How GTA V Revolutionised Gaming But Stagnated The Franchise

Daria Paterek

Daria examines the legacy of GTA V, a gaming giant.

GTA V is the second most-sold video game ever, selling 140,000,000 units across all platforms since its release in 2013. The game heavily outsold its predecessor GTA IV, which sold 25,000,000 units. GTA V not only massively impacted its franchise but also gaming as a whole. However, critics and consumers have debated whether this impact was for better or worse: Its focus on microtransactions has slowed down the franchise.

GTA V’s Design & Legacy

Despite GTA V being over seven years old, it remains extremely popular. The series introduced features that have been emulated and explored by other games. Publishers scrambled to make their ‘GTA-killer’ similar to the many ‘Halo-killer’ attempts of the 2000s. This produced other sandbox-style franchises such as Saints Row, Assassin’s Creed, and Watch Dogs that took inspiration from GTA.

Most notably, the GTA series helped popularise the sandbox open-world. Not only do GTA games spread story missions across their maps to promote exploration, but they also have a surfeit of side missions. These are tailored to the game’s location: GTA V’s Los Santos (based on Los Angeles), contains missions involving crazed paparazzi, typical of LA. Unique, emergent world events like these keep players engaged, encouraging them to complete the whole game.

Another popular element of the GTA series is its celebrity guests. These have included: Samuel L Jackson in GTA: San Andreas, Michael Madsen in GTA III, Ricky Gervais in GTA IV, and Danny Dyer in GTA: Vice City. This trend has spread to other games. Until Dawn featured an all-celebrity cast, including Hayden Panettiere, Rami Malek, and Jordan Fisher. The use of celebrities has also been a big part of Quantic Dream games, including actors Elliot Page, William Dafoe, and Jesse Williams. 

If GTA Online continues to provide a high, consistent revenue… is there even a need for GTA 6?

Another way in which Rockstar has changed gaming is by pioneering open-world multiplayer through GTA Online. While many games provided online multiplayer before, Rockstar created a hyper-interactive sandbox that you could experience with friends and strangers.

GTA Online, Microtransactions, and the Future

While GTA V’s impact on the wider gaming industry has been largely positive, it has negatively impacted its own franchise. The success of GTA Online has resulted in stagnation, as Rockstar focused on its development over GTA 6.

At first, it was a mystery why Rockstar hadn’t announced GTA 6, or developed the traditional single-player DLC for GTA V (see GTA IV’s The Ballad of Gay Tony and The Lost and Damned) to further profit off its massive fanbase. But GTA Online has allegedly generated ‘at least’ $500 million in revenue, with a nearly 100% profit margin.

If GTA Online continues to provide a high, consistent revenue stream for Rockstar, is there even a need for GTA 6?

The prosperity of GTA Online does not mean that GTA 6 won’t be released. Take Two’s (owners of Rockstar Games) marketing budget suggests that GTA 6 will go ahead. As reported by VentureBeat, Take Two expects to spend $89 million on marketing between April 2023 to March 2024, a massive spike suggesting GTA 6’s release window.

However, the success of GTA Online brings to question the nature of GTA 6. With GTA V, Rockstar is prioritising online over story mode. Will this mean that GTA 6’s story will be sacrificed in favour of microtransactions? Red Dead Redemption 2 came attached to the lacklustre Red Dead Online. 

Rockstar’s success with microtransactions may have set an example for others now they are rising in popularity across the industry. There have already been concerns about new-gen console game prices rising to $70.

In recent years, companies have begun putting already-developed content behind a paywall, charging an extra £20 for season passes or DLC. These tactics imply that the standalone game is incomplete by default. Consequently, microtransactions force players to spend more money on a game they have already paid for.

GTA V’s impact on the gaming industry is massive and complex. While it paved the way for many positive developments, it’s hard not to associate with microtransactions. In the 2000s, Rockstar pumped out the lauded GTA III (2001), Vice City (2002), San Andreas (2004), and GTA IV (2008). Now, the impact of GTA Online has resulted in GTA V limping on for ten years and across three console generations.

Daria Paterek

Featured image courtesy of  OfficialFR via Flickr. No changes made to this image. Image license found here.

Article image courtesy of rockstargames via Instagram. No changes made to these images. 

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