Clearly, it wouldn’t have taken much effort to launch all five versions in one go, but this way the company secured three launch sale spikes, while keeping the game new and fresh. Thus keeping GTA 5 not only in the news, but at the forefront of the public consciousness.
So sure, they released the game three times, but you need customers to actually create those sales. GTA 5’s publicity had many things going for it, but the most important factor happens to be the one money can’t buy. While it’s true that half of the title’s $265 million budget went towards marketing, that alone wouldn’t have caused this much of an impact without the years of history and infamy backing up the franchise.
Controversy and Buzz around Grand Theft Auto
Since it debuted in 1997, the Grand Theft Auto franchise had its share of controversy. Various groups attempted to ban games in the franchise multiple times, only giving it more publicity, while popularity spread like wildfire after GTA 3 was released.
GTA 5 tapped what few games could: the mainstream market. Not every title has a veritable horde of loyal customers behind it like GTA, Call of Duty, Madden, FIFA, and Battlefield do. Sure, these are fairly popular with the core gaming community, but there are tens of millions of people out there who don’t identify as a gamer, don’t much care of the industry and only ever play these franchises. They’re the bulk, the vast majority, the backbone of GTA’s audience. These are the people who don’t read the gaming news, they don’t read the reviews and they don’t care about exclusives, 4K or third-party support. They buy consoles based on which one most of their ‘bros’ have, and grab whatever the hottest mainstream multiplayer title is.
So yeah, these people make up the majority of GTA 5’s customers, but if they don’t read gaming news like I said, how did they know to buy it? Simple. The fact that GTA is a mainstream sensation is widely known, so the game was covered by non-gaming focused venues as well.
Another major factor was the marketing campaign, which was less aimed at wooing newcomers to the franchise, and more of a friendly PSA to the casual gamers that “hey, there’s a new GTA game coming out, so you know, pre-order it and stuff”. There were billboards emblazoned with little more than a logo, the sides of buildings were painted with the less-than-appealing portrait of Trevor, and trams had the game’s name printed on their sides. That’s not how you sell a game, but in the case of GTA, its name is what sold the game.
So there you have it. Between a triple-launch and overwhelming mainstream appeal, GTA 5 was set for outstanding victory, and Rockstar played all of their cards right, taking absolute advantage of the profitable situation they manoeuvred themselves into.
Bravo, applause, pull curtains.
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