GTA5: A Living World Eyeing A Decade Of Rabid Play Instead Of Just A 'Game'

from the ongoing-trends dept

A little over five years ago, I wrote about the seeming emergence of a new trend in the video game space: living and evolving game worlds instead of single-serving “games”. While MMOs and other online games certainly weren’t new even then, what with World of Warcraft having a decade under its belt at that point, the post did focus on several game publishers beginning to make noises about focusing on these breathing ongoing experiences rather than selling shiny discs, or even digital downloads of one-and-done games. And if that trend became the norm, it really would change the industry. Development cycles for the release of games wouldn’t so much be a thing compared with the ongoing and time-spanning development that would go into consistently creating new experiences within an existing game. For those interested in the gaming industry, or those concerned with how traditional development cycles and “crunch” have impacted design labor, this really could be something of an inflection point.

Five years later, this trend has only gotten more prevalent. There are many examples of living, breathing game worlds out there to choose from, but the example I will use is Grand Theft Auto 5, which has been an active hit for so long that it literally passed by a console generation. The game was originally released in 2013 as a single-player game, only to have its online component launch shortly after, putting it in the ongoing development cycle.

Grand Theft Auto V, in case you forget, was first released on the Xbox 360 and PS3 in September 2013. It didn’t arrive on the PS4 and Xbox One until 2014.

Let that wash over you for just a second. A single video game that was released before the PS4 and Xbox One even hit the shelves has remained both culturally relevant and commercially successful throughout those console’s entire lifetimes, and will now see an even longer shelf-life once it is released on the PS5 and Xbox Series X.

To give you an idea of just how long ago that was, the game was released with a trailer that spoke to America’s attempts to recover from its last financial meltdown, and there’s been time to have had another since. Other games on the best-selling list for September 2013 include Diablo III, Disney Infinity and Saints Row IV.

And, again, the game is still in active development, both on the online and first-person side of things. There will be an updated version of the game that comes out on the next generation of consoles, while the online community is still actively involved and playing in all of the new updates and releases Rockstar has continued to create.

The success of the game has far-reaching implications. Rockstar Games, with its own notorious reputation of putting its developers through so-called “crunch” periods, notably isn’t suffering from a ton of stories of crunch when it comes to the developers of the ongoing GTA5 world. Which makes sense: the deadlines are more squishy than getting out a AAA single-player game. It also means potentially less individual games coming out, which may be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective. For reference, The PS2-era of consoles saw three GTA games get released, while the PS3 had 2 and the PS4’s only GTA game was the port of GTA5.

All of that is because the development efforts are going into a lasting game with a ton of gaming participation, even seven-plus years after its release. If the gaming public is happy enough with that, then so be it. But it’s going to change the industry as this trend continues.

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Comments on “GTA5: A Living World Eyeing A Decade Of Rabid Play Instead Of Just A 'Game'”

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17 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Sorry whats your point I didnt criticise the game. I criticised the author for thinking the business model was somehow groundbreaking and worthy of notice when other games have been doing it for a decade before that.

Besides as far as I am aware a lot of gamers dont play GTA V whereas you seem to assume anyone who doesnt cant be a gamer….blinkered much?

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’ll say the trend isn’t new
The game isn’t around anymore but I used to play one of the many many muds out there called Majic Realm, they charged a monthly fee as well as an exorbitant hourly one if you went over time, had several developers (whom the players all knew) who constantly worked full time on expanding the game itself as well and running events..
Believe it lasted longer than 7 years as well

Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re:

EverQuest is releasing their 27th expansion soon. This business model isn’t new.

The business model of releasing more content certainly isn’t new. I think the idea of applying this model to non-subscription games is the trend to maintain longevity in a game. It’s even being applied to the street fighting game genre now. Killer Instinct 3 essentially did it, by coming out with multiple DLC seasons constantly add in new characters, content, and balance changes. And that concept has now carried over into other games in the genre as well.

Other genres will no doubt be challenged to follow this model as well, if they want to become a profitable game that holds players’ interest and withstands the test of time.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

What is "this model"? There doesn’t seem to be anything particularly different about GTAV

milking a good game for as long as you can with continual updates has been around a lot longer than gtaV.. Valve has been milking halflife forever

Adding DLC and/or free features supported by microtransations to extend your game’s lifetime has been done in basically every modern game out there too.

Doing this for a long time I don’t think is really new either.. They will do it until it dries up, the better the game the longer they can milk it. GTA 6 will come out eventually

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Lol, I grew up with arcades, I was a kid of the 80’s and the golden age of Pac-Man, Galaga, and Donkey Kong. I just meant I like ones that aren’t endless like MMO’s. Arcade’s a different thing since a session doesn’t usually go for nearly as long and they’re typically simpler and shorter overall. I’ve got literally hundreds of games on my machine, so I like being able to enjoy and finish one so I can move on to the next or bounce between a couple until I’ve got them done.

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