Grand Theft Auto V publishers want microtransactions in all their future games, says boss man

A gang of microtransactors, yesterday

The endless quest for more American dollars continues without respite or clemency at Take Two Interactive, daddy of Rockstar and uber-publisher of Grand Theft Auto V. They want to put “recurrent consumer spending” in all their future games, said CEO Strauss Zelnick in a recent conference call for investors. “Recurrent consumer spending” is how men in suits say “microtransactions”, which is how men in slightly shabbier suits say: “we’re putting a shop in your videogame”.

Gamasutra listened in to the 50-minute call and managed to stay awake long enough to get some hints about the dark (yet unsurprising) future which lies in wait for all of us.

“We’ve said that we aim to have recurrent consumer spending opportunities for every title that we put out at this company,” said Zelnick. “It may not always be an online model, it probably won’t always be a virtual currency model, but there will be some ability to engage in an ongoing basis with our titles after release across the board.

“One of the things we’ve learned is if we create a robust opportunity, and a robust world, in which people can play delightfully in a bigger and bigger way, that they will keep coming back,” he continued. “They will engage. And there is an opportunity to monetize that engagement… There’s a lot of room for growth. This is just the beginning.”

This will not be surprising to anyone playing GTA Online, where the dollars of San Andreas have long been available for real life dollars. But it also means upcoming cows and guns blockbuster Red Dead Redemption 2 is likely to have some kind of microtransactions too.

Yes, we could all have probably guessed that but there it is anyway. We don’t yet know what form any such microtransactions would take, however. It could be a harmless hat shop, or a drug store where you buy various bottles of player-killing poison, or a fully lifelike economy in which you are enthralled to your mining boss and any attempt to unionise is met with a mysterious accident in an unsupervised tunnel. We just don’t know.

But my guess is on all three.

70 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Well this isn’t surprising but it is a bit saddening.

    • Iseedeadgames says:

      Next thing we know they will come to our houses armed to the teeth then ask for their share of microtransaction money

  2. His Dudeness says:

    Just don’t buy this games. It’s not worth it with all this scam.

    • ExParrot_1337 says:

      Sadly, we are in the tiny minority. If we weren’t, then this kind of BS would not be profitable. I give it about 5 years before my hobby, as I know it, is dead.

      I’d like to think that I can replace it by watching more movies or reading more books, but I fear that by that stage we will have ‘insert coin to continue this movie’ popping up every 10 minutes requiring a two-thirds majority of theatre patrons to drop a dollar in the coin slot in the armrest before it will continue. Books, on the other hand, will simply be sold on a cents/word basis. ‘Completing my library’ will be somewhat more literal.

      • treat says:

        That’s not necessarily true. Microtransaction systems aren’t exactly breaking the bank for publishers, they’re a cheap and easy way to eek sustained sales from something of comparatively little value. The majority don’t need to support these systems for them to be profitable (and the majority certainly don’t) but as long as there are some people out there buying into them, publishers will keep making that easy cash. The profit margin is outrageously lopsided in their favor.

  3. keefybabe says:

    Because GTAV didn’t make enough money?

    I have a huge steam backlog, I can wait all this microtransaction horror stuff out.

    • Premium User Badge

      oggnogg says:

      Because GTAV didn’t make enough money?
      Exactly. Because there is no such thing as “enough money”. The goal is to maximize profits and to continually find new opportunities for making more money. Always more. Never enough. As much as possible. And if you don’t like that, then you’re either weak, hindering progress, or a communist. Probably all of them.

      • Premium User Badge

        DuncUK says:

        To be fair, Rockstar would not have put anywhere near as much effort into GTA Online if microtransactions were not (over) funding its development and server costs. I hardly ever dip into GTA:O but every time I do there’s a massive patch and a ton of new content of varying quality. Asking players to pay for that content directly won’t work as it splits the playerbase, if I played GTA:O obsessively then I can imagine not being to reticent about paying for the occasional shark card.

        I will object to this if it starts invading single player games too much. The loot boxes in ME:SOW are entirely ignorable and pointless, but still have a cheapening effect on the game overall, desperate as they are to attract your attention in the game menu. If you want to add new content to your single player video game and need some way to fund it… well isn’t that how paid DLC normally works?

        • TechnicalBen says:

          By the same extent, Mafia run hospitals are the BEST hospitals. Same goes for most dictator ships and when a gun is pointed at your head.

          The means of funding does have an effect, even if the “money out our ears” can result in a good game (see Star Citizen for a less scummy but close to method).

        • ExParrot_1337 says:

          Even were I inclined to support microtransactions (which I am not) GTA:O was a hacker-infested wasteland on PC by about the 4th week after launch. And that doesn’t even include the 10 minute long load times to get into a game so you could get your ass immediately handed to you by a hacker.

          So… ‘effort’ gets about a C- at best as far as I’m concerned.

  4. The First Door says:

    I mean it’s really not surprising seeing as GTA Online has made them figuratively (and almost literally) all of the money in the world.

    Still though, if they they keep doing it in a similar vein to GTA V where the single player is untainted, and it’s just infesting the online stuff I’ll not be too grumpy.

  5. Premium User Badge

    distantlurker says:

    Horse armour is a premium drop in loot crates now.

    2006 me is looking at 2017 and is in full on, double face palm mode.

    • Baines says:

      Almost as sad is that if you call out a warning against some publisher tactic, you will still have a bunch of people spring up saying the warning is unfounded.

      No, even if there is an idealistic acceptable form, some publishers are still going to twist it and exploit it to the maximum, and will continue until their twisted form becomes the accepted status quo. (And even if it temporarily gets rejected, it will be revisited until it does become a standard.)

    • ludde says:

      Looking back ten fifteen years I remember a sense of limitless possibility. Games would often surprise you, even the big budget ones.

      A decade gone by and it’s all the same rehashed shit sold at higher prices and under worsening conditions.

  6. wombat191 says:

    This does not bode well for the future of both X-com and Civ

    • Premium User Badge

      james.hancox says:

      Pay $1 to re-roll when your heavy decides to fire his Heavy Laser into the ceiling at point blank range. Again.

    • Kollega says:

      I’m not an avid fan of Civ or XCOM, though I’ve got friends that really like those. But given how Borderlands is also a 2K game, and given how the wider picture is one of literally everyone jumping onto cash shop bandwagon… yeah.

      I mean, nowadays the indie market is burgeoning, and I barely buy or play AAA games anymore. But it’s still sad that the few good things remaining in the AAA market have to be taken away from us by caricatures of greedy capitalists.

    • dontnormally says:

      oh god please no

      • Premium User Badge

        Drib says:

        Phalanx will be done in six turns! Or, you can rush production with 15 Civbux!

        • Kurokawa says:

          Gandhi declares war!

          Avoid nuclear annihilation for only 30 Civbux!

          Buy “Total Retaliation Pack” for only 50 Civbux and get one “Intercontinental Balistic War Elefant” for free!

  7. Halk says:

    Screw Take Two games then. Easy.

  8. Syt says:

    It’s a disgusting development, but economically it seems sound – companies like predictable revenue streams, so instead of putting money into several big budget titles that can succeed big or fail big, it’s safer to have fewer titles that generate a constant income stream. It’s also why so many things areis a franchise now with sequels, prequels, reboots etc. – trusting the tried and true over taking risks.

  9. Gothnak says:

    It’s ok, Dollars back in red Dead Redemptions time bought loads of stuff, so the exchange rate should be pretty good.

  10. criskywalker says:

    Oops!

  11. GrumpyCatFace says:

    I was hopeful for a Kerbal Space Program II… Now, not so much.

    I don’t buy any of these shlocky games anyway, but the trend is infuriating.

  12. BooleanBob says:

    Isn’t it more like saying, ‘we’re putting a videogame in your shop’?

  13. Premium User Badge

    Earl-Grey says:

    Uuuuugh.

    UUUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHH!

    Well, as one of the few remaining people in the world who don’t own GTA V, this gives me yet another reason to avoid it.

    • Captain Narol says:

      Same here…

      The only Rockstar game I own so far is Red Dead Redemption and it should stay that way forever, even if the idea of RDR2 is tempting.

    • Eery Petrol says:

      I play GTA V for the single-player only, as I did with every GTA before it. It’s worth the money for that alone, especially if you grab it at one of the many discounts. Your experience will be microtransaction free, and the vast majority of negative reviews will not apply.

    • Vandelay says:

      Another non-GTA V owner. Held off until upgrading and then got Watch Dogs 2 for free with the graphics card. Played it for about 5-6 hours and was bored pretty quickly.

      Pretty much decided from then on that open world games have to do something pretty spectacular to entice me now. The latest GTA just seemed more of the same from a series that I’ve only ever had fleeting interest in anyway.

      RDR 2 could tempt me, mainly for the setting, but would need to hear more about the actual gameplay.

      • zoog85 says:

        Honestly I think GTA5 is one of the best in the series. It’s leaps and bounds ahead of the previous games in my opinion. The switching of characters was a much needed change to the series, and the humor and attention to detail is exceptional like we can expect from Rockstar. For me GTA 5 was actually the most enjoyable game of the series as were the single player heists etc. Played about 67 hours single player and 138 hours online. Still have a re-run of the single player on my backlog. Fantastic stuff.

    • Premium User Badge

      MajorLag says:

      I was done with GTA the second I played Saint’s Row: The Third, but this definitely ensures I won’t change my mind.

  14. Zanchito says:

    How appropiate for a game about Grand Theft.

    Seriously, a pox on this crap.

  15. Zerpherion says:

    LOL not a surprise, the loot box craze illusion now hit Take Two’s fat head.

  16. something says:

    I think I’m basically done with games.

    • Ser Crumbsalot says:

      Eh, there’s still a crapton of indie games, and it’s not like every AAA release does all that egregious bullshit.

  17. Crusoe says:

    Screw Take Two.

    It’s already obvious they’re holding off announcing the PC version of RD2 to increase the amount of double sales they can get. With GTA it happened as a result of tech improvements, with RD2 they’re just manipulating the market.

    Me at least, I won’t be buying their games anymore.

  18. tomimt says:

    Another company which goes to my “don’t buy”-list then. I think from now on I’ll just stick to old games. Though I doubt that makes even a microscopic dent in their finances.

    • Rane2k says:

      Similar for me.
      I still buy some of the large games, but for example EA lost me at Dead Space 3 (one of the first attempts at wringing cash out of a single player game with microtransactions).

      Activision will probably be next. (Tough I might make an exception for Blizzard, they are not as crass as others).

      Take Two just stepped onto this line as well.

  19. Eery Petrol says:

    I’ve played a lot of games where I was happy to support the people behind the game more and get some cosmetic goodies in return. That’s all good. Please when you protest pay-to-win, remember to not direct it at people supporting their continued work by selling cosmetic extras.

  20. jonahcutter says:

    So all Take-Two games are going to be free-to-play from now on then? No more $60-$100 up front cost? Since they’ll be designed around maximizing in-game microtransaction profits, it seems only fair.

  21. melerski says:

    $$$ red dead devs gettin paid this time!!

    (seriously though, I agree with oggnogg)

  22. dcobs123 says:

    Can’t Rockstar just ditch Take-Two? Aren’t they basically the hottest game developer on the market? Why are they complicit with this?

  23. cardigait says:

    Not unexpected.
    Still saddening.
    I hope that they will be punished for this kind of choice; it almost surely won’t happen.

  24. jp says:

    Ex-customer plans to pirate their future products, says random internet person.

  25. fish99 says:

    Not really surprising since we’re already in a world where nearly every AAA game already has post-release monetization.

    The real surprise with GTAV is that they didn’t tap into the single player market with post release content. A total guess but surely 30-50% of GTAV buyers don’t play the online. I remember Epic saying something like 90% of UT players never went online.

  26. Creeping Death says:

    “but there will be some ability to engage in an ongoing basis with our titles after release across the board.”

    Remember when that used to be worthwhile, meaty expansions you would happily pay for? Good times.

  27. Pigswillfly says:

    I know we all hate the micro transactions but it seems to me that it fills a niche which has been left open by the huge decline in players willing to pay monthly subscriptions (see decline in WoW players, Eve going partly F2P and more). So from that point of view as long as it doesn’t introduce game breaking items for real money I can put up with it rather than £10+ a month in subs. It’s not compulsory even if it is sometimes thrown at you rather untastefully in many cases

    • Frank says:

      Yeah, people rag on microtransactions for taking advantage of consumers’ psychological weaknesses, but subs are the same in that regard — they rely on folks not bothering to cancel. At least with microtransactions, you’re making a separate decision to spend each time.

      And the “it distorts game design” argument applies there equally well. I mean, that’s why MMOs are garbage grindfests that suck even when they go free-to-play. Anyway, I’m all for developers designing around experimental revenue models.

    • PseudoKnight says:

      Subscriptions paid for servers costs and ongoing development in a persistent world in MMOs. They were paying for the thing you needed for it to exist as it was. These are not MMOs. Microtransactions are paying for things that are often purposefully not needed. They are so successful that’s it’s starting to pollute most genres.

  28. Chorltonwheelie says:

    Tell them to fuck off.

  29. Frank says:

    I think you mean “publisher of Civ and X-COM”. GTA has been a trashy MMO-like from the start, so I’m surprised it wasn’t already microtransaction-infested.

  30. Archangel says:

    Dear God, the mountain of marketing bullshit-speak in that quote. I already filled my first bingo card and am delightfully engaging a second robust opportunity.

  31. PseudoKnight says:

    This is one of those slippery slopes that are actually slippery slopes and not just fear-mongering. Now that we have sufficient evidence of this, I hope more reviewers can put their foot down and reflect it in their reviews and recommendations. When this becomes their source of income (instead of just making a great game that people want to play), it distorts game development. For an example that is distant enough to see clearly, when arcades were designed around pay-per-play, games started adding in random unfair deaths. The same thing is happening here. It’s easier to see if you know how development works and if you don’t care for the particular systems it encourages.

  32. racccoon says:

    lol Rockstar are just greedy.
    They have forgotten what it was like to not have any money. Cashing in on stupididons, click buyers, is a easy to hook, market play in gaming today.

    Rockstar used to be a hero, not anymore, its just a corporate market plotting business.

    P.s.
    New Word Stupididons
    Pronounced Stupid did ons
    Stupididons meaning:
    Stupididons 2017’s data transfer buyers.
    Stupididons have no thought of what cash is & how to count it.
    Stupididons click n’ swipe away their earnings & life.
    Stupididons prefer not to count cash understand its value or see it.
    To be a Stupididon you prefer to be blinded by not knowing anything with numbers attached.

  33. zulnam says:

    Oh look, more scum.

  34. sapien82 says:

    I wish the gaming world would take a stand on this , we should form some sort of gaming union , a global gaming union of gamers
    and just refuse to buy them, put a total boycott on games and developers who refuse to remove microstransactions.
    We will only pay for games that are going to be finished and will definitely leave alpha etc.

    Think about it , who in their right mind would actually pay for an unfinished product?
    We have all gone mad , we are shelling out money for barely finished games and paying an arm and a leg just to get in to alpha test unfinished products which may never make it to fruition.
    We pay for DLC which in actual reality is what used to be called a patch or expansion and are made to believe it was the devs doing us a favour.

    It’s absolute bollocks that we have let this happen , where the corporate world has slowly sneaked into the world of hardcore programming and game dev.
    This world was once owned by hardcore programming geeks and nerds and those who were looked down upon by the corporate suits
    now the suits run the show and it seems like they are just tucking their tails and accepting the fact that their fellow gamers have to suffer this corporate shit show.
    The heart of gaming is dying , there are still some great dev teams out there , mostly indie ones but there are still some dev teams who refuse to microstransgres the gaming community

    cant we all form some gaming alliance where we just boycott all the devs who are being held ransom by their corporate overlords and return the gaming community to the hands of those who started it !

    • TrenchFoot says:

      Agree completely. I think the answer is that gaming has become a religion, or as people outside of a religion call it, a mythology.

  35. Artist says:

    I cant even recall how much cash i already shelled out for mircro transactions! I love it. A bit here, a bit there. I can afford that stuff with ease. Barely seen games get worse from this.
    Honestly, the truth is: your poverty is disgusting!

  36. thomas16632 says:

    i already boycott all cods from activision, for honor from ubisoft, most product from EA, no troubles to boycott red dead redemption 2.
    Lots of other better game to play anyway. Pillars, torment, games on gog mostly, not even drm, no BS.

    you’ll never see my money at all, and that alone makes me happy.
    You’ll get it when you stop your BS. Which is never i supposed, because MIB are bad men.

  37. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    As long as this stuff makes more money than regular sales it’s just going to get worse. The only way this trend can be reversed is if either A people stop buying these items (which is clearly not going to happen), or B governments step in to regulate micro-transactions and gambling-like loot crate mechanisms, making them less profitable and therefore less interesting from a business perspective.

    I tend to successfully ignore these things as a player (never bought the stuff and am honestly more tired of the backlash than the model itself). There are games I’ve really enjoyed that had these elements bolted on to them in some form or other (Mass Effect 3, Mankind Divided) and would rather those games exist with this BS included than not have them at all… but, much like achievements it does seep into the game design in a way that negatively impacts their quality in small ways and makes games just a bit more bloated and less cohesive than they could be, which is a shame, so it certainly would be good if this would go away.

    I’m not holding my breath though.

  38. hungrycookpot says:

    Everyone run, the sky is falling!

    • mftuchman says:

      Just because this issue won’t end the universe doesn’t mean we should just let bad business practices pass unchecked.

  39. TrenchFoot says:

    Philip K. Dick’s “Ubik” is coming to pass. Soon you will need to pay the door in order to leave your house.

  40. philosoaper says:

    fuck all future GTA games then.

  41. mftuchman says:

    This is just evil. Once I pay for a game, I don’t want to pay more. This isn’t Wizard101, where you’re paying for something more like time with friends in a room.

    If this happens, I will not play CIV6 or any Take2 game. I don’t like being nickel and dimed.

  42. Ham Solo says:

    Not gonna buy any more of their games anyway, but it’s sad they will destroy the red dead redemption series with this kinda bullshit.

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