Is GTA's success mostly thanks to its franchise?

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Earlier this year, I asked the question: Is AAA game development a sustainable business model? My conclusion at the time: yes, but a company needs to do more than just pump out a pretty looking game with the latest Cryengine powering its backend to be successful.

There's plenty of evidence of this too, as we've seen a lot of big name games, with giant publishers behind them and even bigger budgets powering production, falling flat in 2013 alone. There was the Tomb Raider reboot, Aliens Colonial Marines, Gears of War: Judgment, God of War Ascension, Hitman Absolution. Not all of these were bad games or even massive failures, but all of them undersold and struggled to break even, which in terms of the tens of millions of dollars that were behind them, is a big problem.

And that's what's so interesting about GTA V, because it's the most expensive game ever made, at over $150 million on production, with the multiple tens of millions that was no doubt spent on advertising it online, on bill boards and on TV. Making that back was going to be a challenge, but of course Rockstar did so in spades.

Mere days after release, it pulled in over a billion dollars and that money is still screaming in. It's made so much money so quickly, that it's become the fastest selling entertainment product ever, beating out movies like Titanic and Avatar, all other games throughout history and there isn't a single music album that can hold a candle to it.

So what's different about this game that didn't propel other AAA games of 2013 to the same lofty heights? Is it perhaps because GTA V is part of a big franchise that Rockstar can leapfrog off every time it makes a new game?

Part of it, for sure. That's why games like Call of Duty and FIFA manage to pump out the same kind of game each year with minor updates and still be some of the best selling games of the year. They offer an experience that's immediately engaging, because people have played this kind of thing before and it comes out regularly enough to tempt them back out.

But that can't be all of it, as many of those games mentioned above as being failures in the eyes of their publishers, come as sequels or prequels or reboots of long standing franchises. Gears of War has been around since the early days of the Xbox 360, God of War since the latter years of the PS2 and Tomb Raider has been kicking around since the mid 90s.

No there has to be more to it than that.

Really, GTA is the perfect storm of marketing, hype, polish and innovation. GTA 3 was a massive hit when it was released, because it introduced many gamers to their first big, open 3D world in a realistic environment. Its expansions in Vice and Liberty city built on this, but IV again showed us what an immersive world could be (even if I'd argue it's perhaps the weakest in the series) and it drew people in once again. V has done the same, offering the biggest open world ever created, giving it a seemingly unending list of things to do.

Rockstar also takes its time, spending years on its games, with thousands of people (GTA V's credits have clocked in at over 39 minutes long) and over $150 million as its budget. While games like anything else can go over budget or drag on too long, Rockstar has shown consistently that it's good at managing big game making resources and beavering away at it until its seamless. Of course there's bugs like anything else, but the level of detail in these games goes to show that Rockstar leaves no stone unturned when it comes to crafting its game world and it makes sure to give itself the time to do it. Some of this is down to its industry clout as such a successful developer, meaning it is unlikely 2K gives it much grief when it comes to release times, but it's still a smart move on Rockstar's part.

And on top of all that, it has the marketing and hype. GTA is a franchise that draws praise from critics and fans and condemnation from people that have never played it. On one hand you have massive advertising budgets making sure it's impossible for you to miss that a new Grand Theft Auto game is out, combined with masterful sneak peaks, leaks and slow burn media releases and on the other hand, you have everyone that hates the violences, misogyny and crime crying foul about it.

When all those factors come together, along with the fact that GTA and Rockstar have a decent fanbase already, it's no wonder GTA V did as well as it did. Rockstar is like the Pixar of the game development world. It stands alone as a developer that can do almost no wrong. Sure it has the odd dud like Max Payne III, but even that sold a few million copies.

GTA V didn't do well just because it was the sequel to GTA IV, it did well in its own right and because Rockstar knows what its doing with such a hot property.

Image source: Henryninetythree

Author: Jon Martindale

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Comments

The success is due to it

The success is due to it being an open world action game with good graphics, music, based on our time and with a total disregard for the law. That and that its published for consoles as well. GTA 1 was a bad game but truth being said it made all of its money on consoles and it was a decent hit for those platforms. That's when it became famous, the PS2 version just followed up on the line. Console players like these games and these games like console players. Whatever CP fans say, GTA has always and will always remain a console game. Since it has good graphics, music, sex, drugs and fun shootouts, its famous. Since there are millions of console users and the game lends itself well to the public and platform; bam, billions of dollars. It was never really big on PC due to its nature and PC player base and it still isn't reason to why its always released on PC's late and many times with loads of bugs, many of them performance based. Final point, no, its not mostly due to franchise. You can have a long lasting and lucrative franchise and not have the GTA numbers. You can apply the same factors and operations to any franchise and see a relative success in that space and time. "Hype" and word of mouth for example. Its because of the type of game it is, the people its sold to and by, the dominant platform and the dominant taste of the people buying it. As it being the perfect stone for the matters you mention, well. They don't use a single in house tech. They don't produce their own music. They don't use hand drawn textures. They have also copied a large number of events and so forth from many forms of media, sometimes to the point in where people could actually sue them if worried and win the case without doubt. And yes, they can do wrong and always do so. Each and every time they make a game that isn't GTA. Example: Max Payne 2 /3

R* North

R* North are one of the few developers who make massive AAA titles, yet you can still feel the game has been made by people with a real passion for it. A lot of games from other big makers just feel pumped out by people just getting a job done. As long as GTA is made by people with a passion for it, it will always have the edge on other games made simply for profit.

build a hype

GTA is top quality but also gives alot of freedom, freedom that most console gamers do not have in most of their games. But most importantly, a GTA game comes out every 3 years in average, which makes the serie everlasting because no one get tired of it. This is a non-negligible factor as most would get tired of a new GTA every single year (Assassin's Creed?). Yes AC, CoD sells, but they'll never have the same attention of a GTA title. GTA 4 was release in 2008, five years ago, which makes time for the hype.

You're an idiot

Bullshit, kids can get whatever porn they want just not whenever they want. GTA is fun and that's why it sells well. You're a fuddy duddy with antique views. Kid's are out there reading porno mags and blah blah blah; it's 2013 not 1989 noob. I can accept a dog as a horse, but it's still a dog. God, you're such an idiot! You're probably that same crowd of morons out there that thinks if a doctor snips some guy's dick off he's a woman. Tyler had it right, sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken. GTA IS NOT A FUCKING MOVIE.

its because

GTA has always giving what gamers wants irrelevant of age, and that's why its popular because its large and immersive and the fact you can play multiplayer with friends when everything is said and done, also the statement about max payne being a dud is that in ref to sales or game coz the game was amazing.

multiplayer isn't even on yet

multiplayer isn't even on yet so you guys sound like marketers than customers, but at least your reply's intelligent, unlike the bumbling fool above. I never could get myself to play most newer games more than once. very thrilling the 1st time, but either the game's made too easy so as not to disturb the narrative flow (Mass Effect etc), or it's challanging in some parts & your repeatedly playing the same cutscene & doing the same busywork until you stop dying at the very end of a 15-minute mission (GTA3 etc)

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