Crime might not pay -- but video games about crime certainly do, particularly when they're the follow-up to one of the biggest franchises in gaming. Grand Theft Auto V -- easily one of the biggest titles left for the Xbox 360
-- went on sale today and cleared $800M in revenue in just 24 hours. That's not just a record for Grand Theft Auto, it's a record for Take Two, and possibly for the entire gaming industry. Last year, Activision
touted Call of Duty Black Ops II as raking in a record $500M in revenue, but this has blown way past that.
Reviews of the game are excellent, with an average Metacritic score of 98 and praise lavished on the degree of detail and visual effects squeezed out of aging PS3 and Xbox 360 hardware. It's not going to reverse the declines of the entire video game industry over the long term, but a game that hauls in $800M is strong enough to change the shape of the entire quarter
. That's a huge boost and it'll give Microsoft and Sony added momentum as we approach launch day for the respective consoles.
So what does Grand Theft Auto V say about the industry -- and about shifting industry trends?
Big Games Still Have A Place
There's a great deal of tension between console and handheld games
, PC vs. console games, free-to-play vs. traditional titles, the role of advertising, the rise of indie developers, and whether anyone wants new consoles to begin with. Given the state of flux within the market, companies that correctly predict these trends are going to be the companies that form the titanic powerhouses of tomorrow's video game industry. There are literally billions of dollars on the line and a huge number of people trying to predict what customers are going to spend their dollars on.
Grand Theft Auto V's enormous success is proof that blockbuster console titles are still a huge draw, even if it's not clear how many of those titles gamers want. That's a very real question: Almost ten years after launch, the answer to "How many World of Warcrafts" were there room for in the MMO market?" is in. The answer? "One." GTA V's enormous success isn't automatically proof that console developers can flood the market with 600-800 console titles a year (in the Xbox 360 / PS3 era, we saw as many as 900 games released in the same calendar year) and expect to turn significant profits by doing so.
But is there demand? You bet. And that's heartening.
The Treatment of Women Might Be Getting Slightly Higher Billing
I'm not going to say that GTA V is anything but misogynistic when it comes to its portrayal of females, because multiple reviewers have addressed that issue. But one thing I find heartening is that the gaming press is often dealing with the topic of how women are portrayed in video games, and dealing with it in more than a handwaved "That's the way it's always been" light.
An increasing number of journalists and players have begun calling for games that portray strong females without stuffing them into refrigerators, skin-tight micro-bikinis, impractical armor, or sex kitten tropes. No, GTA V hasn't changed, but the discussion around
GTA V, has, just a bit. And that's a good thing. Companies
are waking up to the idea that you can build games that appeal to more women without sacrificing gameplay or game design. In point of fact, you can wind up with much better products because those of us who play
games for their story lines enjoy robust characters of both genders.
Still No Official Word on a PC Version
There are rumors that a PC flavor is in the works, but no firm commitments yet or launch announcements. The good news, we suppose, is that the coming ascendency of the Xbone
and PS4 means that moving games between consoles and PCs will be easier than ever. In fact, both new consoles are PCs for all intents and purposes, particularly the Xbox One, which runs a version of Windows 8 on commodity x86 hardware, standard DDR3, and DirectX
. That should make it easier for game developers to target the PC platform, though it's not a guarantee they'll do so. Microsoft and Sony have plenty of reasons to keep their upcoming titles as console exclusives for as long as possible, so we don't expect to see a great deal of cross-pollination between top titles and the next generation -- at least, not right away.