From Rave Reviews to Rental Rage: The Controversial Twist in GTA VI’s Unveiling

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Tim Beisiegel
| February 12, 2024
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Rockstar Games and their publisher, Take-Two, recently released the much-anticipated Grand Theft Auto VI trailer. The trailer has been met with rave reviews, and expectations are high for this next chapter in the Grand Theft Auto series. 

But that’s not the only thing that Rockstar Games’ publisher Take-Two delivered. They also delivered some piping-hot controversy following that trailer release. 

Reports have surfaced that Take-Two thinks that video games (or at least Grand Theft Auto VI) should adopt a “pay-to-play” format. And while various dollar-per-hour rates are being tossed around, the real question is whether or not the customer base of Rockstar Games and the future of any other video game developers — will be ok with a rental situation instead of having ownership of the game they want to play the most. 

It’s a matter of precedent. 

Electronic Arts (EA) angered many of its core fanbase a few years back when they introduced microtransactions into the Star Wars Battlefront II game. With those microtransactions, you could get weapons and armor that others could not unless they also purchased the same items. Those who could not, or would not, pay up were certainly at a disadvantage against the players who did pay up.  

Star Wars: Battlefront II by Electronic Arts

The result of this action? Lawsuits were filed against EA, players were angered, and many stopped playing the game altogether. Battlefront II never fully recovered, and EA has been treated as a pariah in video game circles since. EA has earned a reputation for being a money-grubbing corporation that doesn’t care about its players.

It’s worth pointing out, however, that there has been a recent resurgence of players for Battlefront II since it was added to Xbox Live’s Game Pass, and you no longer need the pay-to-play options to compete with other paying players. Also, microtransactions are more acceptable now because, in most games, they only affect the look or skins in the game, not the outcome. 

How this affects you 

As a video game player, this potential move by Take-Two is very concerning. It marks a potential major shift in the video game-playing landscape. Rumors are circulating that supposed pay-to-play/rental rates could be as high as $70 for GTA VI. What isn’t known about that rate is the attached time frame given to the player for the game rental.

Also, if it is only a rental with a predetermined amount of time, will there be microtransactions in the game for cars, outfits, guns, or other items? Do you lose access to those items as a rental player at the end of the rental, or are they stored for your use on future rentals?

I know that my interest in playing a pay-to-play game is nearly zero. That interest needle definitely hits zero or goes into the negative when I think of the transactional purchases I have made being lost to the ether, unable to be used for any future benefit.

How this affects the brand 

We will have to wait and see how this pay-to-play idea works out.  But if the cost of playing the game outweighs the purchase price of previous entries into this franchise, Rockstar Games could alienate a loyal fan base and negatively impact their future games’ sales.

Grand Theft Auto isn’t the only game made by Rockstar Games. This could possibly affect the future of game series like Red Dead. Although I haven’t played a Grand Theft Auto game since GTA III, I often play Red Dead Redemption. Realistically, I would probably not play Red Dead Redemption 2 if I had to pay a rental fee. I don’t think I’m alone in that line of thinking.

Red Dead Redemption 2 by Rockstar Games

Another potential consequence of this decision is that it would put them in the timeout corner for a while, like what happened with EA and the micro-transactions. Gamers will avoid their brand and their pricing structure — no matter how good the game is if they feel like the production company is just trying to fleece them. So, until they go away from the pay-to-play format, this may negatively impact their game sales and brand, no matter how enjoyable the game is. 

The good, the bad, and the ugly. 

Ultimately, I think Take-Two and Rockstar Games will regret any decision to go to a pay-to-play format. Although some players will pay the fee upfront, most will not keep coming back. There are those who will want to kick the tires, so to speak, and see what the game is like and how it compares to previous versions of the Grand Theft Auto franchise. In my opinion, most will either only visit for a short time or avoid it altogether.

One game model I have enjoyed, and maybe Take-Two and Rockstar Games should pay attention to, is the world of PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS by Krafton. Krafton made the game free-to-play but included pay-to-play seasonal content and in-game microtransactions that only affected the skins of guns, vehicles, and clothing. Nothing that gives one player the paid advantage over the other. You can look cooler with all the skins you’re willing to pay for, but it still comes down to your skill, not your purchasing power.

Krafton runs paid seasons and introduces skins the players want to get, making us want to spend our money on them. It’s a form of pay-to-play inside of a free-to-play game that has been accepted without complaint. Krafton is making money. Their fan base is happy. It’s just something for Take-Two and Rockstar Games to consider.

PUBG: Battleground by Krafton

My overriding concern is that this doesn’t end well for gamers if the community goes pay-to-play as Take-Two suggests. They may win the battle and even the war. In the end, it’s the fans who get screwed if this happens.

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Junal Thigpen
Junal Thigpen
1 month ago

This would be bananas. I know corporations are greedy and their concern is not gamer enjoyment, just profit. But this feels way above and beyond stupid.

Drew Lewis
1 month ago
Reply to  Junal Thigpen

Agreed. It’s the same feeling I get when I download a game on my iPhone that has a season pass or monthly fee to access the main features of the game. It immediately turns me off. Just charge me a flat rate to buy the game and everything is unlocked. If you make more content for the game then by all means charge me for that DLC.

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