Comparing Red Dead Redemption 2’s Pre-Release With GTA 5

Where are we now? Where were we then?

We’re well into the second half of August and Rockstar has yet to reveal any new information regarding Red Dead Redemption 2, even though they promised new details to arrive sometime during the Summer. We’re very close to the first anniversary of the game’s announcement, and so far all we have is a single trailer and a handful of screenshots. Ideally we’d have much more.

Many fans write off the lack of information as ‘just the way Rockstar does things’, and while it is true that they do handle things in an atypical way compared to most other AAA companies, fans need to understand that when it comes to marketing, Take-Two calls the shots. Simply looking at the other side of the Take-Two coin, 2K, you’ll find more usual marketing techniques.

Take-Two wouldn’t want to see a reserved, eccentric take on marketing, and would prefer traditional pre-release marketing, simply because the latter works. Many people like to point at Grand Theft Auto 5 when rationalizing the complete lack of information or advertisements for Red Dead Redemption 2. But how did GTA 5 do this?

Let’s look at the timeline. Grand Theft Auto 5 was announced on the 25th of October, 2011 (Rockstar likes October for this purpose, it seems, as Red Dead Redemption 2 was announced on the 18th of October, 2016), with a website going up and a trailer dropping one week later. Red Dead Redemption 2’s announcement trailer went up only two days later, so at this point Red Dead is ahead.

GTA 5’s website was then updated weekly with little content blocks showing off details about the game and its world. This page can still be visited, with each individual block unlocked. Red Dead Redemption 2’s website is the same as it was almost a year ago. Once all the little blocks on the GTA website were revealed, there was a period of radio silence on Rockstar’s part.

Then on August 20, 2012, Rockstar released a bunch of screenshots for the game, and two months later, an iconic piece of artwork via Gameinformer’s cover. It took a shorter wait for us to get some screenshots with Red Dead Redemption, as Rockstar released them alongside the delay notice. GTA 5’s delay, on the other hand, was announced almost one year after the game was revealed.

The second GTA 5 trailer dropped in November 2012, more screenshots in December the same year, cover art and three trailers in April 2013, screenshots, artwork, the first gameplay trailer and other videos in July 2013, a GTA Online reveal trailer and final gameplay trailer in August 2013. The game was released on the 13th of September, 2013.

So, if we look at the same timeline, things are pretty much the same, in fact, Red Dead Redemption 2 is ahead. Less than a year after release, and we already know the game has been delayed! All joking aside, players who say that GTA 5 also had so little marketing this early on fail to see one small issue with it.

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To demonstrate, let’s switch directions and trace back marketing from release.

GTA 5 was released in September 2013. Red Dead Redemption 2 will be released, if everything goes according to plan, in the Spring of 2018, which at worst means May 31st. That gives us 9 months to work with, maximum. Nine months before release, GTA 5 had a concrete release date, 2 trailers, 3 sets of screenshots, 2 sets of artwork, interviews with developers and several gameplay and story details including spoilers from an official source. Redemption 2 has one trailer, one set of screenshots and a single piece of artwork.

Correction: Spring 2018. Maybe.

We still have pretty much zero idea of what the gameplay will be like beyond “a lot like Red Dead Redemption”. The only actual information we know is that there will be post-release DLC and a multiplayer mode, Red Dead Online. We know nothing of the story, not even how many protagonists there will be, where it will be set nor when it will be set.

Even one year before release, GTA 5 has a lot more going for it in terms of marketing, meaning Red Dead Redemption 2 has a lot of catching up to do, if that is the plan at all. This is going to be Rockstar’s next big thing, and likely the biggest release Take-Two has planned for years to come, meaning it is absolutely crucial for it to be a hit. Marketing is a big part of that, and let’s remember that Take-Two’s CEO said that “Red Dead Redemption 2 will sell, whenever it is released”. What could this mean?

“But random game journalist guy, it is too early to say that the game is getting delayed again!” – you think, as you put two and two together.

You are, of course, correct. Mass media marketing for GTA 5, such a billboards, tram liveries, TV spots and clickable banners on every website even remotely related to digital entertainment only started closer to release. GTA 5’s main audience turned out to be the mainstream casual gamer, the kind that doesn’t read Gameinformer, or any kind of gaming news at all.

Gamescom is still ongoing, the summer isn’t over yet and Rockstar still has a chance to fulfill its promise of more details. The full force of marketing still has some months to hit the streets, and it is wholly too soon to call the second delay. However, it is also important not to ignore the rather high possibility that some issue could arise and push the game’s release into the second half of 2018.

Red Dead Redemption 2 has a massive base of fans awaiting any further breadcrumbs the developers are willing to throw them, and it will soon be time to kick this pre-release period into hype-overdrive – provided the game is actually coming when we think it is.

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