Rockstar Games recent announcement that their highly anticipated Western open world adventure Red Dead Redemption 2 has been delayed until 2018 was a disappointment to gamers, but not necessarily a surprise.
Rockstar are known for taking their time with new releases. The Grand Theft Auto series is one of the most successful gaming franchises in the world, but unlike rival franchises that churn out a new title every year or two, GTA games are few and far between.
Grand Theft Auto V hit the shelves in 2013, five years after its predecessor GTA IV. The later game claimed a metascore of 97 out of 100 on review aggregator Metacritic. Its predecessor scored 98 out of 100.
Their sales were both very successful. GTA IV shipped 28 million units. GTA V has, to date, shipped a remarkable 80 million units.
It’s clear that Rockstar’s policy of quality rather than quantity has paid off with the GTA series. By taking their time to produce games they are able to please critics and gamers alike and, in the case of Grand Theft Auto V, whose online multiplayer has been so successful the game is currently still on the highest positions of the best seller video game charts even 4 years after its release, have hit the jackpot by creating a game of such depth gamers keep coming back for more.
It is equally true, however, that the delay in the release of Red Dead Redemption 2 offers an opportunity for Rockstar’s rivals. This was pointed out recently by Ubisoft CFO Alain Martinez, who noted that “the absence of that game (RDR2) is of course giving us a better window for the launch of some of our games.”
This raises an interesting question: are Rockstar playing with fire? By taking so long to release their next major game are they offering rival developers the chance to win gamers over to their own IPs and the online communities AAA titles attempt to foster nowadays?
Rockstar’s approach is certainly a stark contrast to other developers. EA, for example, release new entries in their FIFA, Madden, Battlefield and Star Wars: Battlefront series every year and their CFO Blake Jorgensen recently stated that “I think we like our regular cadence…right now, our plan is not to change our cadence schedule.”
Interestingly, Jorgensen has also commented on the delay of Red Dead Redemption 2, noting that it is an opportunity for EA, but that the release of a major Rockstar title could also be good for them.
Thinking back to the release of GTA V he noted that “what we actually found is it grows the overall market…many of those titles get bundled to help drive or reduce the price of a console for the consumer, and it drives excitement in the marketplace, and we like that. It benefits the consumer and it benefits us because it generates a lot of buzz around games.”
Rockstar appear to occupy a unique niche in the gaming industry: a giant force in the market who are actually seen as a positive rather than a negative by their rivals. Rockstar games are so influential that their release creates excitement in the market that can help competitors, while their laid back release schedule allows other developers scope to find an audience for their own IPs in the downtime between Rockstar games.
It will be interesting to see how long this balance is maintained. The pressure will certainly be on Rockstar to deliver a great gaming experience with Red Dead Redemption 2. Otherwise, their rivals will be in a good position to capitalize.