Gaming, Video Games

The Implications of GTA V Sales

The latest Grand Theft Auto entry has sold far more copies than I expected it to. In a singly day, $800 million worth of GTA was sold. Then, within three days, the billion dollar barrier was broken; over 6 times faster than any other movie, game, book, CD, or the like. This is a testimony to the way the game industry is changing, and here is what I think the testimony states:

First of all, if you build hype for a game and put time into devoting yourself to it, a good game will have a MUCH better chance to sell well. Take Two and Rockstar did just that. They spent $270 million on GTA V, which is an absurd amount. Then again, it’s not that absurd when you realize that perfect or near perfect scores are streaming in from nearly every video game magazine and website. Furthermore, the lengthy production period and high budget is paying serious dividends, as can be seen by the monstrous sales.

If you’ve noticed, there aren’t a whole lot of game that meet all three of those requirements; good ratings, hype, and big budget. Call of Duty barely meets two, and other games might be content with only meeting one of these requirements. I’m not saying that all three must be met in order for a good game to be made (and bought) but your chances are much higher when you can meet all three criteria. Take Half-Life 3. Even though the game has never been announced, it has lots of hype in anticipation that someday it MIGHT be made. If Valve puts the energy into crafting an intricate title, fans will buy it up just like they’ve done with the other Half-Life titles.

Secondly, controversy means nothing as far as sales go, in this case. Considering how edgy the GTA series is, one might suppose that it will only appeal to a small group of gamers who don’t mind the edginess. Who would ever have thought that such a violent, profanity filled, wildly unrealistic game would sell so well (he said sarcastically)? My point is, people will by all sorts of games, whether it be a sports game, a Mario game, or an incredibly edgy game like GTA. If anything, the controversy surrounding the game boosted sales.

Third, the internet is a powerful tool. I’ve seen countless GTA memes, trailers, Youtube videos (such as Elders React from Fine Bros.) and other types of free advertising on the internet. That’s what it boils down to: it’s advertizing, and Rockstar paid nothing for it because those excited for the title were so enthused that they devoted their time to making comics and videos about a game they were so anticipating. They built so much hype that it compounded and spread to others. The ripple effects before and after release have been astounding.


A fourth thing I’ve noticed (culminating with GTA) is that bigger companies are making bigger budget games, which more people are buying. In the meantime, smaller companies (such as THQ) can’t stay afloat because their mid-range budgets can’t create titles that will stand up to those such as GTA and COD when the holiday season rolls around. They don’t have the right mix of marketing, budget, and other factors to be serious contenders anymore. Back in the day, nearly anyone could make a game and be on a level playing field, but this is no longer so.

Indie developers, however, are reaping benefits because they are creating simple games with hardly any budget; they only have to sell a small percentage to rake in a profit. These games don’t provide the high-action, explosive moments of a AAA title (usually) but instead give a more interpretive experience. So, in the end, I’ve found that a successful game either has to come from an indie developer with no budget or a gigantic company with a huge budget.

This is a bad thing for gamers for many reasons. There is less creativity coming from the latter group, the industry is being consolidated as mid-sized companies fail and jobs are lost, and many games succumb to mere monetization and microtransactions. The elements that used to make games fun are either gone or cost more money. I’m not going to rant about that here and now, but due to the huge gap that’s been forming in the industry over the past few years, this is where we find ourselves presently. GTA is not necessarily a game based on monetization, but it does go to make the point that the gap between large and small companies is bigger than ever, hence the insane budget and resulting revenues of GTA V.

What other changes do you see in the industry moving forward? Let me know in the comments below, and leave a like or a follow if you’ve enjoyed. then, take a look at the Let’s Play channels in the “Links” tab, and have a great day.

Done For Now



3 thoughts on “The Implications of GTA V Sales”

  1. My concern with this phenomenon is that it seems to say that the only games worth playing are the ones with the biggest budgets, the ones with an already installed fanbase. It sets the critical bar of ‘is this a good or great game’ at pure, unadulterated revenue and this doesn’t do much to encourage developers to be more creative or put more of themselves into their work.

    Look at what’s core to the video games that rake in the revenue: open world, high graphic fidelity, ultra-violence. This doesn’t include multi-player (which has been a growing trend and has only become all but de facto in the last few years) and online-only games which follow a different paradigm. When you look at what sells it’s being able to do what you want, when you want, how you want and being able to blow the ever-living fuck out of others. If we include multi-player we can add that people want to do all of this with other people and for various reasons.

    What isn’t on this list is story/narrative, unique/odd concepts and challenging gameplay. It’s something to think about for everyone interested in video games and the video game industry.

    1. You’re right; lots of companies are losing creativity to make money. I hate that it’s all about money and violence, but nobody can deny that many times, these games are worth playing. Of course, the vast majority of popular games are ultra violent, big-budget, only slightly better than mediocre games, but there are glimmers of hope put there. Hopefully next gen will bring more!

      1. I’m not so sure that they are worth playing and the sameness surrounding them is frustrating. How different is Saint’s Row the Third from Saints Row IV? Grand Theft Auto 4 from Grand Theft Auto 5? Call of Duty to Call of Duty? It’s like Apple’s iPhone iterations, it’s disturbingly more of the same yet hyped beyond sense. It’s one thing for games and game series to have similar mechanics in sequels and to further refine mechanics, one the one hand it makes sense to not change things wildly and on the other hand it makes sense to make improvements. What doesn’t make sense is the disproportionate amount of praise heaped onto these changes when the rest of the gameplay, story and what not isn’t in any way improved, new or interesting.

        Take Morrowind through Skyrim as an example. (I’ll mention in an early parenthetical that the PC starts each game as a criminal and the character creation narrative is just…bad when done the same way three titles in a row.) In Morrowind you had to rest to regain magicak, drink potions or use the Atronarch sign. In Oblivion it regenerated normally, which was great. In Skyrim you could now dual-wield magic and combine spells. In Morrowind you blocked attacks automatically, whereas in Oblivion and Skyrim you manually blocked attacks. These two mechanical improvements are inarguably solid, however they seem to come at the expense of the narrative. In Morrowind the freedom given in how to tackle the main questline makes sense through doing the main questline, viz. you’re told to blend in with the locals. In Oblivion you are told to make haste to Weynon Priory and when the Oblivion Gates start coming…well, you can simply ignore them and play as you want which breaks the entire narrative. In Skyrim…I never made it past the first town due to freezing issues on the PS3, but from what my girlfriend told me the narrative is even weaker.

        Each game was hyped more and more and, despite some improvements, the quality of each successive title became poorer from the standpoint of what makes a rpg. From Morrowind to Skyrim the focus was on the refinement of graphic fidelity and first-person combat in a world where you could pretty much whatever you wanted.

        I could go on but I want to make one more (brief!) point. I didn’t drink the ‘next-gen’ Kool-Aid, I never have and I never will. Each generation is only as good as the games themselves and we’ve been seeing less creativity with successive generations since, I’d argue, somewhere between the advent of the XBox and XBox 360. With ‘next-gen’ we’ve seen the rise of Day One patches, a disturbing focus on DLC, a reliance on multi-player without addressing the reality of player-as-content and bugs galore. Technology in and of itself isn’t going to solve the problem, it can only be part of the solution when utilised correctly.

        Developers are going to have to grow a set of balls and opt-out of making the same game over and over again. Back in the day DOOM-clones were interesting because each game was interesting, had interesting mechanics, items, enemies and stories, today that just can’t be said. Developers also have to be willing to leverage their IP when it isn’t ready. There should be no doubt that Dark Souls wasn’t ready to be released, yet it was released with real input lag issues, buggy boss battles (fuck you Gravelord Nito, Capra Demon and Hellkite Dragon), incomplete content (Covenants and the way story was presented in the game), denigrating Boss Soul and unique weapons compared to Elemental weapons, and even reusing the same boss. That last bit is particularly noxious. Vanguard from Demon’s Souls was reskined and used as Stray Demon and Demon Firesage. What’s really telling here is that the move-sets for the last two are identical, even the damage type (magic) despite the Demon Firesage being on fire and in a fire area where these attacks are common.

        It comes down to the developers at the end of the day. They are the ones that can choose to push back against the suits and the non-gamers because they and they alone are making these games.

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