Long ago, in a games industry very different to that of today, Rockstar Games was a prolific developer and publisher.
Between the likes of its hugely popular Grand Theft Auto, Midnight Club and Red Dead games were a smattering of other high quality releases, such as L.A. Noire, Beaterator and Max Payne 3. It all changed in 2013, however, with the release of Grand Theft Auto V.
Since Grand Theft Auto V landed on PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles just over four years ago, Rockstar Games has doggedly supported the title. It’s quashed bugs, ported it to PS4, Xbox One and eventually PC, and even added new content. What it hasn’t done, however, is release any new games in the meantime.
Admittedly, it’s got a sequel to Red Dead Redemption primed for early next year, but that still means it hasn’t released a new game for just over four years. You know what though? There’s nothing wrong with that.
Many will link Rockstar Games’ apparent development dormancy on the rise of microtransactions, painting the company as a greedy villain who’s only in it for the money. The fact of the matter is, however, that it doesn’t make it a villain, it just makes it a business. And that’s exactly what Rockstar Games is, a business.
It’s not beholden to release titles on a yearly basis for gamers. It’s not your friend or your enemy. It’s an entity created with the sole purpose to make money, but to do that it’s beneficial for it to make games that blow our tiny minds. Only, it’s a process that’s getting more expensive and riskier all the time, and so something has got to give. In Rockstar Games’ case, it’s a cluttered development schedule.
Why risk vast sums of time, money and other resources developing original properties when you can simply support one you’ve already got and make money on it with microtransactions? And is there any point in developing new iterations of franchises that have never had a firm footing in their genre? Business is always about risk versus reward, and with the rising costs of game development in world that seems to be getting more bat-shit crazy by the day, green-lighting projects is only going to get all the more rarer.
I don’t like microtransactions. Never have and never will. But as long as there are those out there that are willing to buy them, they’ll prove to be a generally risk free way for companies to make money. Therefore, you can’t blame the likes of Rockstar Games for seemingly leaning on them. It’s not particularly that game developers and publishers have changed, becoming all the more greedy for the cash in our purses and wallets, but rather the markets they are operating in, forcing them to change their business strategies in ways that don’t benefit the ardent gamer. But then they’re not their main concern, it’s their bottom line. There’s no point in developing new games if there isn’t going to be a significant return on the investment.