Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick, in a one-hour earnings call this week, said "The folks at Rockstar Games intended to create a powerful single-player experience and a story-driven experience... and then developed in addition, a massive multiplayer opportunity over the past years."
This seems to indicate that, much like they did with Grand Theft Auto 5, Rockstar Games will focus on single-player games first (remember that they did not expect GTA Online to become the juggernaut success that it has) and then look to expand them with multiplayer options
GTA 5 Still Sells At A Record Pace
Last year, GTA 5 and GTA Online both set new sales and activity records. While GTA 5 has sold over 140 million copies across two generations of home consoles and PC of course, ten million of those units were sold since May 2020. In 2020, the game sold more copies than any other year except than in 2013, when GTA 5 was first released on the PS3 and Xbox 360. In 2013, the game sold 32.5 million copies.
GTA 5's online component, GTA Online, has also continued to break milestones since its launch. According to Take-Two, the game had more players each month in 2020 than any other month since launch, had the highest participation rate from both new and old players returning to the game, and its revenue was up 28% year-over-year.
This may be amplified because of lockdowns during the pandemic but it speaks to the quality of GTA Online, since it retained and actually gained more players as lockdowns eased up. GTA 5's upgrade for the next-generation consoles, PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X, is predicted to arrive in the second half of 2021 with the PlayStation 5 version being free for the first three months. The upgrade will bring with it 4K resolution and 60 FPS, amongst other items.
Red Dead Redemption 2 has also been a massive success for the company, selling over 36 million units worldwide. Red Dead Online, just like GTA Online, reached more players in December last year than any month since its release back in 2018.
The Future Of Single Player Games With Rockstar
With the announcement of the next-gen console upgrades, GTA 5 is set to be stretched across three generations of consoles. This is the first time in the franchise's history that there will have been only one mainline Grand Theft Auto game appearing in one console generation (the Xbox One / PS4 generation).
According to Strauss Zelnick, "There was an argument just a couple of years ago, not around here, not in this shop, but in some of our competitors' offices, that single-player is dead, that it's all about multiplayer. We didn't believe that. I said specifically and publicly that we didn't believe that, our labels don't believe that".
While Take-Two speaks highly of single-player games, the direction that Rockstar Games is currently taking for its games appears to be geared more to expanding the multiplayer aspects, and using the single player experience as a hook, as can be seen with GTA 5 and Red Dead Redemption 2. Since the release of GTA 5, only RDR2 has been released by Rockstar Games, with their remaining output being free DLC for GTA Online.