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Has GTA stumbled upon the perfect mix of pay-upfront and F2P mechanics?

By on December 10, 2013
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Grand Theft Auto V is a success.

A metacritic of 98, the second highest of all time. S1 billion in sales in the first three days. Twenty-nine million copies sold in to retail within the first six weeks. It’s a phenomenon by any metric.

But I wonder if it is not also showcasing a fascinating experiment in new business models.

GTA V is a vast, sprawling sandbox, full of narrative, exploration and exhilaration. Few people would begrudge the price of the shiny disk for the craftsmanship, the fun, the enjoyment and the experience. The single player experience is worth the price online.

But Rockstar didn’t ship just a single player game. It also shipped a multiplayer game – GTA Online – filled with microtransactions and variable pricing.

So is Take Two attempting to get the best of both worlds? It creates a game at vast experience ($290 million or so) and sells it to tens of millions of people. Some of those people just experience the single player game. Others enjoy the sandbox so much they take to the multiplayer, online environment where they are given the opportunity to spend more money on things they value in a social context. Rockstar gets paid more by those players who are enjoying the game more, who continue to use the online functionality and who demand more content.

Single-player campaign gamers win, because their purchase doesn’t subsidise running the servers that the multiplayer users need. Multiplayer gamers win, because Rockstar is incentivised to keep making great content to keep them playing. Take Two not only encourages gamers to keep their physical disks rather than trading them in, they also gain in revenue from the heaviest users.

This might be a great solution. I expect Activision to pay careful attention, with a particular focus on how to use this kind of approach for Call of Duty.

What do you think? Am I right that this hybrid business model is the future, rather than the aggressive monetisation of a Forza?

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve:
  • GTA is in my opinion one of the greatest car games of all time!

  • Mariusz Szlanta

    It’s definitely very interesting and I would love to have a chance to study stats they get from GTA Online.

    There is obvious barrier (customer needs to aquire expensive disc based game first) followed by conflict of interest (many people buy GTA for SP experience only).

    Opening GTA Online for everyone while prossibly giving something extra to owners of disc game looks like next step.

    Much more compelling that “pay twice” Forza.

  • Stephane

    I fully agree Nicholas. Many in the games industry only see the monetization, forgetting that it is first about gamers experience