Rockstar Games has a lot riding on Red Dead Redemption 2, far more than just the success of this one title.
The future of the franchise is at stake, but the game will also be the “debut” of the company Rockstar has become in the years since 2013. Much has changed in the four years since the release of Grand Theft Auto 5, and it’s up to Red Dead Redemption 2 to show what direction that change took the hyper-popular developer.
The gap between the release of the two games will be longest in Rockstar’s history, which is a symptom of the changing waters. GTA 5 was where the change started, and we’ll only see the results come the launch of Red Dead Redemption 2.
The focus has shifted from story driven single player experiences to multiplayer, one of the leading figures of the company left amid turbulence, and the massive success of GTA Online’s business model has altered the direction in which the company will likely want their games to evolve.
Let’s break down the major influencers of the “new” Rockstar Games.
First of all, there is GTA 5 itself, the prodigal son, if you will. There is the absence of Leslie Benzies, whose influence shaped the games that he worked on significantly. Finally, there is the general change in directive within Rockstar from singleplayer focused titles to persistent, long-term multiplayer “services.”
But how do all of these affect Red Dead Redemption 2?
The Grand Theft Auto 5 Effect
Volumes have been written about the potential influence GTA 5 might have on Red Dead Redemption 2, but the main beats are usually the same.
We saw a new precedent set with Rockstar wherein the multiplayer component got more attention post-launch. So much so to the point of there not being any new single player content at all. GTA has been a singleplayer franchise first and foremost throughout its history, but the most recent title threw this tradition, and to great monetary success.
Many fans fear that this will result in Rockstar banking on a similar effect and developing Red Dead Redemption 2 with this in mind. GTA Online wasn’t expected to be so successful, and Rockstar even announced single player DLC at one point. But the unprecedented amount of popularity that Online received seemingly changed their plans, with more budget allocated to Online DLC until any hope for new single player content was quietly killed off.
In light of GTA Online’s success, it’s possible that Rockstar will develop Red Dead Redemption 2 with more focus invested in the multiplayer component from the get-go. While they know that there is still massive expectations for the campaign mode, as Red Dead Redemption’s story was what gained it fame in 2010, we should expect a more consistent ratio in polish than in the case of GTA 5, where the single player obviously got more love during initial development.
Then there’s the departure of Leslie Benzies. We covered this a bit in the past, noting how the Housers themselves described him as the savior of Red Dead Redemption. When development was way off track and unorganized, Benzies dropped in and whacked things into shape, resulting in the legendary classic that has enthralled fans since 2010.
Benzies’ influence is also a major element of GTA. He acted as producer on the franchise since Grand Theft Auto III, and many credit him as being the “mastermind” behind the franchise.
With GTA 5 it was him that convinced the Housers there was a future in Online since the brothers reportedly dismissed the idea at first. Then, after the concept was given weight, Benzies openly opposed the microtransaction business model, which the Housers were pushing onto the multiplayer aspect.
Not long after this Benzies left for an extended holiday, only to return to the news that he’d been fired. Since it was Benzies whose influence saw Red Dead Redemption become what it is, his absence could be cause for worry.
Story Mode Versus Online
Finally, there is the general shift in tone and direction that Rockstar seems to be pursuing.
GTA Online’s massive success has given them a taste of what it’s like being a truly mainstream developer with a mainstream product, and with audiences this big, the rules change.
The single player focused Rockstar we knew and loved could be turning into a company more focused on producing a multiplayer experience that facilitates expansion – such expansion allowing for long-term content support and a consistent player base open to recurrent spending.
It’s up to Red Dead Redemption 2 to either prove or disprove these predictions and suspicions. The DLC being released for GTA Online is hardly enough to get a good profile on where Rockstar’s future is heading, but the upcoming Western title will be emblematic of what kind of a developer they want to be from this point on.
We’re not saying that the single player component of Red Dead Redemption 2 will be unpolished, completely neglected or half-baked.
There is a reputation to uphold and a legacy to honor here, and Rockstar won’t be prepared to abandon its roots. We’re certain Red Dead Redemption 2 will deliver a compelling and fantastic storyline with plenty of single player content to entertain us for a good hundred hours or more.
However, at the same time, more focus will be given to multiplayer. Man hours and money will be invested in Red Dead Online that might have otherwise been invested into the single player.
All that remains to be seen is whether Rockstar can pull it off and make both game modes amazing. We’re guessing they can.