As opposed to what you may have derived from previous comments and statements, it looks like Take-Two doesn’t intend to rely on – or even continue to support – GTA Online indefinitely (at least in its current form). While the game is generating immense amounts of profit, even through microtransactions alone, the company will eventually pull the plug.
Of course, if you think about it for just a little while, it all makes sense. GTA Online is only worth supporting while it has a big enough player-base. However, the game is over three years old and although it is still growing instead of shrinking, the playerbase will eventually take a turn and start to decrease.
During the recent Cowen and Company Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, Strauss Zelnick, the CEO of Take-Two Interactive Software has stated that GTA Online was never intended to be a permanent addition to their line-up.
We do expect GTA Online’s results to moderate because October will be three years since we released it. Not only was it not our intention that GTA Online was permanent, but it’s important that it not be permanent. We have to rest the franchise at some point.
While the GTA series as a whole does indeed constitute a “permanent” product of Take-Two, Online alone does not. This rather odd emphasis on a decline that has no sign of happening is a stark contrast to the recent announcements regarding how long-lived Take-Two intends Online to be.
The game is expected to be profitable and therefore supported with content until 2020 at the least, with high chances of that period increasing. Despite Zelnick’s comment about expected drops due to the game’s age, it was the staggered release schedule accommodating different platforms that pushed Online into a strange perpetual state of constant sales.
By releasing the three versions of the game over the course of three years, Rockstar constantly re-infused GTA Online with hype and popularity. Today, Online is still among the most played multiplayer games in the world.
But what do Zelnick’s words mean for the future? Well, to answer the immediate question on everyone’s minds: no, this doesn’t mean Rockstar will be pulling DLC support for GTA Online any time soon.
Thing is, despite not being permanent, GTA Online is here to stay as long as it is profitable – and right now, its exactly that. Rockstar has already revealed their short-term plans for the game, reaching though the summer.
The massive Further Adventures In Finance And Felony DLC will be launching on the 7th of June, just two days from now. This will act as a follow up to last year’s hit update, Executives And Other Criminals.
The DLC will feature new kinds of properties and jobs, which will be used by the players on their way to the top of the Los Santos black market.
Rockstar has also revealed another upcoming DLC pack, titled Stunt Ready which will not only add several new vehicles made specifically with stunting in mind, but also an all new overhaul of the Content Creator with new features, props and the ability to stack objects.
Rockstar has also stated in the same announcement that players cam await further feature-heavy DLCs. The company is still clearly keen on updating the game as long as the players demand it. They seemingly did a “test run” of low-support in early 2016 by only releasing a handful of cars, some Adversary Modes and only one minor DLC pack. The community was pretty ticked off, showing that the game still very much has an audience.
Of course, the implications of this statement are pretty far reaching, especially in-context. With E3 fast approaching, players are pretty buzzed about what Rockstar has to bring to the table. Usually the company skipped big events and made their announcements in their own time, however this year Take-Two first teased then confirmed that the developers of GTA will be dropping some serious bombs at the expo.
Zelnick’s statement seemingly flies straight in the face of the numbers – GTA Online has over 8 million unique players per week, is still growing with constant sales and is bringing in steady revenue. Why would you speak of cutting support for a juggernaut like that?
Simple – he knows what we don’t, yet. Zelnick was probably looking forward, anticipating something in the near future that will cause GTA Online’s player-base to plummet. What else could cause such a thing, other than Rockstar announcing and soon releasing another game which turns out to be massively popular?
Rumors about the Red Dead franchise becoming more like Red Alive have been swirling for a good long time now. The series, though significantly younger and less weathered, has almost as much fame in gaming circles as GTA. If Rockstar is indeed working on the next Red Dead game, they might be including a multiplayer much like GTA Online.
Getting a similar Online mode, from the same developers, also set in a popular franchise might seduce droves of gamers away from GTA Online. If Rockstar decides to ditch the peer-to-peer server architecture and make Red Dead Online hacker-proof, then there will be even more incentive.
Of course, Red Dead doesn’t have the kind of mainstream recognition that GTA does. Ask any non-gamer what GTA is, they’ll know – ask them about Red Dead, they’ll have no clue at all. This mainstream recognition is what made Online so popular in the first place, meaning its success couldn’t possibly be replicated by any other franchise.
However, don’t make the mistake of assuming that this means that Take-Two is planning a successor to GTA Online itself within the same franchise. It is quite clear from Zelnick’s words, that once the sun of Online has set, they want to give the franchise a rest instead of instantly jumping into the next one.
Whatever Rockstar’s next major project will be, it won’t be GTA. However, we all know that the devs love putting a ton of time into baking their games and polishing them to a shine, meaning that reports of VI being in development should not be discounted.
Take-Two, with the exemption of NBA 2K and WWE, is strictly against annual releases and franchise milking. While releasing – or simply announcing – a new GTA game three years after the previous one might not seem “too soon”, considering how strong Online is still going, it could be considered milking.
The market asks us, ‘Why don’t you annualize your titles?’ We think with the non-sports titles, we are better served to create anticipation and demand. On the one hand to rest the title and on the other hand to have the highest quality in the market, which takes time. You can’t do that annually.
Take-Two considers the trend of the biggest AAA franchises getting annual releases to hurt those franchises and the industry as a whole. This is why you don’t get a new Borderlands every year. In terms of sequels, often time you can expect them to be at least as popular as the predecessor. If the original is popular, the second will be even more so – however if the second is rushed and poorly made, the third is guaranteed to tank.
Rockstar’s next release being non-GTA will divert attention, allow GTA Online to wind down. When support finally ceases, the current player-base will probably quit. Without Online to fill that gap, Rockstar creates demand that could only be fulfilled by the next iteration, allowing them to release it around 2020 with massive success and for an already existing player base.
This would coincide with Take-Two’s other statements that they want to keep GTA Online running until 2020. Doing so while supporting another Grand Theft Auto multiplayer component wouldn’t be wise, which is why players shouldn’t expect VI until that time at least.
While never stated outright, based on Take-Two’s comments, Rockstar probably has more than one thing to show off at E3 this year. For all we know, one of the smaller announcements could be related to expanding GTA Online with a new city – a screenshot of Liberty City with better graphics was, after all, recently uploaded by a Rockstar employee – or, should the planets align, Story DLC.
However don’t expect the major announcement to be about stealing cars in a satirized version of the USA. The two most likely candidates are another installment of Red Dead or the long-lost project, Agent.
The latter is the less likely of the two. Take-Two recently made a statement about having too many IPs under its control. While it is true that Agent as a trademark is still theirs, seeing as there is no game for it, it requires little management. The other factor is the work-in-progress screenshots released, which suggest that the project was either canned or rebooted – probably the first.
Red Dead however seems like the perfect – and logical – choice. It’s a popular and established franchise. Fans have been hoping for a continuation for years and years. PC players have been asking for a chance to play it with mouse and keyboard. While the first game, Red Dead Revolver wasn’t exactly a genre-defining hit, Red Dead Redemption was massively popular on the Xbox 360 and PS3 systems.
The game would most definitely bring in a profit, especially with an added Online component. GTA Online would continue making money and the two together would provide the studio with more than enough revenue to allocate a budget big enough for GTA VI to make it outshine V. Either way, we’ll soon find out definitively what the next project on Rockstar’s plate is – E3 is less than two weeks away!
How long do you think GTA Online will remain popular? What do you hope Rockstar’s next major project will be?