The Key To GTA 5’s Success

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We have a guest article on FYIG today by Gable Turner. He goes through the interesting reasons why GTA 5 has been so successful since its release in 2013.

If you’ve been paying attention to game sales charts at all in the past three years, you might have noticed that no matter how popular a AAA title is announced or no matter how many hyped games are released, one game remained omnipresent on the top lists – Grand Theft Auto 5. It was always there, raking in insane amounts of sales without any sign of slowing down. Every now and then headlines would spread news of yet another milestone shattered, with 75 million shipped copies being the latest.

GTA 5 is a game that just keeps selling and selling like crazy. There were a number of factors which lead to this massive explosion of sales which managed to go on for three years uninterrupted. The game was launched across five platforms, three different times over the course of three years. It was kept fresh in the minds of customers, players who upgraded to the new generation of consoles re-purchased the game and wider audiences were tapped. Between this, an extensive marketing campaign and almost a decade’s worth of mainstream fame and media attention, the immense success of the game was a guarantee, in its first three years at least.

Thing is, Grand Theft Auto 5 sold more in 2016 than in 2014 and 2015. Those earlier years saw the releases of the Enhanced Edition (PS4 and Xbox One) and PC versions which benefited from improved graphics, first person view, additional cheats and a higher GTA Online player limit. The new editions of GTA 5 also benefited from a phenomenon called a launch spike in sales.

So how then, did 2016, the first year since the initial release of GTA 5 that didn’t see the launch of a new version, outperform the previous two? The causes of the success of GTA 5, in general, have been described above, but what can be thanked for the game’s continued success?

You don’t see news of GTA 5 and Online on the more popular gaming publications anymore, only the odd article here and there whenever a new major update is released. While they have hardly forgotten the game, it seems like the hardcore gaming crowd has moved on from the title and it’s not really relevant anymore. This brings us to the crux of the issue, which in the end is one of the biggest factors of the game’s initial success as well.

Grand Theft Auto V

See, the mainstream gaming crowd, who cannot even be called “gamers” by the traditional sense, haven’t moved on from GTA 5 since there really isn’t anything to move on to. For the hardcore gamer, interesting new titles are released every month or so – early 2017 has been particularly saturated with major releases, not to mention the launch of the Nintendo Switch. However, the casual gamers quite simply don’t care about 99% of video games being released.

While, in general terms, video games have broken out of the prejudiced “geeks only” zone they were relegated to in the past and became a mainstream medium with dedicated gaming devices appearing in more and more households, the games themselves are still very much stigmatized. If you play things other than Call of Duty, FIFA, Battlefield and, yes, GTA 5, you’re “one of them” (or in this case, us), and while this doesn’t have the same kind of negative connotation it used to, the divide is still there.

The average GTA 5 player won’t read this article. They won’t comment on N4G. They don’t care about Horizon Zero Dawn, Mass Effect: Andromeda or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (that’s one long title). They own a console – which console depends on what most of their buddies have, not things like what platform exclusives are available – and maybe half a dozen games, four of which are Call of Duty titles (though the ratio might be even less generous). They only ever touch single player modes when the internet is down, if even.

GTA 5’s immense popularity *is* the cause of its continued popularity. It’s the thing that everyone is playing, so all the newcomers to the casual gaming scene picking up a current-gen console for the first time will be buying this alongside it, almost guaranteed. The fear of missing out, alongside the power of word-of-mouth advertising, is keeping the sales trends for GTA 5 pointing upwards. Rockstar has done what was considered impossible for a commercial video game product – they created a positive feedback loop of sales.

In the end, GTA 5’s success is born out of GTA 5’s success.

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