Two and a half years later and GTA V still regularly sits in the NPD’s top 10 for software sales. In April, it was positioned right behind Tom Clancy’s The Division and ahead of Minecraft.
GTA V’s success extends to its multiplayer component – GTA Online. It’s so successful, in fact, we haven’t heard a peep about story content from Rockstar. But they continue to churn out GTA Online updates on a regular basis. And I can’t say I blame them. A lawsuit between former Rockstar North president Leslie Benzies and Take-Two revealed GTA Online microtransactions have generated north of $500 million. Yeah, I said ‘WTF!’ too.
Even with this success, Rockstar won’t support GTA Online forever. Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick was at the Cowen and Company Technology, Media & Telecom Conference today and said support for GTA Online will not be permanent. In fact, he said, “it’s important that it not be permanent.” Here’s the full quote (via Gamespot):
“We do expect GTA Online’s results to moderate because October will be three years since we released it,” said Zelnick. “Not only was it not our intention that GTA Online was permanent, but it’s important that it not be permanent. We have to rest the franchise at some point.”
Obviously support isn’t ending anytime soon, but Zelnick’s remarks highlight how certain developers and publishers approach their games. Take-Two does not milk its marquee franchises. Think Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption.
GTA V first released on September 17, 2013 for Xbox 360 and PS3 (November 2014 for PS4 and Xbox One). The previous GTA title, GTA IV, came out in 2008.
Zelnick talks about the need for franchises to ‘rest’ in his comments today. We can see what happens when publishers annualize their franchises. Just look at Ubisoft and Assassin’s Creed. Since 2007, we’ve seen mainline entries into the franchise each year. But that changes in 2016. Fatigue has set in. And it didn’t help 2014’s Assassin’s Creed Unity was a misfire. Ubisoft is opting to essentially rest the franchise.
The bug riddled Assassin’s Creed Unity ultimately led to Ubisoft resting the franchise.
Resting a franchise has two obvious benefits. One, developers can focus on quality. It’s hard to keep churning out new games with new features every year without quality eventually taking a hit. Or, you end up forgetting why fans liked your franchise in the first place.
Call of Duty: Infinity Warfare felt the internet’s wrath after unveiling the first trailer. Call of Duty fans are seemingly fed up with the move towards a futuristic and fast-paced setting. Will that translate into lower sales? We shall see, but I’m sure it gave the folks at Activision and Infinity Ward pause.
The second is financial. Yes, churning at games on an annual basis is a good way to make fast money. But you run the risk of diluting the brand. Take-Two opts to let their franchise breathe until fans start clamoring for another entry.
Look at Xbox One owners and backward compatibility. More than 144,000 thousand fans are voting for Red Dead Redemption on the Xbox Feedback page. Hell, Microsoft could announce it at E3, and it would be considered a huge announcement for many. I know I’ll be running to my Xbox One.
Imagine if Take-Two reveals a new Red Dead game? We will all lose it! And it will probably stay in NPD’s top 10 for many months (if not years) after its release.
Take-Two’s approach is why the GTA brand will be around long after others have diluted into obscurity (like Guitar Hero).
“The market asks us, ‘Why don’t you annualize your titles?’ We think with the non-sports titles; we are better served to create anticipation and demand,” Zelnick said at a conference last year. “On the one hand to rest the title and on the other hand to have the highest quality in the market, which takes time. You can’t do that annually.”
Sounds good to me. My backlog of games is big enough as it is. The last thing I need is annual GTA games.