Nowadays the AAA gaming industry is a really haphazard one. Countless franchises have a yearly release schedule, the race is always on to ‘steal’ the playerbase of whatever is currently popular and funnel it into the next big release. Pre-order bonuses and day-one DLC are all aimed at getting as much revenue from the game before launch or in the one or two weeks after, instead of increasing the shelf life of the game.
Take DOOM, for example. The recent remake-sequel-thing-installment in one of the cornerstone franchises of gaming as a whole, the newest entry in the series that practically invented the modern FPS, was released this past May. 4 months ago. When it launched, it was met with near unanimous praise from both fans and critics, and was lauded as a worth successor of the series. No one talks about it today.
GTA 5, specifically Online, is still making headlines however, and still has a massive player base. What is the key to its success? Fame? Doom had that. A solid, popular multiplayer component? Doom had that. Mainstream recognition? Doom has that. What determines longevity? Is it mentality?
If you look at most large publishers today, they keep throwing out new titles almost back to back, as if they are afraid of being forgotten or going bankrupt if they don’t release a new AAA blockbuster every other month. Look at Ubisoft or EA, or countless others. Their launch schedules are absolutely filled.
Even the other dev team under the Take-Two umbrella next to Rockstar, 2K games, keeps on releasing game after game after game. Sure, in these cases we are looking at entire publishers or massive groups of multiple dev studios, while Rockstar is just one team – or so you would think. Actually, Rockstar has 8 studios across the world.
That said, Rockstar has only put out GTA 5 plus DLC in the past three years. Online has worked out wonderfully for both them and Take-Two, seeing as it is still pretty much keeping both companies soaring on its own, with minimal investment required. However, they must be working on something behind closed doors, right?
GTA Online may still be among the most popular multiplayer games out there, but the vultures are circling so to say. Several games that might be rivals are on the brink of release. Year and year again multiplayer juggernaut (the singleplayer components have been forgettable since 4, and absent in the latest release) Call of Duty tried to topple the giant, and even after a strong launch month, many players drifted back to Grand Theft Auto. Will this year be the same?
Battlefield 1. Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Gears of War 4. Titanfall 2 (woo!). Forza Horizon 3. All of them enjoy extreme popularity, some even in the mainstream . They all laud major multiplayer components, which are highly anticipated. Will they woo the players of the 3 year old GTA Online away permanently, or will most players drift back to the familiar streets of Los Santos a few weeks after the launch of each rival?
If history is any indication, the latter is more likely. In its three year run, GTA 5 has weathered countless high-profile launches. Several times large releases came near in terms of monthly sales, with Fallout 4 even surpassing it briefly. But in all cases, after some time, Online once again came out as the top dog. How did Rockstar achieve this?
Initially, the staggered launch schedule on the various platforms did much to help. Steady yearly booms of new players as well as transferring early adopters kept the game relevant. Once all of the planned ports were in the wild, the constant stream of free DLC kept things afloat.
Rockstar is showing no sign that they plan on pulling the proverbial handbrake on their free DLC program for GTA Online. Even though we know that they must be cooking some new game up, though the lips of the people in charge are sealed and leaks are 99.9% bullshit.
That said, GTA Online is three years old, and there is only so much you can build on that foundation. Rockstar has displayed incredible tenacity and creativity by mixing gameplay up with the VIP/CEO systems and most recently the Cunning Stunts update. Add to that the immense amount of ideas the community is coming up with, it is clear that Online still has plenty of room to grow content-wise.
That said, maybe Rockstar will need to make a bigger splash to prevent their game bleeding players. Rumors of a Biker DLC coming have been floating around, and releasing such a sought-after update would definitely help, but would it be enough?
Maybe GTA Online will soon need a major – and we mean major – update. Something big enough to make cover-stories for the biggest gaming magazines. Rockstar could go as far as to add a whole new area to the map, maybe a second island with a new city, possibly one of the other two from San Andreas. Imagine the kind of traction news of San Fierro or Las Venturas being added to the game would bring with it.
They could also potentially go the route of putting together a major single-player story DLC, though it would not make as much sense from a business standpoint. Single-player DLC, though often requested by a vocal minority, would not be bought by all players, and even those that do, would buy it once. At the same time, it would be a bigger investment than Online DLC, which would affect all players and might result in more Shark Card sales.
What do you see in the future of GTA Online?
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