Rockstar’s 2013 open-world venture into the criminal underbelly of their fictionalized satirical take on Los Angeles known as Grand Theft Auto V made massive waves at launch by making over a billion dollars in three days but nearly five years later, it has managed to become something larger than anyone would’ve ever predicted.
To date, the third-person crime thriller has sold an astounding 90 million units across Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, and PC and has retained its starting $59.99 price point since 2013, only dipping for occasional sales but no permanent price drops. This is pretty much unheard of for the vast majority of games with Call of Duty’s top-selling entries only being able to push about 25 million units. There have even been additional skews of the game for more money that give new players a boost in the insanely popular multiplayer mode GTA Online.
On a reported budget of $265 million, Grand Theft Auto V profited in its first week and has drastically multiplied that since then to accumulate an estimated $6 billion, roughly double the amount James Cameron’s film Avatar made which holds the record of being the highest grossing film of all-time.
“Video games are a much better business than [movie] studios,” said KeyBanc analyst Evan Wingren said when speaking to MarketWatch. “Games in general have the enviable position that their content is interactive, which allows them to make data-driven insights and adjust games and business models that benefit players and the company.”
With that said, Grand Theft Auto V has achieved the status of being the most profitable entertainment product to date, crushing Star Wars, Call of Duty, and any superhero movie ever made. Thanks to its longevity, Rockstar has been able to pump out more and more content to keep players coming back to their lucrative online mode which features microtransactions that Rockstar can continue to make even more money off of long after people dropped their initial $60.
For the last few years, people have been wondering if Rockstar will be able to do it all over again with 2018’s Red Dead Redemption 2 or the inevitable Grand Theft Auto VI. Red Dead Redemption 2 has already been confirmed to follow a similar formula to GTA V with an evergrowing online mode that will surely be a cash cow for years to come and GTA VI will likely do the same but analysts are skeptical that they could do it again.
“That’s not to say Rockstar won’t have other big hits—it may—but another ‘GTA V’ isn’t likely,” said Cowen analyst Doug Creutz when speaking to MarketWatch. “Michael Jackson had a lot of hit albums but he only had one ‘Thriller.’”
Only time will tell, Rockstar has been a household name for years thanks to their controversial nature but GTA V has helped cement them in pop culture history. Seeing that instantly recognizable simple yellow logo on a box or reading “Rockstar Games presents” in a trailer will surely be enough to sell people on future games alone.
Rockstar’s next game, Red Dead Redemption 2, will take players away from the sun-soaked streets of a modern day parody of California and throw them head first into the brutal and unforgiving heartland of America during the peak of the wild, wild west. Red Dead Redemption 2 will release on October 26th, 2018 for Xbox One and PS4.