OCT. 1, 2013 • One of the most intriguing features of Grand Theft Auto V is the inclusion of access to Grand Theft Auto Online. The separate online world became available two weeks after the release of Grand Theft Auto V, which has already generated more than $1 billion in worldwide revenue. Rockstar Games is scrambling to secure sufficient servers to handle the demand, although the studio has warned consumers that delays and glitches are to be expected. The environments in Grand Theft Auto Online are derived form the same digital assets used to create the standalone game. Events in the online game are set in a time just prior to those in the solo title, which means both share non-playing characters and locations. Players in Grand Theft Auto V can invite friends to join them in co-operative missions or player-vs-player combat available in Grand Theft Auto Online. Matchmaking based on player rankings is also featured. Five-hundred missions are available at launch, with Rockstar promising more content in upcoming updates. Up to 16 players can play within an instanced version of the world at any one time. Players earn in-game currency by completing missions, or buy purchasing those credits with real cash from the game store. At launch, Rockstar is not offering experience boosts or enhanced world access for sale.
Impact: GTA Online is an unusual animal. It is much more than the typical online multiplayer component most retail single-player titles have offered. At the same time, the game is somewhat less ambitious than your typical MMO. The entire GTA V/GTA Online package is a great value at $59.99. In some ways Grand Theft Auto Online is a bit like Guild Wars in that access is free with the purchase of the retail SKU. But the standard solo game is so rich and expansive that the comparison ends there. We doubt that GTA Online could exist as a standalone title in its current form. Therefore, we tend to see the game as a test by Rockstar. If they can manage GTA Online well, including adding content in a timely and regular fashion to beef up what can be done in-game, there is no reason to prevent Rockstar from decoupling access to the online world from GTA V as an F2P title sometime in the future. In such a scenario, the 16-player limit would have to be increased substantially to account for MMO players who are used to operating in much larger communities. Big gang turf battles that have dynamic results in the game world would be an attractive draw to many consumers, and something we believe Rockstar could easily aspire to if the reception to GTA Online is strong. Launching MMOs is a serious business with many challenges. The community of PC MMO players is often fickle and jaded with little patience to wait for improvements to come later. Therefore, GTA Online is a wise way to test the waters without jumping completely in. If successful, the game might also become one of the few MMOs to make a splash on video game consoles.