Grand Theft Auto 5 continues to dominate the gaming world and over the course of 7 years has persevered against dozens of would-be "GTA killers", hyped up AAA titles with similar settings, gameplay elements and storylines.
However, in a little under a month, it may finally meet its match in Cyberpunk 2077. Like GTA 5, Cyberpunk 2077 will get a multiplayer mode after the game's release, but analysts say that isn't where the similarities end.
Data-driven research and analytics company M Science keeps close tabs on the motions of the video game industry, and creates reports on the most important financial factors surrounding major titles in order to inform the decisions of investors. Cyberpunk 2077 is a colossal product already, even though it hasn't been released yet, and the firm has plenty of material on GTA 5 and Online for obvious reasons.
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In a recent report, M Science has stated that the multiplayer mode of Cyberpunk 2077 - which won't be launching at least until 2022, a somewhat bigger gap than what separated GTA 5 and Online - "could resemble that of GTA Online."
The report is only available to subscribers due to some sensitive data being involved, but in broad strokes it projects what the multiplayer mode may look like in practice from a monetization standpoint, based on industry trends and statements made by the developers.
It seems that Cyberpunk 2077 multiplayer will be supported by a string of free updates and DLC after release to ensure that players keep coming back and new players join in, while offering some forms of 'recurring player spending options' - microtransactions, basically.
With GTA Online, Rockstar struck gold. The game doesn't have a convoluted in-game item store with some premium content and free content, instead the developers went with a super simple method. Everything can be bought with the same universal currency, and players can choose to buy that currency with real money instead of earning it in-game.
A constant stream of free DLC adds new things that all players can spend on. M Science expects CD Projekt Red to follow the same formula, and projects that paid DLC wouldn't make sense for the game.
While the paid-DLC model can be successful, and makes sense for a title such as Cyberpunk, we view multiplayer as the larger opportunity long-term and the best opportunity to create a robust, multi-year recurrent consumer spend model for the franchise.
We know that Cyberpunk 2077 will get paid singleplayer expansions - something GTA 5, unfortunately, never did - alongside bite-sized free DLC before multiplayer even launches, but the analysts are convinced that finding a way to monetize multiplayer in a similar way to GTA Online is what will turn the game into a long-term success.
This brings up an interesting hypothetical for GTA 5 - by now we know that whatever plans there were for singleplayer DLC were canceled due to the overwhelming success of Online, prompting the developers to refocus resources. Maybe if GTA Online had launched a year or two after the main game, like in the case of Cyberpunk 2077, we'd have gotten that story DLC.