While this isn’t a confirmation since no specific games were named, it’s become increasingly certain that Red Dead Redemption 2 will be getting its own multiplayer microtransactions when the game is released next year. Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take-Two Interactive which is the parent company of Rockstar Games, recently spoke about a number of topics pertinent to AAA gaming, with microtransactions being a major focus.
Zelnick represented Take-Two Interactive at the Cowen and Company 45th Annual Technology, Media & Telecom Conference held on the 31st of May, two days ago. One of the key topics was monetization and Zelnick’s take on the matter not only exemplifies why people complaining about GTA Online’s business model should not be doing so, but also strongly indicates that Red Dead Online will have a similar system.
You can’t give stuff away for free in perpetuity; there’s no business model in that. But we’re not trying to optimise the monetisiation of everything we do to the nth degree. My concern is, if you do that, the consumer knows. They might not even know that they know, but they feel it.
Gamespot reported Zelnick’s comments from the conference and it’s evident from what was said that he doesn’t turn a deaf ear to the community, even if he’s not a gamer himself, and at the same time acknowledged the criticisms of GTA Online’s microtransaction model.
Many players accuse the game of having abnormally high in-game prices while money is relatively hard to earn through missions, thus “forcing” them to buy so-called Shark Cards. Fans who play GTA Online and are looking forward to Red Dead Redemption 2 have expressed hopes that the multiplayer mode of the upcoming Wild West title (likely called Red Dead Online) will omit these microtransactions.
Players, however, often fail to make the connection between the revenue gained from these microtransactions and the stream of free DLC that GTA Online has been getting. It’s a pretty clear connection, since, as Zelnick put it, there is no business model in giving away that much free content.
Since Rockstar already has a timed exclusivity deal worked out with Sony, we know that Red Dead Online will be getting similar free updates after launch. If you ask us, three years worth of major DLC additions in exchange for microtransactions you don’t have to buy is a great tradeoff.
Think about it anecdotally – when you paid a little too much for something, even if it was something really good, it really irks you. Paying too much for something bad is even worse. Paying too much for something really good, even if you can afford it, just leaves you with a bad feeling. We don’t want our consumers to ever feel that way.
Zelnick also points out how other companies in the industry milk monetization vehemently and openly. While he didn’t name any names, we sure can: any publisher, with Blizzard at the bow, which sells blind-box microtransactions for games that you need to buy in the first place.
Not only did you pay for the game itself, and then the microtransaction, but you don’t even know what is in said microtransaction. You’re gambling your money whether what you get is actually what you want. On the flipside, Take-Two’s microtransactions are completely upfront about what you’re going to get.
We are convinced that we are probably from an industry view undermonetising on a per-user basis. There is wood to chop because I think we can do more, and we can do more without interfering with our strategy of being the most creative and our ethical approach, which is delighting consumers. We’re not going to grab the last nickel.
All this allows us to deduce some aspects of Red Dead Online.
The Sony deal is indication enough that RDO will feature post-launch DLC and Zelnick’s comments add weight to there being a microtransaction model present similar to the one seen in GTA Online. In terms of purchasable content in Red Dead Online, Rockstar will be taking one of two roads.
Due to the setting of the game, the pool of historically accurate items to buy is significantly smaller than in GTA Online. There were fewer weapons and no cars, no yachts, no planes and no helicopters. Horses might be kept at a stable as stand-ins for cars, but there are only so many different species and type of horse. Clothing options are also more limited than in the modern era, though a greater measure of creative license is available here.
In order for in-game currency based microtransactions to make sense, that currency will need to be given value by virtue of the things it can buy. With a limited number of horses, weapons and clothes, it’s very likely that property will be the main commodity. It’s possible that players will tend to a ranch that will require constant expansion and upgrading, as well as consumable supplies.
Another route is to engineer the value of currency so that even the few items available would promote recurrent spending, however this is a tougher model to pull off. Things in this model would either be so extremely expensive, or money would be so hard to earn, that the lesser number of available items would still be difficult to acquire through gameplay alone.
Of course, the main driving force behind GTA Online’s economy are the constant DLCs. If Rockstar “uses up” all the items from their limited pool on launch, the DLCs would need to focus on other kinds of content, mainly gameplay additions. However these do not present players with new goods to spend money on.
The previously mentioned homestead might be expanded on to such an extent that the DLCs keep adding to that particular mechanic, but the lasting appeal of it will need be accounted for and ensured.
Rockstar Games recently delayed Red Dead Redemption 2 until the Spring of 2018 in order to further polish the title, so we’ll still have to wait a while until we learn just what to expect from the microtransactions in this game… Especially if it follows GTA V’s suit and the multiplayer component is launched a month after the initial release.