GTA Online, Rockstar Games’ massive juggernaut of a multiplayer title is looking ahead to tough times – at least, if the rumors about it getting bumped back to second row when Red Dead Redemption 2 launches are to be believed. Thing is, they’re not, and there are a handful of reasons why players shouldn’t regard the rapidly approaching autumn release of the Wild West title as some kind of impending apocalypse.
Statistically, there’s a pretty good chance that if you’re reading this you’ve bought GTA 5 at least once (and maybe even done the marriage counseling mission – highly recommended). Discounting the fact that you’ve most likely come to this article because you care about games and GTA, let’s keep in mind the fact that more than 75 million copies of the game have been shipped to retail store globally. Sure, that doesn’t mean that all 75 million copies of the game have already been sold, but if demand is so high that stores keep ordering the thing, soon they will be, and there are still those several tens of millions of copies which have been sold digitally, presumably. Add all that up alongside console bundles and you can bet that 75 million is probably the minimum number of copies this game must have sold since launch.
Let’s look at that number for a moment, since 75 million is a quantity most of us would find hard to comprehend. In 2014, it was estimated that 75.8 million people lived in the country of Turkey, meaning if every GTA 5 customer was to replace a Turkish citizen, they’d only have less than a million people to worry about with whom they don’t have common ground. Unless you count Russia, Germany is the only country in Europe the population of which isn’t less than the sales figures of GTA 5. You’d need to clone every human in Norway 5 times and make all of them buy GTA 5 just to reach this number.
So yeah, a lot of people bought GTA 5. We could sit here penning an essay longer than my leg about why this game is so popular, but we’ll give you the footnotes instead. GTA 5 comes as the latest entry in a franchise with some of the greatest measure of mainstream appeal in the franchise. This is Super Mario and Pokémon levels of famous, meaning that any old mook you stop on the street will likely know what GTA is, even if they themselves don’t much care for video games. It’s even got old school cheat codes. Couple that with ~$132 million worth of marketing (the whole budget of GTA 5 was $265 million, reportedly half of which was spent to market the title) and you had one of the stronger launches in gaming history.
But that isn’t the end of it. Rockstar played things smart, and took advantage of the turn of the console generation as best it could. GTA 5 “launched” three times over the course of three years, across 5 platforms. Blanketing almost the entire gamer demographic, whilst enjoying the boosted sales-spike of a launch three times, while keeping the game at the forefront of media coverage by keeping it both “upcoming” and “recently launched” simultaneously for three years kept those sales going strong.
And then there’s GTA Online. The driving force behind this behemoth title, the most stable of Take-Two Interactive’s financial pillars. GTA Online, the multiplayer component of GTA 5, has attracted countless casual players into the fold as well. Today, the vast, vast majority of GTA Online’s players are not “gamers”, but the kind of people who grab an Xbox, Call of Duty, whatever the newest FIFA is and GTA 5. These are also the kind of people who will recurrently spend actual money to get in-game currency. GTA Online provides these microtransactions in the form of Shark Cards. According to a Take-Two earnings report from about a year ago, these microtransactions have brought in a total of half a billion USD. That’s $500 million.
These are the numbers we are working with here. At least 75 million sales. $500 million in revenue from microtransactions alone. 5 platforms. 3 launches. 20 years of fame.
Sure, Red Dead Redemption 2 is getting a whole lot of media attention. Sure, its predecessor was pretty successful and praised almost universally. Yeah, RDR2 will be shipping with its own Online mode (Red Dead Online). However, none of this is nearly enough to topple GTA 5 and its big numbers. Red Dead Redemption 2 will sell really well, it will be profitable, and it will be one of the hottest games on the market, but it sure as all hell won’t kill GTA 5.
Firstly, while the franchise is popular enough among gamers, the mainstream crowd, which makes up the majority of GTA’s consumer base, doesn’t much care about the game, meaning only a tiny portion of GTA Online’s players are likely to bleed over to Red Dead Online. Second, where GTA 5 is available on 5 platforms and was ‘released’ three different times, Red Dead Redemption 2 will only appear on 2 platforms.
Don’t go digging GTA 5’s grave just yet, folks. Red Dead Redemption 2 may make a big splash when it hits, and it might move millions of copies, but it won’t surpass GTA 5, and Take-Two definitely won’t allow it to kill off its cash-cow. When the deserts of Red Dead Online will ring empty, the streets of Los Santos will still be alive with gunfire and tire-screeching.
Article by guest contributor Mason Wright (https://www.rdr2.org/)