With reports of GTA 5 shipping 70 million copies, and earnings reports indicating a constant rise in player numbers, it seems like an impossible prospect that the player base of Online might ever decline. It very likely won’t either for the next few years, at the very least.
However, Rockstar will need to stay on their toes if they want to keep those numbers trending upwards. Considering over 5 years passed between the announcement of GTA 5 and Red Dead Redemption 2, chances are another 5 will fly by before the next Rockstar project (which is undoubtedly under development as we speak) is announced and 6 years until it is released. Keep in mind that there is no actual guarantee that said project will be GTA 6.
Now, Rockstar’s plans are to keep GTA profitable at least until 2020, but ideally beyond. Hypothetically, if Red Dead Online doesn’t reach the same levels of popularity as GTA Online or even more so, Online will need to be kept strong until 2023. And realistically, no matter how much hype surrounds RDR2 and how popular it seems to be with the main gaming community, it won’t have the same mainstream reach as GTA does.
As a three-year-old game, the fact that GTA Online is gaining popularity as opposed to winding down is something of a miracle in its own right, and while the formula which led to GTA 5’s lasting success is a gift that keeps giving, Rockstar can only ride this wave for so long.
So what will happen when suddenly the sales numbers stoop? What happens when the game’s age causes players to migrate to other games, be it Red Dead Online or some other, non-Rockstar title? Presumably Rockstar will have a tough enough time keeping a hold of the hardcore crowd with RDR 2’s release nearing, but it will get harder in the future.
Short digression: you might be confused as to why we’re often speaking of GTA 5 and RDR2 as rivals when they’re both developed by the same company. GTA Online’s unprecedented monetary success makes it the primary financial pillar of Take-Two Interactive, and this is mainly thanks to the game’s mainstream popularity and the fact that it’s available on 5 different platforms.
Red Dead Redemption 2 will launch on two platforms and while it’s famous among gamers, it doesn’t have much mainstream weight. In spite of the importance of mainstream popularity, GTA Online still thrives on the hardcore crowd primarily to keep the community aspect alive.
If the core gamers move over to RDR2, finish the single player, and instead of being hooked by the multiplayer move on to other games, Rockstar will lose customers. Hence, they will need to do something big with GTA Online around the same time as RDR2 is launched to ensure that those who leave Los Santos in favor of the Wild West return once they’re done.
This major splash can’t be made by a mere GTA Online DLC pack, or even with something as major as Heists was. Rockstar will need to do something truly major, something significant enough to be newsworthy and deserving of headlines right next to the release of RDR2. These are what we call “doomsday DLCs”, content concepts big enough to prevent the “end” of Online.
Rockstar doesn’t even need to get particularly creative with new groundbreaking game mechanics when the times to save GTA Online comes around. Really, the community and various clickbait rumors over the years have done their work for them in terms of planning. With so many rumors about Liberty City being added to the game popping up every few months, all Rockstar needs to do is actually prove them right.
While Liberty City wouldn’t be the ideal choice in our personal opinion, it is the most popular and best known of the GTA cities, having appeared the most times in the franchise, meaning it would be the most logical from a popularity standpoint. That said, we’d much rather see one of the areas and cities from San Andreas make a remastered comeback, and be physically attached to the current map as opposed to being a separate instance as LC would have to be.
Las Venturas would be the ideal choice. With GTA Online’s direction going into the whole “corrupt businesses” direction with these CEO and Bikers updates, players owning their own casinos and hotels would be the next logical step. Player-owned casinos would be extremely expensive even by GTA Online standards, with a limit of one per sessions.
Other players may gamble in your casino, and the system would work just like in real life. Any losses they suffer go into the pocket of the owner, however if one gambler wins big, the owner’s wallet will be charged for it.
Also, the addition of Las Venturas would bring with it the obvious addition of new heists, this time targeting various casinos and hotels, granting players more cash than the Pacific Standard job would. Imagine a more violent take on Ocean’s 11.
Survival Mode Update
You know what’s popular? Survival games. You know what one of the most important aspect of survival games is? The game’s open world. You know what GTA 5 has absolutely nailed? The game’s open world. Boom. You can mail me my Nobel Prize, thanks.
In all seriousness, this isn’t a novel idea either. Modders have added survival gameplay elements to GTA 5 already, albeit their executions were rough. This move would also open up GTA 5 towards an entirely new demographic. Survival game enthusiasts aren’t particularly pandered to by AAA companies and must rely on shoddy early access indie titles that often never get a full release.
If a reputable team like Rockstar built a survival game using the legendary and ever-praised open world of GTA 5, fans of these games would flock to the promise of a polished, high-quality version of their preferred genre.
Technically Rockstar wouldn’t even need to alter much. Throw in a few meters tracking hunger, body heat and thirst, toss in a crafting system, remove all the NPCs, hide supplies around the map and for the love of god add animals into the multiplayer version of GTA: Survival.
Narrative Content For GTA Online
We recently wrote up a long piece advocating the addition of story DLC to GTA Online as opposed to the game’s single player component. Players have been clamoring for Story DLC for three years now, and initially it was Rockstar who hinted that it’s coming. Since then, no news has surfaced about it, other than a number of fake leaks.
Truthfully, GTA 5’s story DLC succumbed to the success of GTA Online most likely, since producing DLC for the latter was a smaller investment that turned a bigger profit, while the former would have eaten up tons of resources while only returning a small profit if any.
As such, the logical way to bring further story content to GTA 5 is by bringing it to Online, and integrating a narrative-driven experience into the MMO framework in a way similar to the systems used in either Guild Wars 2 or Star Wars: The Old Republic. Both are proper MMOs but feature deep storylines, branching conversations and decent narrative structure. Fusing the two is hardly impossible, and would be beneficial to GTA as well.
What kind of a “doomsday DLC” do you hope Rockstar will use to push GTA Online back into the spotlight?
What do you think? Sound off below!