GTA Online offers both PvE and PvP gameplay opportunities, with the former being represented by contact missions, co-op jobs and heists, and the latter by competitive jobs and Adversary Modes. However, chances are Rockstar will be expanding upon the competitive aspect of the game - and might even attempt to break into the highly lucrative E-Sports scene.
If you navigate to your GTA Online menu, you'll see an option between "Rockstar Playlists" and "Shuffle Playlists" titled "Tournament Qualification Playlist". This entry is curious for the reason that it popped up sometime early 2014, and has been greyed out ever since. It can't be selected, nor was it ever clickable.
Strangely enough, it rarely ever tickled the curiosity of the community. When it first appeared a good two years ago, a few people speculated about what purpose it could serve, but after all this time of nothing, people simply lost interest. This doesn't mean that Rockstar has abandoned the venture permanently.
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In fact, this may very well be the foundation of yet another "rebirth" for the game where it gains an all-new boost of popularity. Could Rockstar look back to this two-year-old idea in order to re-introduce GTA 5 as the next e-sport sensation?
Rockstar has never been an e-sports oriented developer, however, they've made their intention to expand GTA Online further obvious. Take-Two representatives have stated that they plan on the game being profitable at least until 2020, but ideally even beyond. One sure-fire way of securing longevity is by becoming a popular e-sport.
Possibly one of the most popular e-sports, and the first modern one (Quake was probably the true first "e-sport"), League of Legends, was originally released in 2009 - and it's still going strong. Sure, it's free to play, however, GTA 5 proves that you don't need to go F2P in order to achieve mainstream popularity.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Even if we ignore the possibility of Rockstar envisioning GTA 5 as an e-sport, the tournament qualification playlist still raises questions. Should this even simply be related to community events where teams or crews could enter to win "numerous in-game prizes" as the caption reads, it would still add new life to GTA's PvP scene.
Qualification playlists could pit registered teams against one another, tracking their performance over a given period of time. A tournament leaderboard would tally up everyone's position in comparison to one another, and those teams who don't make the cut won't enter the actual tournament.
Depending on how serious Rockstar wants to make this, they could set up an event lasting several months, with various game modes such as team deathmatch, races, time trials, and a selection of GTA Online's massive library of different job types spread out during the tournament's course.
This kind of event would draw significant media attention to the game thus increasing publicity, while also attracting new players interesting in testing their mettle. GTA Online Tournaments could even introduce a suite of new game modes designed with ranked competitive play in mind.
Now, let's swing back to the whole e-sport idea. Many systems that are essential for a game to become an e-sport are already present in GTA Online, while others could be repurposed to better suit the new role. The game's existing selection of competitive game modes already offers a unique and varied selection, while the Director Mode of the Rockstar Editor could be used as a great spectating tool with a few tweaks.
GTA Online already has massive popularity going for it. If Rockstar decided to pursue this, the existing massive player base would automatically provide for a massive audience. Should they announce this plan a few months in advance, professional teams would be ready to play by the time they launch the initiative.
Take-Two and Rockstar more than have the financial background to make this happen, and GTA Online would pretty much be a guaranteed success as an e-sport. They already have popularity on their side, the competitive aspect of the game had been fleshed out and the media's attention is fixed on them of late thanks to the recent announcement of Red Dead Redemption 2.
That said, there would be a lot of work to be done before GTA Online could truly be an e-sport. Rarely to games which are not developed with the intention of becoming a commercialised performance turn into one. A few defining aspects of e-sports include a deep meta-game, complex character balance and gameplay requiring strategy that can be commented on.
While with a good team, TDMs and Adversary Modes can have a sense of strategy about them, the fact that GTA Online doesn't feature character classes or specialisations make it less interesting in this regard. Games like LoL or Overwatch have distinct characters with unique identifying abilities. In GTA, basically everyone is the same character, with loadouts being the only difference - and even that is rare since the few weapons that are statistically the "best" are pretty much used by everyone.
However, there are similar e-sports out there that rely on other factors. Non-MOBA games that have reached e-sport fame, most notably Counter Strike: Global Offensive, also lack the character dynamic of the likes of LoL. As an FPS, CSGO's e-sport appeal and meta-game boil down to individual skill, creativity on the battlefield and weapon balance.
While there are definitely some fan-favorites (AWP, anyone?) and a rough hierarchy of weapons, the lines are much more blurred in terms of which gun is best for what situation. In GTA, even experienced teams rarely set up roles for their members, and everyone just takes whatever gun they like - usually the same few - to the fight.
In CSGO, it isn't a good idea for everyone to have the same loadout, simply because chances are the opponents won't either. While it's hardly a game of rock-paper-scissors since personal skill factors in, but if everyone on your team is geared for long-range engagements, the short-range oriented guys on the enemy team will most likely tear you up.
Rockstar would need to take a good long look at weapon balance in GTA Online and do something they pretty much never do - touch and tweak stuff already in the game. Rockstar constantly adds new content, yes, but beyond bug-fixing, they never look back at previously added content for possible improvements.
If Rockstar would be committed to the idea of transforming GTA Online into a popular e-sport, they'd need to basically re-balance the entire weapons library present in the game - a massive undertaking. Alternatively, they may simply introduce a new weapons stat template that would only affect tournament games or ranked play and would be different from the current set-up of weapon balances.
In any case, it would definitely be interesting to see GTA Online played professionally on stages. E-sports are growing constantly, with new games popping up every year, and old classics like StarCraft still seeing life in competitive play. While GTA 5 is showing no sign of falling out of the community's graces anytime soon, turning it into an e-sport might inject the game with newfound vitality and buzz.
Would you play GTA Online competitively if it were to become an e-sport, or would you join the ranks of the audience?