Grand Theft Auto 5, created and published by Rockstar Games - a subsidiary of Take Two Interactive - has sold over 80 million copies worldwide since it’s highly anticipated release in 2013 and is still growing in terms of its player audience.
GTA 5 is arguably the most successful online title ever released on Playstation & Xbox, it’s certainly one of the most popular games ever to hit the games industry.
Despite this, players are becoming increasingly frustrated with the game developer due to their pay to play style approach when it comes to the game's online service.
Sure, you can rack up some virtual cash by completing missions and heists, but to actually accumulate the kind of wealth you need to purchase in-game products such as military vehicles, pimped out cars, bunkers and hangars, needed to unlock more missions and content, you literally have to put in 100’s of hours into the game.
The other option is to buy virtual cash with your own hard-earned money, this is known as a microtransaction. This isn’t a new concept and many players are more than happy to part with their credit cards in order to gain some extra kit and kudos points amongst their gaming peers.
Rockstar, however, seemed to have priced a lot of players out of this market. If you actually wanted to purchase every in-game product, you would need to part with close to 300 big ones! Considering you’ve already paid about 80 coins for the game, this is quite appalling.
Let’s not sidestep the fact that Rockstar has released tons of free content, it’s more the fact that if you want to earn the virtual coin to buy some of the cooler DLC, it’s close to impossible. Charging a loyal gamer 60 odd dollars so they can buy a couple of extra items in a game is an absolute rip off.
Many players think this has ruined the online aspect of the game.
Red Dead Redemption 2 & Grand Theft Auto 6 Microtransactions
So, how do we know that Rockstar intends to capitalize on profiting with this pay to play method in two of their biggest upcoming titles?
It says so in their annual shareholder report, and therein lies the problem.
“We will continue to deliver an array of digitally-delivered offerings designed to drive engagement with, and recurrent consumer spending on, our recent releases and upcoming titles”
Take Two Interactive is a publically traded company, meaning to a certain extent, it is owned by its shareholders. Shareholders invest money into a company and expect a profit in return when the company itself turns a profit, this also means they can potentially have a huge say in how the company operates.
The world’s biggest investment management companies such as The Vanguard Group, Inc, BlackRock Institutional, Deutsche Asset Management and even JP Morgan Asset Management hold huge stakes in Take Two. They have invested millions of dollars in order to help fund games such as the GTA franchise and Red Dead Redemption.
These investment corporations want to see the share price rise, the higher the share price the more profit generated.
In 2013, when Grand Theft Auto 5 was released, Take Two had a share price of around $11 per share, it now stands at over $100 per share.
As of March this year, Take Two reported net revenue of $1.8 Billion.
“The increase in net cash provided by operations was due primarily to cash generated from sales of Grand Theft Auto V….and virtual currency…”
If these investment companies don’t see the financial return they expect, they take their investment elsewhere which in turn will cause others to follow suit. This can result in a company's share price plummeting and can lead to bankruptcy or limited cash flow. If a games developer has no cash flow they can no longer make games.
This puts a huge amount of pressure on a company to outperform fiscal targets and generate as much money from a title as possible.
“Grand Theft Auto products contributed 38.2% of the Company's net revenue” - Take Two
GTA is the biggest money maker for Rockstar, do you think they can afford to lose over 38% of their revenue? No.
“...we might be required to significantly change or discontinue particular titles or series, which in the case of our best-selling Grand Theft Auto titles could seriously affect our business”
“...Our Grand Theft Auto products, in particular, have historically accounted for a substantial portion of our revenue.“
“Looking ahead to fiscal 2019, we expect to deliver both record Net Sales and record net cash provided by operating activities, in excess of $2.5 billion and $700 million, respectively, led by the launches of Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption 2 and a highly anticipated new title from one of 2K’s biggest franchises.” - Hinting at new Grand Theft Auto titles.
So the good news is you can certainly expect to see more titles from the Grand Theft Auto franchise, a lot more. The bad news, you can expect to pay for additional content through more frustrating microtransactions in all future Grand Theft Auto & Red Dead Redemption titles.