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Why  GTA V 's delay could cause an industry-wide ripple effect
Why GTA V's delay could cause an industry-wide ripple effect Exclusive
January 31, 2013 | By Chris Morris

So Rockstar delayed another game. Is anyone really, truly surprised by that?

In my nearly 20 years covering video games, Take-Two's crown jewel has missed more initial deadlines than I can count, but that hasn't stopped them from knocking it out of the park more times than they've whiffed. This delay, though, could have a more notable impact on the industry than previous postponements.

Take-Two, of course, is already paying the price. Investors, upset about the effect the holdup will have on earnings, are punishing the company. Take-Two shares closed down nearly 7 percent on the news. But that's a knee jerk thing. 2013 earnings per share might suffer, but they'll make that up on the backend in 2014. No, it's not Take-Two that should worry...t's the larger video game industry that could face ramifications.

With Thursday's delay, Rockstar essentially lobbed a hand grenade into the holiday period – one that was going to already be plenty chaotic. Activision, suddenly, faces a serious threat to its next Call of Duty (presumably Modern Warfare IV - though Activision, naturally, has been mum on that) – and EA's next Battlefield installment could take a hit as well.

The blast zone that Grand Theft Auto V will create could be so substantial that its effects are even felt by Bungie, which is expected to launch its Destiny project (another Activision-published title) this fall, likely in November.

The bigger impact, though, could be on Microsoft and Sony.

Both companies are expected to launch their new console systems this holiday season. GTA, which is usually a system seller, could have the opposite effect this time around -- keeping players away from the new consoles by offering a compelling reason to stick with their Xbox 360s and PlayStation 3s.

That's a nightmare scenario for the console companies, which are going to have a tough enough time attracting a new audience for the systems. Nintendo's sales shortfall with the Wii U already had them nervous. The thought of launching a GTA-less system two months after what could be the year's hottest game hits shelves can't be an appealing one.

Of course, it's possible there's more to this delay than just polishing the game. There are, in fact, a couple of potential reasons to hold it back.

Microsoft has showered Rockstar with money in the past, buying first-pass rights for DLC content for GTA IV. It's entirely possible the company has done so again, buying an exclusive port of GTA V for the next generation Xbox -- and wanted the launches closer together. (Sony doesn't seem to be in a financial position to do so at present.)

Sales of the game would be minimal, since the install base of the system will be so comparatively small, but it would give Microsoft an important bragging right -- and make its next generation system seem very current and relevant to core gamers, who will be critical to this upcoming generation. (Keep in mind, those Destiny court documents that came out during Activision's legal fight with Jason West and Vince Zampella indicate that Destiny will be exclusive to the system as well, so having GTA in the fold as well would be a killer one-two punch.)

There's one other -- admittedly less likely -- reason for Thursday's delay. The Grand Theft Auto franchise is a lightning rod of controversy in the debate about video game violence. It is still one of the first titles people bring up when arguing games are bad influences.

Given the tragic events in Newtown, CT last December – and the renewed debate surrounding game violence (not to mention presidential interest in the effects of video game violence on players), would Rockstar or Take-Two stall the game until the debate has simmered down once again?

It's hard to believe so. It's almost impossible. But there's an intensity about the scrutiny this time that's unlike anything this industry has seen before -- which doesn't completely remove it from the realm of possibility.

Whatever the reason for the delay, this holiday season just got a lot more interesting.

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Harlan Sumgui
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I can't help but think that microsoft having seen the damage that Nintendo did to Sony's vita by moneyhatting a single game (monster hunter) is going to be doing the same with a couple of huge titles at the start of next gen.

If so, Orbis may be DOA. The long term impact of a single AAA console will bite these publishers in the ass though, especially given the fact that MS controls the PC space as well.

Michael Pianta
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If that happened I think Nintendo would fill that vacuum. But Sony isn't going down without a fight so I don't think anything that drastic will take place within this (upcoming) generation.

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SONY's entertainment division is one of their powerhouses (hence the current overall CEO used to head SE). It's their dedication to big ticket electronics that is killing them. Eventually they'll be forced to acknowledge this and the entertainment division will fly free so I don't think there is any chance of MS monopolizing the console space, especially given the "will they won't they" attitude of Apple and Valve.

Michael Wenk
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I think that if GTA V being a launch title for the MS Xbox 720, or whatever it will be called, would be powerful. GTA 3 was a hell of an factor in PS2 sales when it came out, there's no reason to figure that GTA 5 would be any different.

Joe McGinn
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I agree IF GTA5 was a nextgen game, something really using that power for gameplay or scope ... if it's just a XBox 360 port with a few new shaders, then I think the article's original point is spot on, it would make me want to just stay with my 360.

Daniel Boy
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Think GTA IV on 360 vs modern PC. RAGE is kind of flexible: 1080p vs 720p, AA, view distance, traffic density etc.
Oh btw, cars and shaders are so very much in love!
That you get for not that much effort. And if they want to rock the Xbox 3 they'll make higher polygon models of the cars.

Mike Griffin
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I suppose one positive is the buzz GTA V will create during a crucial season for the industry.
It'll get people talking, visiting their local and online vendors, and buying other games too.
But how many other full-priced AAA games will they buy?

For a lot of people, it's going to be GTA V plus 1.
Or strictly GTA V as the single big console buy, then a budget for lower-price games on other platforms.

Of course if MS or Sony manages to get a next-gen version squared away for holiday 2013, it changes a whole bunch of things.

We don't know their stance on backwards compatibility in the next-gen, so that could play a factor in terms of urgency to appear on new hardware or not.

The game is purportedly 60fps on current gen. I'd love to see a 60fps next-gen version with everything restored that had to be removed/compromised to achieve that frame rate.
It already looks pretty spectacular, so an enhanced next-gen edition could be dazzling.

Joe Zachery
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Like I said in the other topic on this matter. I believe the delay has to do with them up porting the game for the new consoles. Sony, and Microsoft have nothing for the release of their new consoles. So they need a game like this, but the problem is people will most likely buy it for current consoles. Then buy it for a new console that could cost at least 400 at launch.

Wagner James Au
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Seems to me a GTA V delay is the least of the consoles problems. Like GabeN says, their biggest worry should be Apple:

Kevin Alexander
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Wait, I can play GTA V on my ipad?

Duong Nguyen
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GTA 5 won't move enough consoles in the long run to make any difference for exclusivity. Even if every single person who wanted GTA 5 bought the next Xbox it would ultimately in a few years be a blip in the player base. The reality is people are more brand loyal than game loyal esp for consoles which will be priced well above 300$ by some estimates. Now if Microsoft could work something out like what Apple does with the iPhone and subsidize its cost to like 99$ then sure that's within the impulse buy range but I'm seeing nothing indicating this, just some rumors.

There is already massive pent up demand for the "next gen" console ( not Wii U ).. the first one that comes out within a reasonable price point will win simple as that. This extremely long console cycle has created a massive demand for the next generation console. That is why u see people jumping onto even small indie devices like Ouya etc.. which are using nothing more than repackaged current gen mobile GPUs which just due to the march of progress can match the current console generations power / performance.

Ian Uniacke
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Even if what you say is true though, selling a lot of consoles at an early point is critical for creating the atmosphere required to get developers on board that will lead to improved and sustained sales. So if GTA 5 sold 2 million xbox 720's that could kickstart a healthy ecosystem, even if that 2 million was a blip later in its life.

james sadler
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I really doubt having a GTA launch close to a console launch would really effect sales of those consoles. Backwards compatibility is a massive thing to console makers so people would just play the older console title on their newer console. It is kind of strange that they wouldn't just make the game for those new consoles though. I love Sony and my PS3, but to even have a dog in this new fight they need to launch at the same time as MS. That will be the nail in the coffin for them. The Vita wasn't killed by Nintendo. Its fledgling because there's a lack of interesting content in a market already filled with mobile gaming interests with longer loyalties.

John McMahon
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Backwards compatibility flew out the window.

I would have gotten a PS3 if it still supported backwards compatibility but Sony ditched the feature when they released new hard drives years ago,

Microsoft has it, but also has been pulling the plug on the servers for older titles.

james sadler
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After I posted this I went on the search for information regarding this. There are a few reasons that I am pretty sure backwards compatibility will be there. First is that they got a lot of flack from the Vita not having some compatibility with some PSP things. Second is that there exists a ton of content already on the PSN which Sony would be shooting themselves in the foot massively to basically throw away. If I remember right the backwards compatibility only went away with the PS3 slim, though I can be wrong. By that point the crossover of content had pretty much stopped.

MS has always had backwards comp. but the way they implemented it with the 360 was terrible. Only certain games from day one were available and some never were accepted.

I vaguely remember hearing the same rumors with the PS3 before its launch, along with the console not being able to play used games. That one particularly annoys me. I don't doubt that they, along with MS, will put in something that ties a disc to a specific user account, but locking it to one system takes it too far. I for one have multiple 360's and PS3's throughout the house (as media centers and for game development) so needing multiple copies of a game to play throughout my house makes no sense, especially with the rise of cloud saves. If it were the case I would then build PC's for each room and just use Steam. Something I'm sure they're aware of. Also if I want to take my game to a friend's place to play on his system having to pay for a new license doesn't make sense when I can just sign into his system.

Maurício Gomes
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james, only the very first PS3 that had 60GB had backward compatiblity, to the point that "60GB PS3" means in used console circles the "PS3 that supports also PS2" and it is quite legendary.

It lasted only a little bit, because it was bloody expensive (it worked by having all the PS2 chips in the PS3 motherboard alongside the PS3 chips).

John Flush
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< sorry, wrong thread >

james sadler
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I knew about the PS2 hardware being on the mobo, just didn't realize it was only on the one model. Thought it was all initial models. Could have sworn that I bought the base model (20Gb?) and only played PS2 games for a couple of months. Good to know that its still so popular since mine still works 100% and I'll probably sell it if the new PS4 supports PS3 content. Still have an original PS2 if we desperately need to play a PS2 game. Hell, still have every console going back to the Atari 2600.

David Bray
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Rockstar games cost too much to make to ever be viable as a launch title for a new system. They need to seel upwards of 5 million units just to break even. They can't do this on early adoption rates.

Ian Uniacke
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As long as it's cross platform though they can still have the next gen version. The only trick is that you can't release it on the next gen months later (eg Arkham Asylum on Wii U) because people will feel like it's not worth their money.

Jeremy Reaban
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Except, they are already making a PC version. PS4/720 will likely be no better than middle-high end gaming PCs

Sean Monica
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Actually this comment is for Jeremy. The PS3 currently is capable of handling much larger games right now, the potential for the graphics and processing power have yet to be met by a single game. So the PS4s system if you look at what it is rumored to have, will have more of a gaming / home theater system. They are putting way more into what it will have besides the gaming thing goin on since they do not need to increase the capabilities of the system. Also David Rockstar has such a massive following through so many that no matter what people get it for it will easily break that 5 million. They have yet to have a make or break game that costs them more than its worth. When that fail GTA game does come if ever, then that is when they will be taking a risk making another.

Geoff Yates
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I agree MS would have to pay some very serious money to have that to be an exclusive. However, they do have serious amounts of cash.

Alternatively, maybe an exclusive on the 720 over PS4 but still being released on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

Timed exclusive again another option.

Dan the gaming Guy
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I suspect the delay is so that they can upres / port the game for the next gen. Porting upward never truely hits the mark, but getting higher res, better frames and further draw distance would draw a lot of people in to buy the new systems.

I wouldnt doubt if the first parties would have give an incentive that paid for all the porting costs and more.

Jakub Majewski
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Firstly, Rockstar is one of the companies out there who most likely have pretty concrete info on the next-gen consoles. Both Microsoft and Sony have a big interest in ensuring that Rockstar releases a next-gen version of GTA V.
Secondly, as has been pointed out above, the PC version of GTA V would likely be designed for current PCs (though this is not a given - Skyrim wasn't).

The point I'm trying to make is that they're not necessarily porting upward - the game may well have been developed for higher specs, and ported downwards. It's a pretty typical thing to do at this stage in the console cycle.

Patrick Roeder
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don't forget Anti Aliasing! fingers crossed at least.

Ken Nakai
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I actually think Chris is right. It's likely they pushed it to sync up with a console launch. And even so, I would expect the new consoles to be backward compatible. Each subsequent PS and Xbox release retained SOME backward compatibility with a lot of previous version games.

Whether or not it'll be an exclusive is anyone's guess. Given Rockstar's history, it's entirely possible it could be exclusive but it would only be for a short time. They eventually release to others (even PC) within a year.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

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It's really not that BIG of a deal... They either port it to next gen consoles (yes that includes the Wii U too) or they don't.

Sean Monica
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I dont understand your argument, did not not read the whole article >.>

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Erin OConnor
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A bunch of pointless irrelevance.

As per GTA 3, GTA VC, GTA SA, and GTA 4 I waited until they released it on the PC and then purchased it.

Same story for GTA 5.

I am not going to run out and buy a console just to play 1 game.

Kujel Selsuru
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Some will do as you and many more will likely buy a new console to play the "better" version.

Kevin Alexander
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You are not appreciating how consumers think.

One game, doesn't sell consoles specifically, but one game can inch their decision from "Not sure" to "YES" if they are contemplating it at all.

I for example, bought the original Xbox to play Morrowind. They were not launching it on PC straight up, and I was a huge daggerfall fan and simply had to play the next game.

Of course this would be foolish to buy an xbox, play morrowind, then never touch the thing ever again. So I then began to contemplate how a new console might fit into my gaming habits, and I concluded that I could see myself playing other games in the future as well.

So what started as interest in one game, lead to me buying the console to play it on.

Even though GTA isn't console exclusive like morrowind was, you can rest assured their will be people weighting out the above logic in a relatively similar manner.

Wylie Garvin
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Morrowind was an xbox game? Wow, you learn something new every day... I only ever played it on PC.

[edit: I guess it makes sense, the original xbox used x86 and was the most PC-like console platform in that generation technology-wise.]

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Nah... If the game comes out for my console of choice, I will buy it, if it don't, I'm not going to buy a PC or Next Console just to play it. Publishers / Developers that make multiplats really need to think about what they port and if they are giving the gamer the optimal experience on the platform of their choice. If they are not going to do a good job with their port, I rather them not port it.

Amir Sharar
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I would love nothing more than a GTA game running at 1080p with the best texture filtering at 60fps. Oh yeah, and absolutely no load times. All along with the new media features coming from these next gen consoles, it would be very enticing. It may not be the one game to move consoles, but it would be the one game attached to nearly every single new console purchase, I can't see any other launch game featuring that much polish, story, production, and gameplay.

But I really don't think it's likely. It's an interesting possible explanation for the delay, but I can't see Rockstar being ok with potentially having the "worst" looking next gen title. Not saying that it doesn't make sense, it really does make a whole lot of sense for them to release a next gen version if they get paid for all associated costs in doing so.

As for the rest of the article it is a great point to bring up...the already interesting Fall 2013 situation just got that much more intense.