are greatly increased.

It’s doubtful that Sony, or even Microsoft, for that matter, would be interested in any kind of deal regarding GTA Online at this point. All the attention is being given to RDR 2, and GTA 5 is over three years old now, so it is hard to consider it a relevant and driving force in the realm of marketing.

Rest easy, non-PlayStation 4 users. Rockstar won’t be delaying your DLC in the future in GTA Online. That said, you better get used to the thought, as Red Dead Redemption 2 will launch this year.


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