This year, so far, has been a bumpy one for GTA Online fans. With a noticeable slowdown in DLC releases, the impending release of Red Dead Redemption 2 and some troubling rumors, many were worried that soon we'd see the end of content support for the title.
Even though there were a wealth of arguments against this outcome, many were convinced - and still are.
LATEST GTA NEWS CLIPS
For some reason, the recent delay of Red Dead Redemption 2 into the spring of 2018 wasn't enough to assuage worries that this year would be the last which brings us any new DLC for GTA Online. Some specifically called out the upcoming Gunrunning DLC as possibly the last update - it being the biggest and accordingly enabling Rockstar to 'end' GTA Online with a bang.
The fact that this fear has survived for so long can likely be traced back to a specific rumor which arose much earlier this year and was posted by a reputable leaker who had a pretty good track record to back up their words with. We covered the rumor at the time and noted the multiple wounds from which it bled, but it caught on nonetheless.
The massive hype surrounding Red Dead Redemption 2 has also been a major factor in these GTA Online shutdown fears and was referenced in the aforementioned rumor as well. The general idea was that once Red Dead Online, the multiplayer mode of the upcoming title, is released, Rockstar would shift resources to developing DLC for it instead of GTA Online.
This theory too was flawed and the issues with both of these "reasons" to fear for GTA Online's future came down to the same crux: Take-Two isn't stupid. If you follow news regarding GTA Online's financial successes at all, you'd see what a poor choice it would be to dump the source of the game's massive microtransaction economy.
There is still a lot of money in GTA Online which can be tapped with little investment. Even Gunrunning, which is shaping up to be the game's biggest DLC yet, will likely cost Rockstar a fraction of the profits it will bring in to make. The game's playerbase is so massive by now, that even if just 10% of the active players bought Shark Cards on a regular basis, Rockstar would earn multiples of each DLC budget for every update.
This game is an immense source of profit which is still growing. Last December was the most active month for GTA Online ever, and more people bought the game in the past two years than they did in 2014. There isn't a financial reason to be pulling the plug on GTA Online, seeing as Take-Two has plenty of resources to keep DLC coming while still giving Red Dead Redemption 2 the attention and backing it needs to live up to the hype.
There's also that general lack of DLC releases so far this year which was also pointed out as a sign of the end-times. It's true that Valentine's Day was skipped for DLC this year and that beyond Cunning Stunts: Special Vehicle Circuit we've only gotten a few Adversary Modes and vehicles, but this is likely a tactical decision.
Gunrunning was first teased alongside Special Vehicle Circuit, and even the few short lines Rockstar dropped back then made it seem significantly more interesting than another iteration of Cunning Stunts. Rockstar knows its audience and how teases take off to generate hype on their own.
After starving the players out for a half-year, whilst allowing them to possibly save up a large amount of money, they'll guarantee massive player numbers for when Gunrunning does drop. And no matter how much you save up, with the speed that GTA Online can eat cash if you're not looking, Shark Cards will seem a whole lot more enticing in the fever induced by new content.
Based on what we know so far, Gunrunning is going to be massive. Players will get underground bunkers, customizable supervillainesque mobile HQs, a host of weaponized vehicles and the chance to develop new weapons technologies - and those are just the features we know of. With all that content, it would definitely be a worthy sendoff for GTA Online, even if there is no risk of that being the case.
Gunrunning, in fact, could be an indicator of where Rockstar wants to take GTA Online in the future.
Between it and Bikers, Rockstar has begun ticking the list of major niches in the community who have been pining for an update to satisfy their enthusiasm, with Gunrunning obviously being aimed at the military aficionados. It's only a matter of time before we get emergency services and retro mafiosos ticked off - though the latter were already treated with the Valentine's Day DLCs in the past.
Recently, Rockstar has been doubling down on listening to player input. Fan reported bugs that got highly publicized on community platforms like Reddit were struck down swiftly, the most often requested updates are becoming reality and, as exemplified by three of the game's most recent standalone cars, prices are going down.
This trend of trying to appease the fanbase isn't indicative of a game on its last legs. Rockstar is digging in for the long run and they've made as much clear in the past by outright stating that the planned run of GTA Online is 2020 and beyond provided the demand is still there.
Seeing as the active playerbase hasn't peaked yet, we suspect that projection was on point, if not an underestimate. At this point, it seems like the only thing that could kill GTA Online would be a new GTA game. People were incorrectly heralding Red Dead Redemption 2 as a GTA killer, as that franchise has a significantly smaller fanbase due to a lack of mainstream reach.
The numbers aren't in Red Dead's favor. Oh, it will most certainly be an immense financial success, however it won't be one-upping GTA anytime soon. GTA has the benefit of a decade of publicity, fame and controversy in addition to more than a dozen entries across a wide array of platforms. Red Dead Redemption 2 will be the third entry in the franchise, which has only touched a limited number of platforms since the debut of Revolver in 2004.
Rockstar very rarely releases metrics for usage of their title, with Take-Two's investor calls being our only consistent source of data, however at the end of last year, they did share some numbers from December, which proved that DLC releases attract players.
Import/Export, coupled with the holiday season, undoubtedly boosted the title's sales immensely. Keep in mind that between February and May 2017, the game sold more than 5 million copies, and all that with just a minor DLC to show for.
Gunrunning won't only jack up Shark Card sales, but game sales too. This effect still being present over three and a half years after release shows that GTA Online has no intention of slowing down in the coming months and years. Who's ever heard of a corporation knowingly shut down an insanely profitable source of income with a long projected lifetime?
GTA Online is hardly in its last kicks. Even if Rockstar doesn't support things beyond the 2020 projection, we're just at the halfway mark, making this a tad early to toll the bells.