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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

What does the success of GTA 5 mean for the industry?

GTA 5 is out, GTA 5 is awesome and GTA 5 is selling like hot cakes. One of the highest rated games on Metacritic; the game has proved to be a darling for both the critics as well as the masses. Proof of the fact is it’s sales figure that has never been seen before on Xbox 360 and PS3. GTA 5 has managed to gross a billion dollars in just 3 days & thus has become the biggest entertainment launch in history, turning the attention completely from casual gaming to console hardcore gaming among the gaming fraternity.

But the game is not without controversies. The game has been branded as misogynist by the haters with a lot of people generally despising its portrayal of women. True the game may contain content that may not be acceptable to a huge population but the sales and ratings show that the same content is highly appreciated by another huge set of people. That being said, the success of GTA 5 is great news of the industry as it goes on to prove a few things.

1. Consoles are not dead: First and foremost, the humongous sales of GTA 5 show that the console industry is far from dead. It is in fact living with plenty of great signs of glowing pink health in the future. GTA 5 proves that if you are willing to take the risks, invest huge amounts of money (nearly $250 million) in development & come up with a game which is excellent in all aspects, you are not only going to recover your investment but also net a huge pile of profit. It replaces faith back on the good old days of game making where the developers didn’t really care about the quick hot noodle type of game making where the mantra of success lied in getting the game out as quickly as possible in the market without investing too much time & resources in it so that if it fails, we don’t lose a lot of money. GTA 5 proves again that if you were ready to bit your time to deliver a finely tuned game, audience would flock to it.

Yes, it is a proven franchise. True that it already has it set of loyal followers. But the adage that quality sells holds true today even for newer franchises. Look at the success of games like The Last of Us and Dishonored. Quality games that have not only sold well but have also given rise to franchises with much more potential for the future.

2. Being different is good: Secondly it provides evidence that success in this industry would not only come by making games keeping the masses in mind. Niche games, which can be controversial and not according to the taste of the masses can also sell huge numbers and make a lot of money. There have been many controversies about GTA 5 with a lot of people against the general theme of the game. But there is also another set of people who love to play these kinds of games, do stuff in the game that they would not want to do in the real world. These games have their own set of audience with a lot of them being extremely loyal. It creates high potential franchises as they find it much easier to differentiate from the crowd. Not every game needs to focus on the largest possible customer base as companies like EA and Activision has not faced the test of time by just creating casual games.

3. Diverse audience tastes: Thirdly, the success of GTA 5 is heartening as it suggests that gaming has a very wide audience base with different tastes. It is very important for any medium to provide different kind of content, which would be acceptable to different kind of people. This is really important for the mass acceptance of the medium. When more games like Angry Birds that cater to the casual audience, primarily female and kids & games like GTA 5, which mainly focus on the male gamers, succeed, it expands the horizon of gaming and brings more people into the industry. More and diverse kind of people trying and hooking to games can only be great news for the industry.

GTA 5 is controversial but so was Da Vinci Code. Controversy sells as it allows you to be recognized. GTA 5 is different but so was Thank You For Smoking. Its important as it protects you from getting lost in the crowd. And GTA 5 is great content. And we all know that “Great Content” always finds its own audience.

Siddharth has been playing games since forever and loves it so much so he decided to make a profession out of it. After completing his MBA, he decided to join EA to learn the ropes of the industry. A Game Producer and Game Designer by profession, while not playing games, he loves to read about them, watch movies and spend quality time with his family. His passion for writing led to the creation of this blog.
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  1. Good post. Not to take anything away from your analysis, but a couple of thoughts to append on:

    1. Regarding 'consoles' being alive or dead, the fact remains that not a lot of existing game studios can invest upwards of $200M betting on a single game, which is the kind of economics increasingly needed to create a successful console game/franchise. Not many people are willing to invest this kind of cash on newer games, leading to the ever increasing glut of only betting on successful franchises, leading to GTA 5/CoD6/MoH X/NFS Y etc because the economics of the console world work against it.
    In the long run, the number of people buying consoles isnt going up by a large amount, leading to higher competition for the same pool of gamers.
    2. Niche: GTA isnt targeting a niche by any angle, its actually targeting the vast majority of console gamers, who happen to be its target demographic anyway. :)

    3. Diversity: There isnt much on the console side, but even generically, diversity wont be brought in by games like GTA, since there are many others like it, but by newer innovative games that push beyond existing boundaries, and i mean beyond just console quality graphics..

  2. I agree with what you are saying Jasnoor. By this post i just want to emphasis on the point that to be successful in making profit making games, we dont just need to follow the market but rather just focus our effort in making games that are just high quality :)