Has Grand Theft Auto Peaked?


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Broadpoint AmTech analyst Ben Schachter says:

“Has the Grand Theft Auto franchise peaked? Given the strength of GTA IV in 2008, the question may seem misplaced, but our concern is that the very highly rated new GTA content for Xbox as well as PSP and DS did not perform up to expectations in 2009,”

“Now, we very clearly understand that these do not represent ‘true’ new GTA titles. However, the fact is that these were compelling titles, attractively priced, and reasonably well-promoted, yet they fell relatively flat.”

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Take Two just lowered it’s Q4 ’09 revenues from $350-$375 million to $325-$350 million, which is the second time they lowered revenue projections this year, are expecting an overall yearly loss, and blamed this on, among other things, weak demand for “several of its key holiday releases”, of which we can presume GTA is a large piece.

Beyond that, there is a noticeable lack of gamer interest around the 360/PSP/DS GTA releases despite very high review scores and very heavy promotion.

When I was playing PSP Chinatown Wars, part of me was admiring how good the dialog was, how unique and attractive the graphics were, and how polished everything was. But at the same time, (IMO) the game was a real bore to play. All the missions and mini-games felt like real chores… Thinking back to the magic I felt when playing GTA 3/VC/SA (and even GTA 4), I don’t think anything had broken since then, but rather that the “newness” and uniqueness had worn off.

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On the other hand, I don’t underestimate Rockstar’s ability to innovate. From the previews of Red Dead Redemption, where the player can explore an authentic and stylishly recreated time period, this is my most anticipated title of 2010.

And of course, we haven’t seen much from Rockstar North’s “The Agent”, but that seems a safe bet in terms of quality, innovation, and ultimately gamer interest.

Bottom line, Rockstar’s premium development teams are no where near peaking, but their ability to spin off golden franchise formulas is definitely limited.

Take Two still projects to lose money in 2010 even with premium releases like Red Dead, Bioshock 2, Mafia 2, and Max Payne 3, which is a whole other problem; they probably need to fix or cut some of their under performing projects.


Written by: Darrin - Contributing Editor


  1. #1 by Royalty32 on December 9th, 2009

    Its becuase GTA had to go multiplatform. During its PS1 era it was the game to get. During the ps2 era GTA 3 just came and destroyed the competition and it made it the bench mark for open world games today. Going futher with VC and even SA which is the best selling of all time. Its when GTA went to the GBA, then the XBOX, then the DS even the PSP, now the 360. Ppl wanna play GTA on the console that made it what it is which is the PS. GTA needs to be an PS exclusive once again. Its just not that fun anymore playing on a different console. I think.

  2. #2 by JimmyMagnum on December 9th, 2009 [ 83111 Points ]

    I think it did peak, but if they want to get it back up there, then they’re going to want to include things that made the games fun. They took a more serious route with GTA4, and that took away from the over-the-top gameplay of it’s previous title, San Andreas.

    San Andreas had a lot more charm than GTA4 had. Though I didn’t really care for the story all that much, there was still tons more you could do on SA than any other game. Some key things that SA had included numerous planes, ability to modify vehicles, more garage space, lots of exploring, swimming under water was pretty cool, bigger vehicles (like the dumper at the quarry), more side missions (IMO, the vigilante missions were more fun in SA), and it had a frickin mountain with a ramp at the top lol

    IMO, a revisioned San Andreas in the late ’70s would be killer, though. As long as they include enhancements that GTA4 took away from SA

  3. #3 by Royalty32 on December 9th, 2009

    Yep, Jimmy u hit the jakpot. For the current consoles to have all this power under da hood SA made GTA 4 look like childs play. IN Sa u had biiger and better missions than GTA 4. Dont get me wrong GTA4 was a hell of a game but if the ps2 shuts up the 360 and ps3 then theres a major problem. U cant tell me that with all this new technology GTA 4 couldve been better than SA. It should of been better in every way possible. Then again this was the first nex-gen GTA, i mean its like comparing GTA 3 to SA. Maybe with GTA 5 things will be bigger and better than GTA 4. Which im certain they will for sure.

  4. #4 by Royalty32 on December 9th, 2009

    Sorry for rambling but to answer the question. Has GTA reached its peak. The answer to that is HELL NO! GTA 5 or whatever its gonna b called will be bigger and better than SA. Jus watch and see.

  5. #5 by Mike on December 9th, 2009

    I would not say the franchise has lost momentum until a full fledged Rockstar North retail release underperforms.

    I loved the Liberty City episodes on 360 but keeping it to one platform and sort of of waffling on it being just DLC and then a disc release never gave it much hype or promotion. A multiplatform disc only release would have gotten more attention, but I guess they took the money Microsoft gave them to handle it this way and will have to live with the results.

    Chinatown Wars is a 2D game – the series was not a big deal until it went 3D.

    They need to focus on the core installments of the series. They have not done anything awful in terms of milking the franchise up to this point but if Take 2 gets desperate that could happen, and that is when you will see less enthusiasm surrounded the full installments.

  6. #6 by Darrin on December 9th, 2009

    Mike, Liberty City episodes didn’t get any hype or promotion?!? That game got tons of hype and promotion. Remember Peter Moore with the GTA tattoo?

    Royalty, I don’t think PS-exclusivity will make the game better, but if that floats your boat, The Agent will be exclusive.

    The GTA brand peaked. The Rockstar studios definitely have not.

  7. #7 by yodaddy on December 9th, 2009

    SA was the best in that series… I bought GT4 but did not like it as much… I hope they do a GTA5 better than SA. That would be tha bomb, I do hope that they bring justice to Max Payne 3, If they don’t I would say that will be their way out of gaming…

  8. #8 by SL33PY on December 10th, 2009 [ 2371 Points ]

    I don’t think it peaked at all, if you look purely on the main franchise, I’d say they are still expanding. Also, in the past the only gamers were 12 yo kids with no life, those kids are now 30 somethings some with others still without a life. Just to say that those 30 somethings probable will live for at least another 30 years (hopefully) and also that there is still 30 years of kids in the making that are all potential gamers. The peak for this series will be the peak for amount of gamers in the world imo.

    Further more, this half witted analyst bases himself (herself?) on sales figures for platforms that are both heavily pirated and also not (fully) targetted at a mature audience, while the premise of GTA is.

    Lastly both ‘The lost and the damned’ and ‘The ballad of Gay Tony’ were not even released on PS3! meaning not the full potential of the customer base was served with these expansions. If they were, I for one would have bought them.

    I’m not sure if I would still buy them now, the PS3 super title drought has ended with the recent releases of Brütal Legend, Unchartered 2 and Assassins Creed 2 and still several 3A titles on their way for the comming months.

    As conclusion, I think Take2 missed the boat on the platform that made GTA big, and that was probable exactly what their sponsors (Microsoft) intended by paying more money then it costed Take2 to develop the additions in the first place.

    I guess it’s time to stop writing now, it got a bit bigger then I originally anticipated.

  9. #9 by David on December 10th, 2009

    I think they should make a Futuristic grand theft auto. Kinda like demolition man. Character went to jail and frozen, woke up 30 years later. Use future weapons and old weapons , hover boards and cars it would be sweet.

  10. #10 by mcloki on December 10th, 2009

    The economy didn’t help. Ghettoizing the DLC on the 360 may have made a few dollars for Rockstar but they hurt their franchise image. Now we know that Rockstar can be bought and will play favorites. Everyone reacts negatively to that. PS3 owners will think twice about buying vs. renting.

    Rockstar hasn’t peaked and I’m confident that GTA V will be a MMo type game that will be hugely popular.

  11. #11 by Royalty32 on December 10th, 2009

    As far as the GTA DLC goes, thats all sonys fault for not giving up the cash. M$ as we all know had to pay a good chunk of change to get those dlc. It wouldve help Rstar alot if the dlc was also on ps3 but like i said b4 blame that on sony.

    @mcloki your crazy if u think that GTA will jus change its game plan for all these years and go MMO. Like the good old saying goes, if its not broke dont fix it.

    I believe that the next gta will be set in another country and everything will just be 1000x better than GTA4 and SA.

  12. #12 by mcloki on December 10th, 2009

    The crazy is in the chance that Rockstar could turn GTA into monthly subscription “Mafia Wars” clone
    The two factors of Rockstar losing money and actively looking for more revenue streams, come on it’s not that hard to see the writing onthe wall.
    Rockstar could create a Subscription MMO World, And then sell single player DLC set in that world.
    You’re right about the old saying. It is broke because it’s not maximizing it’s earning potential. Capitalism and bean counting is coming to Video Games in a big way. Get ready for it.

  13. #13 by Royalty32 on December 10th, 2009

    You mite be rite by sayin that its not maximizing on its earnings but this is only the first GTA game on these new systems. Go bac when GTA 3 hit da ps2. Yes it was amazing but when u compare it to SA it looks like childs play. Nobody and i mean NOBODY wants an MMO gta game. They already have online play so whats the point. Its like telling IfWard not to have online play with CoD. Mutliplayer is what makes that game shine. With GTA open world play is the gem of GTA. U mite have a good idea on ur hands but it will never happen GTA is a game that doesnt need a drastic change it just needs to be alot better. Dont get me wrong though GTA 4 was an amazing game but when u look at SA and saw what that game did u kinda look at GTA 4 and go “WTF”.

  14. #14 by nitrolukedx on February 28th, 2012 [ 110 Points ]

    After reading all this debate I thought some of you guys might want to check out a GTA 4 video that I released on YouTube. It basically is Ballad of gay Tony but on the originally
    GTA 4 but a trailer in some sort please check it out and write what you think because I need feedback thanks LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoBd64dnSEk


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