To nobody’s surprise, the release of Red Dead Redemption II has caused hysteria within the gaming industry with the likes of IGN giving it a perfect 10/10. With the Red Dead Redemption franchise, and let’s not forget GTA, why is it that publishers aren’t learning the lessons from the success of Rockstar Games?
Grand Theft Auto V had an influence on other games, but this doesn’t suggest we have a means of competitors; the closest would be the Watch Dogs franchise. Despite GTA V selling over 100 million copies, there’s unquestionably nobody copying the new features.
Although this seems strange, it has genuinely become somewhat of a trend in recent years. While developers copy good ideas from one another, reproducing the market leaders appears to be another beast altogether. If we look at a list of 20 best-selling games, around half will be from Nintendo, and nobody has attempted to clone their games just as we see with Rockstar.
What about Sony? This fourth generation of console has been all about stunning single-player games for the PS4, but this hasn’t replicated anywhere else in the industry. Is it because developers and publishers alike don’t want to crash and burn at the very attempt to compete with the biggest names? In many other markets, this would be strange considering Rockstar and Nintendo release new games so rarely. In the gaming industry, it starts to answer our question a little more.
Importance of Release Dates
With Red Dead Redemption II, it has taken well over eight years for the sequel to be released (and well over two years since the announcement of this second game). For GTA, the story is similar with sequels taking around five years. Meanwhile, Nintendo tends to aim for a maximum of two sequels per generation. Ultimately, this means that the excitement and hunger for a new game build to euphoric levels and this has led to the passionate fan bases we see today.
With Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty, their games come nearly every year so why are they producing games so quickly? So far, Black Ops 4 has had a positive reception, and it seems to have brought back some of the more traditional Call of Duty players; this hasn’t been the case for Call of Duty though in recent years, and their fan base has lost some trust. For Epic Games, they’ve been riding the Fortnite wave and will continue to release new content for as long as the game remains popular. For Activision, who works with numerous developers on a rotation for the Call of Duty franchise, they’ll already be thinking about promoting the next game.
With these as prime examples, the evidence suggests that franchises have a longer and more prosperous life when the sequels are spaced out. Rather than releasing a game each year and the franchise burning out quickly, success comes when publishers take their time. So, why are major brands struggling to see this?
Power of Microtransactions
If you’re a gamer yourself, you’ll know that ‘microtransaction’ is a word that has everybody talking right now. While many publishers seem to be taking advantage of the system and getting as much revenue from them as possible, Rockstar has kept the whole process fair with GTA Online ever since its release. Not only is the system fair, but the content is always being updated too.
Is money preventing other publishers from developing a fair system? Well, both Activision and EA are bigger companies so there’s no reason why they can’t afford to maintain a system like GTA Online. Unfortunately, the answer to many of the questions here comes down to nerves. Publishers don’t have the nerve to keep gamers hanging for longer than necessary, and they don’t have the nerve to take risks and abandon their yearly release plan.
Earlier, we touched upon the two years between the announcement of Red Dead Redemption II and its release, and this included two different delays. Would other publishers have the nerve to delay their game once (let alone twice!)? Rockstar is happy to wait, they’re glad to spend money, and the calendar means nothing to them; they don’t need the Christmas market. Other publishers don’t have the confidence of Rockstar in their product, and they act surprised when games aren’t received well. Have they lost the ability to judge what their developers are making?
We don’t believe there’s a significant ‘secret’ behind the success of Rockstar. Instead, the company works hard, and they take their time. They respect their customers too; rather than selling a game a year and inundating these games with microtransactions, they give gamers what they want, and this includes a huge value for their money.