Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Who Stands to Gain the Most From GTAIV?

1up has a nice feature up today pondering whether Microsoft or Sony will reap more benefits from Grand Theft Auto IV, which got me thinking about it as well.

There's no question that GTAIV is going to be a huge success. It's going to sell a ton (more like tons) of copies on both platforms and while most people agree that it'll sell more on the 360, thanks to its higher installed base, some think that the game will be a bigger system seller for PS3 in spite of that.

So basically, while Microsoft may end up with the upper hand in sales, the game will likely be sold mostly to people who already own a 360. Sony on the other hand, may see the game being sold to more people who will be buying a PS3 alongside it.

I think that's a fair estimate, but I also think it's going to be almost impossible to really determine who benefits the most from GTAIV at the end of the day. After all, MS no doubt sold quite a few 360's during Halo 3's launch to people who knew GTAIV was coming as well. Microsoft consistently outsold Sony through the holidays and I'm sure a big part of that was people knew that not only were they getting Halo 3 now, but that they'd be getting GTAIV in a few months.

I think the biggest question of all is: Will the $50 million Microsoft paid to Rockstar for the exclusive DLC be worth it in the end?

That really all depends on how significant the content turns out to be. Keep in mind that Gears of War cost $10 million to develop. The entire game. I would hope that whatever Rockstar is cooking up for 360 is very significant indeed because $50 million is a hell of a lot of dough.

It's also a hell of alot of money considering that, here we are on launch day, while hundreds of thousands of copies are being bought and sold as I type this, and we still don't know what extra content we're going to be offered in the Fall. Microsoft wants people to choose the 360 version because of this mysterious content, but they won't say what it is. Will it just add a few hours of story to the game? A new island based on Staten Island? An entire new city? All of the above?

If I had paid $50 million to ensure that the 360 version of the game was the one to get, I'd want to actually be able to advertise what it is that my customers will be able to get come the Fall because, as a customer, based on the kind of post-release DLC we've gotten for games in the past, I'd assume it ain't going to be much. The fact that they won't say what it is only reinforces that.

I'd be willing to bet that the average person buying GTAIV, the kind of person who doesn't follow video game news, has no idea that the 360 version is even going to have exclusive content. How would they? And even if they did, does it really mean anything to them?

There have been rumors lately that claim the DLC will be to GTAIV what Vice City and San Andreas were to GTAIII. That seems completely absurd at first, but $50 million is an absurd amount of money. On one hand you'd almost have to expect the content to be of that caliber to justify paying so much for it, on the other, you'd also expect, if it were true, that Microsoft would be screaming it from the rooftops, making it well known to people who are, right now, making their decision on what version to buy.

The conspiracy theorist in me would suggest that perhaps Rockstar and Microsoft would want to keep such a thing secret because it could result in PS3 gamers repurchasing the entire game come the Fall to be able to play the new content they had previously thought wouldn't be worth it. Rockstar has also said that they will largely be determining what to include in the content packs based on feedback from how people are playing the game. That certainly makes sense, but still, Microsoft has to have an overall idea of what they're going to get for their 1/20th of a Billion Dollars.

It's a safe bet that, like COD4's Game of the Year edition which includes a free token for the Variety Map Pack, GTAIV will see its own re-release come the Fall that will include a complimentary download of the first content pack, whatever it turns out to be.

I honestly don't think the sales split between the consoles would be much different if this exclusive content didn't exist, so Microsoft has to be pretty confident that they will make their money back, and maybe even make a profit on their investment. They're going to have to sell a LOT of DLC packs to do that though.

In any case, since they've been so tight-lipped about it up until now, I wouldn't expect any concrete news about the DLC until E3 in July.

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