GTA 5 Excitement and Next Gen Considerations
By: Lawrence Napoli
We are mere days away from the release of what everybody, their mothers, grandmothers and so on and so forth have dubbed as the biggest, best and de facto “Game of the Year” of 2013 in the form of Grand Theft Auto 5. Few video games these days have that legitimate, widespread and cultural excitement factor attached to its release, but then not every franchise is as impactful as the crown jewel of Rockstar’s library. GTA 5 was meant to have been released earlier than the tail end of this generation’s counsel cycle, but as it stands between Xbox 360 and PS3, the end has been loaded with so many software goodies that it begs the question whether we really “need” the Xbox One or PS4 this November. I certainly thought so since it’s been almost ten years since the HD generation launched with the 360 back in 2005. Thus, as soon as the rumors of the next gen started becoming more tangible, I began to consolidate my collection, played out the games I really wanted to revisit in my back log and traded in just about everything else once pre-orders commenced at GameStop. Yet here we are talking about one of the biggest franchises in the gaming industry extending the current generation’s life cycle well into the next as nothing has been officially announced regarding this game on newer machines . . . yet.
“You ain’t gotta like it ‘cause the hood gone love it.”
GTA 5 is currently the most expensive game created in video game history with a budget around $265 million dollars employing over 300 designers, artists and programmers to bring us the next evolution of GTA. If anyone had any doubts regarding “Triple A” game production mirroring Hollywood, just consider the immensity of that starting dollar amount. With such a huge investment on the front end, I found it incredibly curious how Rockstar had zero plans (publicly) to have this incredible game release with the next generation counsels. One would think it a no-brainer considering it would be an automatic attached software sale linked to every hardware unit sold. Other major franchises such as Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed are completely on board with this initiative and releasing their software on as many platforms as possible maximizes their profitability. Yes, Activision and Ubisoft are fans of money, but that doesn’t mean Rockstar isn’t. Pre-orders for GTA 5 on Xbox 360 and PS3 alone seem to have units sold; outpacing even the annual Call of Duty juggernaut. Clearly, the people want their GTA now!
“All you hear is radio ga-ga.”
For me, the only thing more exciting than the release of a marquee game is the release of a brand new and more powerful platform. When it was announced that GTA 5 would not launch with the next generation I was disappointed; so much so that I was fully prepared to overlook GTA 5 this year because I knew (as everyone else seems to know) that this game will eventually exist for Xbox One and PS4 (and PC) at some point and probably sooner than later in 2014. This is a foregone conclusion what with Rockstar’s history of “Game of the Year” re-releases for several titles in their library. Money seems to get tighter and tighter, and so I chose the next generation plus Watch Dogs as my primary entertainment later this year, but then I had an epiphany. I was honestly banking on two things to hold me over between now and November: BioShock Infinite DLC and The Last of Us multiplayer. Unfortunately, the release timing for BioShock’s DLC has been sluggish and TLoU multiplayer, though satisfying at first, has become bland and frustrating recently. I found myself with a two month dead zone that nothing else in my back log would fulfill, and then details regarding GTA Online (the multiplayer extension of GTA 5) started to cycle about the internet and I was sold on getting on board ASAP! GTA Online, though not quite an MMO evolution of the franchise, offers the potential immersion, customization and variety of a multiplayer experience that GTA 4 failed to fully realize and few could have predicted as possible on the current generation. Rockstar’s well conceived advertising and information control campaign regarding this game was very compelling and with various online media entities broadcasting so much potential, I simply could not miss out.
“I don’t think Hank done it this way.”
As anticipated as GTA 5 is, the timing of its release is curiously atypical for a “Triple A” title of its caliber. A game this big usually drops somewhere in the middle of a generation where developers have had plenty of experience with the hardware and the consumer base is already established and continues to grow. Software releases at the end of a generation are populated with more titles that exist on both generations than exclusives on one or the other to accommodate consumers who jump in feet first as well as those that hold back on the next generation. However, it is inevitable that developers will eventually cease all production on old technology. So far, Rockstar is banking on the current gen, but the dawn of a new generation means the virtual countdown for the current one has begun. We will see GTA 5 on next gen machines, but that game has been in development for a number of years and sometimes making a “port” of a finished product to run on beefier machines that can deliver better graphics and functionality isn’t as simple and cost-effective as one would think. Rockstar wants some return on its investment now before going further into the hole.
If Rockstar was determined to release this game this year, why do it so close to the launch date of the next generation for which you won’t even be participating in initially? First, you cannot argue with the allure of a Fall release and the enhanced sales every software title receives thanks to its proximity to the holidays. Historically, for games to take full advantage of retail promotions directly linked to Christmas, they tend to release in October. The genius of releasing in September gives GTA a full month of sales unopposed by any other major title which won’t appear until the likes of Lego: Marvel Super Heroes, Batman: Arkham Origins, Assassin’s Creed 4 and Battlefield 4 release in late October. By then, GTA Online will have hit its stride allowing GTA 5 to continue to compete with the rest of the major titles for the remainder of the Fall. This also leaves the window wide open for Rockstar to re-release GTA 5 with any and all DLC and enhanced features for the next generation as a “new” game based on a completed product sometime in the future.
Will the next generation release in November break this game’s momentum? I actually don’t think so, and the main reason for this will be consumer prudence regarding the new machines. Yes, it’s true that this upcoming generation has the best pre-order numbers of any previous generation, but the bulk of a counsel’s sales success is not solely determined by the launch window. Not every game enthusiast has $4-500 dollars to get in on the ground floor, and the shear existence of new machines means that the old ones will continue to get marked down, making the current generation much more lucrative especially when games like GTA 5 exist for machines that continue to get less expensive. Both Microsoft and Sony are talking about the healthy legs left on their current machines despite the excitement surrounding their new ones and this can only mean good things for GTA and Rockstar.
Hardcore gamers are the ones that are fueling the hype for the Xbox One and PS4, and given the choice between playing GTA 5 on current or next gen counsels, most would prefer a more powerful machine. It remains to be seen how “upset” consumers who invest in the new technology right away might be once GTA 5 releases for the next generation, but much of that will be determined when that actually happens. If GTA 5 comes out for XB1 and PS4 in January of 2014, for instance, we might be witness to some severe responses on the internet. It would be interesting to see if Rockstar would spearhead an upgrade campaign similar to what GameStop is doing in regards to consumers who want a certain game now, would also want it for next gen counsels, but don’t want to pay $59.99 twice for the same game. Such an incentive would be a show of good faith to everyone who bought into GTA 5 immediately, regardless of the release date of its evolved iteration, and I would like to think Rockstar has some kind of plan addressing the next gen conundrum that doesn’t involve purely sticking it to the consumer.
Grand Theft Auto V: The Official Trailer:
Grand Theft Auto V: The Official Gameplay Video: