Rockstar Games still has a long future planned for GTA Online. At the very least, they intend for the game to remain popular and profitable through 2020, and probably longer. If a certain leak is to be believed, they also have a pretty extensive plan for upcoming DLC in store, including map expansions.
Rockstar Games also has Red Dead Redemption 2 in the pipeline, scheduled for an Autumn 2017 release. Naturally, their goal is for the game to do well in terms of sales, as well as remain popular following launch. Seeing as it will also feature an Online mode, likely with DLC and most possibly microtransactions, Rockstar will want it to achieve a similar level of success as GTA Online.
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It's pretty obvious that GTA Online will bleed players when RDR2 launches, though it is likely that Rockstar isn't too worried about this effect since they won't lose any customers. However, the marketing emphasis placed on RDR2 will draw the mainstream spotlight from GTA, and this might end up hurting the latter.
It is quite obvious that by saying that Rockstar wants Online to be profitable through 2020, what is meant is that the game should continue selling. Even though Shark Cards are bringing in a ton of cash, the main source of revenue is still the actual game sales. Even with all the discounts flying around, this game is generating more revenue than most hyped up AAA productions - and it's three freakin' years old!
With the complete and utter lack of any kind of singleplayer DLC on the horizon, it is clear that the company doesn't intend to do anything with the story mode of the game and is completely dedicated to GTA Online. With the ever changing AAA landscape moving towards cheaper multiplayer-only games, Rockstar might consider a new direction for their flagship title.
On the one hand, it is very rare for an AAA title to stay at full price this long after release, so a general universal price drop might be prudent at this point, reducing the full-price amount for GTA 5 to $40 or $30, as would be customary for most titles of this age. This would make the game more accessible to potential players with tighter budgets, and make it seem more appealing to the average gamer.
On the other hand, if such a price-drop would not be possible for whatever reason or the heads at Take-Two would oppose it, there is also a different approach Rockstar might take to make the game more accessible to a wider audience at a lower price point. This would attract more players to the game, who would become potential Shark Card customers in the future.
This other approach is offering GTA Online as a standalone title separate from GTA 5. In this package, Online would be sold without access to the singleplayer story mode of the game for, say, half the asking price of the full game.
Let's face it - the majority of GTA Online players aren't hardcore gamers. They're not even "gamers", rather the kind of people who own whichever current-gen console was cheaper at their local electronics store, and only ever buy the annual Call of Duty and FIFA games, plus GTA 5. They don't follow gaming news, they don't care about other games and they most likely don't read this site.
The majority of GTA Online players also very likely didn't touch the game's story mode beyond playing the tutorial, which is a prerequisite to getting into Online. As such, this mainstream audience wouldn't be bothered by the lack of the singleplayer campaign in this "GTA: Online Edition".
This would help Rockstar keep GTA Online on its current upward-angled course through the release of Red Dead Redemption 2. Through what is likely arcane sorcery, GTA 5 sales are actually trending upward based on a recent Take-Two earnings report, in spite of the game's age. Generally, you don't find three-year-old titles leading charts.
While offering this standalone option is hardly a necessity in order to keep the game successful - it will likely stay a top-seller on its own anyway - it would do much to hike sales up and keep the game relevant even with a new Rockstar title releasing soon. Mainstream success or no, Red Dead Redemption 2's launch will be felt on GTA's sales. Going down this route would simply lessen the impact of the new release on GTA's influence.
Rockstar might even want to double down on new customers with various promotions - buying RDR2 would give customers a discount coupon for GTA: Online Edition and vice versa. Linking a Rockstar Social Club account which has a GTA Online profile to RDR2 would unlock some bonus items in Red Dead Online, similar to the returning player bonuses that we saw in GTA.
We've explored the possibility of a free-to-play GTA Online in the past, since the current version already includes microtransactions. However an f2p model would do much damage to the community and be a spit in the face of anyone who actually bought the game; and this model of selling Online licenses separately at a lower price would still maintain the "exclusivity" of a paid title while making it more accessible.
Another thing to consider is Rockstar's new and draconian banning policy. One minor infraction and you're slapped back to rank 1 with zero progress. One major infraction, or any second infraction results in a perma-ban. The only way to get back into GTA Online is to buy the game once more.
Permabanned players rarely do so, we reckon. However, if GTA Online was standalone and cheaper than the standard full price of $60, chances are more banned hackers would return to the game - and be more careful about abiding by the rules the second time around.
In essence, this new model would benefit everyone in the long run. GTA Online would continue gaining popularity, the playerbase would grow, Rockstar would gain revenue and Online wouldn't suffer too much at the hands of Red Dead Redemption 2. Everyone wins!
In any case, it's quite unlikely that this would actually come to pass. GTA 5 has already seen 3 different versions released, and there is a slim chance that Rockstar would release a fourth this close to the launch of a major title in their pipeline. That said, I highly doubt that with all their analysts and experts, Rockstar's suits themselves didn't think of this. There very well may be some aspect that we failed to take into account here.
Retrospectively, would you have bought a standalone GTA Online instead of the full GTA 5 game?