Don't Expect GTA Online To Lose Popularity When RDR2 Launches


Red Dead Redemption 2 suffered another delay recently, but the popularity of the upcoming game and the hype surrounding it isn't dying down. In fact, seeing so much excitement for the next big thing from Rockstar Games, it's easy to assume that when the game drops, Grand Theft Auto Online will bleed players like crazy.

Thing is, that very likely won't happen, and there are a number of factors contributing to this.

First of all, people need to understand the fundamental difference between the nature of popularity the two games enjoy, and how that popularity differs. If you look at forums, subreddits and other online spaces where gamers discuss their hobby, you'll likely see major buzz around Red Dead Redemption 2, talk of possible features, story elements and other speculation. The same was true for Grand Theft Auto 5 prior to launch, though on a much bigger scale.

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The underlying difference between the two games lies in their audiences. GTA 5 is much more mainstream than Red Dead Redemption 2 is, and the gamers who go online to discuss their favored titles represent different ratios of the two games' player bases. The "hardcore" GTA Online players you'd see active in the subreddits devoted to the game represent maybe ~10% of the whole audience, for a more "dedicated" gamer oriented title like Red Dead Redemption 2, this vocal core gaming community represents maybe as much as half. And even then, the GTA 5 community is a lot livelier.

"Sure, but Red Dead Redemption 2 hasn't even launched yet, of course there will be a bigger community after release" you say, and though you are right, keep in mind that the basis of comparison is a game older than four years. Typically, the period of time prior to a game's release attracts a much bigger community than a several-year-old game does precisely due to the pre-launch hype and speculation. At this point, if Red Dead Redemption 2 was going to so much as match the popularity of GTA 5, it should have a larger active fan community - but it does not.

The crux of the comparison is that GTA 5 is everyone's game.

Looking at the numbers, with over 90 million copies sold, almost everyone who owns a console also owns GTA 5. It's the most mainstream video game out there, on par or even eclipsing the likes of FIFA and Call of Duty.

Red Dead Redemption, though highly popular, is basically niche compared to GTA, with a much smaller audience comprised not primarily of casual players but dedicated gamers.

Simply put, Red Dead Redemption just doesn't currently have the kind of mainstream clout and reach that GTA boasts due to its long history, the snowball effect of its sweeping popularity and the consistent growth granted by free content updates. Over time, Red Dead Redemption 2 and Red Dead Online will also grow and grow, but it would truly be an amazing feat were the game able to pull off the industry defying stunt that GTA Online did and still be growing after 4 years.

Of the entire GTA Online player base, only a small fraction will actually buy Red Dead Redemption 2 (though, in numbers, even a small fraction of GTA Online's player base amounts to a massive number of sales). And let's not forget that just because someone starts playing Red Dead Redemption 2 and Red Dead Online doesn't mean they'll quit GTA Online entirely. There seems to be a misconception floating about the web that somehow the later will cannibalize GTA Online, and that the release of Red Dead Redemption 2 will be some apocalyptic event for Los Santos.

In the grand scheme of things, player bleed will be minimal.

It will be present, maybe even noticeable during Red Dead Redemption 2's launch week, but hardly permanent, and it won't have a truly significant impact on player numbers. Red Dead Online also won't stunt GTA Online's growth, neither in terms of players nor in the field of content. Rockstar and Take-Two won't just abandon their most lucrative asset because of the release of a game that would be well pressed to match the success of GTA 5.

We're all excited to jump into the Wild Western setting of Red Dead Redemption 2, experience the story of Arthur Morgan, hang out with Dutch before (?) he went mad and play cowboy up and down a beautiful open world, but we're also certain that a fair few of those ~90 million people (granted it's not quite that many, because some bought the game multiple times) who own GTA 5 simply don't care.

Y'all need to calm down - not everyone is going to the Red Dead Rapture.

Aron Gerencser
Aron is responsible for the bulk of the news posts that you'll find on GTA BOOM each and every day. He loves getting involved with the community and is an avid fan of all things Rockstar Games. His journey with the franchise began with GTA 2 back when it was new (all the way back in 1999), and he was a gamer even before then. Find Aron on Facebook.