Red Dead Redemption 2 Won’t Be GTA Online’s Executioner

By Bill Summers

In spite of only having a single cinematic trailer and a short paragraph’s worth of vague description, Red Dead Redemption 2 has amassed a kind of following that most games can only wish for, even if they pump out a dozen trailers. Arguably the most hyped game of 2017 has people guessing as to what to expect, since Rockstar’s lips are sealed tight and no new info is being let slip.

That hasn’t stifled discourse about the game however, and possibly even encouraged it since speculative discussion is running rampant among the fans, who have been throwing around ideas of what they want from the game for months. However, there is an altogether different vein of discussion as well: how will RDR2 affect GTA Online?

A rather prevalent view – or fear, rather – is that the game will affect the developer’s current major title negatively, to the point of possibly even killing it. However, we’re sure that these fears are unfounded. GTA Online, the multiplayer component of GTA 5, which launched back in 2013 enjoys immense popularity and has a massive playerbase, and these things just might be its saving graces.

Red Dead Redemption 2 will also be featuring a multiplayer component which takes a lot of pointers from its predecessor. Red Dead Online will allegedly share many mechanics with GTA Online, but transplanted into the game’s Wild West setting. Many fans of GTA are afraid that RDO will be the new favoured child by Rockstar, leading their preferred game without new content, or players, since according to this scenario most of them will migrate over to the greener (browner?) pastures of Red Dead Online.

However, this won’t come to pass. GTA 5 has amassed such a massive playerbase that Red Dead Redemption 2 simply has no chance of matching its success, since some of the causes of this success are unique to the GTA franchise. GTA 5 has become an extremely mainstream game, with the vast majority of players falling into the category of casual. These players aren’t gamers in the strictest sense, since they don’t care about gaming, other games and the industry beyond the one-two games they ever play with, which are always mainstream titles such as GTA 5 or some sports game. They love logging into GTA Online (to the tune of some 8 million each week) or if they’ve already finished the deep story line, return to single player mode to mess around with the game’s well-known cheat codes.

This is thanks to GTA’s immense history and reach among the non-gamers. This is a name people will recognize even if they never played a video game, but Red Dead isn’t. GTA 5 hit 75 million sales because it had almost a decade’s worth of fame and publicity to draw on (plus it was released on 5 platforms, three times over the course of three years).

GTA Online is also insanely profitable. Players may acquire all the money they need for any item just by playing the game, however the option to drop some real cash for an in-game boost is open with Shark Cards. People seem to be buying these things up like candy, since about a year ago an earnings call from Take-Two revealed that microtransactions alone generated a profit of $500 million.

Red Dead is relatively unknown outside of gamer culture, and while we don’t doubt it will be a commercial and critical success, it just won’t be hitting any of GTA 5’s milestones. Fewer sales mean fewer players, which in turn mean fewer microtransactions being sold (because you can bet on RDO having these things). In essence, GTA 5 is an evergreen, stable source of income that is projected to run well and turn a profit well into 2020 with minimal effort from Rockstar – putting together one of those updates they’ve been adding to the game for free doesn’t take too many resources.

Now what company in their right mind would take such a sure and stable source of income, and turn their backs on it in favour of a game that will inevitably sell fewer copies and bring in less revenue? DLC is what keeps people playing GTA Online, and more importantly, buying Shark Cards. Rockstar and Take-Two won’t just cut down their golden-egg laying hen when they find one that lays silver. This fear stems from a multitude of sources. Some fear Rockstar hasn’t the capacity – please, Red Dead Redemption 2 has been in development for a good three years minimum, and we’ve been getting GTA Online DLC all that time. Rockstar has multiple studios working across the globe, and Rockstar North, which deals with GTA, only assisted San Diego in developing RDR2.

In the end, it comes down to logic. GTA 5 is still selling like crazy, has a massive fanbase that won’t migrate to Red Dead and is generating stupid amounts of cash. Red Dead Redemption 2 will be a success compared to other games, but will pale in comparison to GTA’s milestones. Why, then, would the latter kill off the former?