Grand Theft Auto Online is one of the most persistently popular multiplayer games on the market right now, and even after years and years on the top it is showing no signs of slowing down. The game has gone through a lot of key changes during its lifespan, and being such a hit led to one question being asked over and over - is it free to play?
Is GTA Online Free-to-Play?
We understand why some people might think so, though. There have been isolated promotions and instances where fans had the chance to join GTA Online without having to pay, but these had limited availability and were exceptions - more on that later.
Multiplayer games that reach such staggering heights of popularity, with such massive playerbases that consistently grow after this many years, usually do so by being free - more players are willing to jump in without any obligations than those who are willing to fork over money.
However, GTA Online is not a free to play game. Generally speaking, you need to buy either Grand Theft Auto 5, or the newly available standalone and cheaper GTA Online on its own in order to get access. You'll also need a Rockstar Social Club account - making such an account is free, but does not inherently grant access to any content. You still need to buy the game.
Will GTA Online become Free-to-Play?
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Possible, but unlikely - going free to play is generally seen as a good move to boost player counts, and the tactic is frequently employed by games with waning populations, unless they were designed to be free from the get go. Since GTA Online is having no issue with growth, there currently is no real reason to switch to a free to play format.
In fact, it might even have drawbacks - GTA Online already had some problems with cheaters and hackers in the past, and going free would very likely invite that sort of problem once again. It is much easier to just circumvent a ban with a new account when the game in question is free to play, and cheating is something other popular, free titles have been grappling with unsuccessfully.
That said, there have been instances of GTA Online going temporarily free to play and free to keep for promotional purposes, and now that it is standalone and separate from GTA 5, such promos should be even easier to do. So, if GTA Online ever has player count issues in the future, it is definitely possible that Rockstar will switch to a free format.
Sources of confusion regarding GTA Online’s paid status
The overall question is a valid one - there are several reasons why some would think that GTA Online is free to play.
First of all, it was, and sort of is - temporarily free. GTA 5 was once the subject of a giveaway on the Epic Games Store, allowing players to claim and keep the full game without paying anything; this granted complete access to GTA Online.
Additionally, counting from the launch of GTA 5 Expanded and Enhanced on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S, GTA Online went standalone, and in the first three months of its standalone life the game is free to claim and keep on Sony's current generation console - this too is a limited, temporary promotion, hence one cannot call GTA Online "free to play" per se.
It's also easy to mistake for a free to play title due to the monetization model, which relies on microtransactions, and its record breaking, staggering popularity - both of these are generally characteristics of free to play games. GTA Online, however, isn't free.
We'll update this post in the future if, for whatever reason, there is a change in the status of GTA Online's paid access.
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