How Did GTA 5 Become So Successful?

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Grand Theft Auto 5 Heists Money

With the gaming-sphere still reeling from the recent news that GTA 5 broke 75 million shipped copies, many people are undoubtedly asking themselves the question, “how the heck is this game still selling so well?” right after asking “wait, people who haven’t bought GTA 5 still exist?”.

Take-Two Interactive Software announced the new milestone in a recent earnings call early last month, amid news that the title nabbed top spot on game sales charts for the third time – in 2017 alone. The game has risen to the stature of being the best selling non-bundled game of all time, is consistently leading sales charts, and what’s more, the sales trends are pointing upwards, which is unprecedented at this point in a game’s life-cycle.

So how did Rockstar achieve this feat?

While we’re fairly certain that black magic wasn’t involved, we’d rather you didn’t quote us on that. What was involved, on the other hand, was a masterful use of a rare opportunity. GTA 5 was initially released around the changing of the console generation, and while several other titles were released during that period as well, it was GTA 5 that truly took advantage of the situation.

Of course, there was more to it than that, but let’s go step by step.

Grand Theft Auto 5 Sales Pie Chart

The way games usually sell, there is a major spike in sales upon and right after launch. Suddenly, the sales numbers drop sharply, then rise a tiny bit, and then remain steady following that for quite some time. After a while, this plateau, so to say, starts dropping steadily, until it reaches zero once the game ceases to be commercially available.

In the case of GTA 5, we’re looking at a wildly different model, primarily since it had not one initial launch sales spike, but three. The game was released three times over the course of three years in waves. Initially it launched on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, then the Xbox One and Playstation 4 and finally on the PC. Each time the game “launched”, it was met with the accompanying high rate of sales.

Obviously, Rockstar knew when the new (at the time) consoles would hit, and they made the conscious decision to release GTA 5 literally a mere month before then. The Enhanced Edition of the game was released a year later, and the PC version a year after that. The new versions contained a number of upgrades from the Xbox 360 and PS3: better graphics of course, up to 30 players in GTA Online lobbies first person mode, future DLC support, as well as a wider range of cheats – particularly for PS4 and Xbox One.