GTA Online could generate over $100 million in annual revenue, says analyst
Grand Theft Auto 5 has already earned over $1 billion in sales revenue, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. According to Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia, GTA 5 has the potential to earn hundreds of millions of dollars more thanks to the implementation of its online multiplayer mode, GTA Online.
Launched in October, GTA Online allows players the freedom to run wild in Los Santos and Blaine County, free to partake in missions (Jobs) in order to earn cash that can be spent on frivolous things like outfits, cars, and even apartments. Alternatively, players can opt to purchase in-game money (GTA$) by spending real-world cash. This process is known as microtransactions and it's what could help GTA 5 generate millions more for Rockstar Games and parent company Take-Two Interactive.
"Considering the success of other free-to-play micro-transaction based titles such as FIFA Online, Battlefield Premium etc., we think GTA Online has the potential to generate annual revenue of $100M+," Bhatia said.
Given the large player base, that type of revenue isn't inconceivable; however, Rockstar has a lot of making-up to do with fans. Since its launch, GTA Online has been marred with hackers taking advantage of glitches and exploits ultimately leading to "game-breaking amounts of in-game cash" becoming available. To the developer's credit, Rockstar has attempted to crack down on cheaters with numerous patches, including the latest update which was actually designed to remove this "modded" cash from the game. It even placed these exploiters into "isolated cheater pools."
Unfortunately, the patch has led to some innocent players reportedly losing out on clean money. Even if players didn't partake in hacking or exploiting directly, it seems anyone in possession of this money lost it. And if they spent it before the update, they could keep their items and the cost would be deducted from their account automatically. Basically, a ton of players had cash removed from their bank -- even if it was clean money purchased through the in-game store.
Needless to say, they aren't happy about it. And many of them are blaming it on Rockstar, with microtransactions mentioned as the primary cause for Job payout nerfs. By continuing to lower the payouts of jobs, many believe Rockstar is forcing players to resort to microtransactions. From a business standpoint, this is great as it could -- as Bhatia estimates -- lead to millions in additional revenue. But Rockstar must be careful as to not alienate its fanbase. Microtransactions are a slippery slope and if you make your players feel like they are getting shafted they will revolt.
But while Sterne Agee seems fixated on microtransactions, they seem to overlook another untapped resource for additional revenue: downloadable content, or DLC. Another tactic used by publishers/developers to generate additional income, Rockstar has already said it has "big plans" for GTA 5 Story Mode DLC in 2014. Though we've yet to hear official details, I'd bet that more players are willing to buy into singleplayer DLC then they are for microtransactions.
Of coruse, there's also the whole rumor with GTA 5 coming to PC. That would also generate millions more in sales. And Xbox One or PS4? We've heard considerably less about a next-gen port of the game, but why not? I bet gamers would buy it again on next-gen consoles; I know I would. While Rockstar and Take-Two can earn millions more with GTA Online, there's still plenty of other revenue-generating possibilities -- especially for a game as huge as GTA 5.