While most concerns about Rockstar winding down development of GTA Online in order to allocate more resources to RDR2 have died down, the fear that we’ll start to see fewer and fewer updates is still present in some players. Both we and Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick did our best to convince everyone that Online is not going away – however in neither case was a major aspect touched upon.
You decide when GTA Online ceases to be supported with new content.
Well, not literally *you* – that would be silly – but the fans and players of GTA Online as a collective. One of the basic rules of business is that if you’re being paid to do something, keep doing it, and players are paying Rockstar for new Online content a lot. Analysts estimate that the game is bringing in over $700 million a year in profits, and only so much of that revenue can be attributed to game sales.
It has been a very long time ago that Shark Card sales alone broke the $500 million mark, and considering the game has only got bigger and more popular since suggest that they might have hit the first billion in that time. Now, that’s mind-boggling amounts of cash, generated just by microtransactions in GTA Online.
This is a far cry from what Rockstar had initially envisioned. Devs from the team have stated that they didn’t assume GTA Online would amount to much, and thought that the mode would quickly fade into obscurity. At this point, they also planned on releasing Story DLC. Oh, how things have changed.
Now, Rockstar wants GTA Online to be a profitable venture through 2020 at the very least, any beyond if possible. As things stand, they very well might succeed. A year ago, official sources reported that Online saw upwards of 8 million unique log-ins per week. While we don’t have exact figures this year, it has been said that the number went up instead of down.
With that kind of player base, even a small fraction of Shark Card buyers can generate massive amounts of income – far more than the resources needed to develop DLC for GTA Online. This means that currently, Rockstar have themselves a low-investment high-return loop with a positive trend in customer growth, which is pretty much the dream of anyone running a business.
Which, in turn, means that they won’t stop producing GTA Online content until things change. Either the player base decreases, or so few people will buy Shark Cards that it won’t be profitable anymore. So long as neither of those two come to pass, you can bet on more content support for the game.
And so, it falls to the players to decide the future of GTA Online – or, more specifically, how long that future will be. In spite of the vocal community of fans active on various online forums constantly demonizing the practise of Shark Cards, it must be rememberd that this is but a tiny, tiny minority within the whole Online player base.
The numbers don’t lie, and there are still plenty of people out there who invest in Shark Cards. The very frequent reverse-sale promotions Rockstar sets up must surely contribute, where buyers get more in-game cash for their real money. GTA Online’s internal economy is built with Shark Cards in mind.
That said, it’s still entirely viable to gain large amounts of cash without paying a single cent – if you know how. However, there is truth to claims that items in GTA Online are generally quite expensive. If you compare the price of items in relation to the average time needed to acquire a given amount of currency in the game (why isn’t there an official measurement for this?), you’ll find that things are more expensive than in most MMO.
However, there is a reason for this, and one that is rooted in the basic game mechanics of GTA Online. While we explore the topic in-depth here, the gist of it is that basically there is no end-game to speak of. Heists are not end-game, CEO work isn’t end-game and Biker businesses are absolutely not end-game.
Without the end-game, Rockstar has to extent mid-game playtime in between updates lest players run out of content. If Rockstar truly didn’t have much faith in GTA Online initially, then they accidentally happened upon a fundamental design scheme which feeds the “more popularity equals more content equals more popularity” loop.
In essence, GTA 5 is the current pinnacle of lucrative game design. Rockstar – possibly unwittingly – seamlessly merged the unprecedented recipe of success in terms of game sales with the best possible design model to promote microtransaction purchases while continually boosting the player base. Not only does their game sell insanely well, but it keeps selling even after it’s sold.
Rockstar is clearly headed by wizards. Or something.
Have you bought Shark Cards in GTA Online?
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