On the 29th August 2017, GTA V developers Rockstar Games released another large update for a brand new piece of DLC called Smuggler’s Run. This new DLC includes a major addition to GTA V’s online mode, boasting 14 new aircraft vehicles and 2 land vehicles. Additionally, characters now have more than 500 new clothing items to choose from. Players can also purchase hangars, customise personal aircraft and build a small fortune by helping Ron smuggle goods across the San Andreas border in new missions, following the theme of the previous Import/Export expansion from 2016. Smuggler’s Run is the latest addition to a long line of GTA V expansions released by Rockstar, all of which are completely free, something that is almost totally unheard of in today’s gaming industry.
“Seemingly gone are the days where players would freely unlock additional content and be rewarded simply for progressing.”
Ever since the early 00’s, game developers across the board have relied on DLC, or downloadable content, to give their sales an extra financial kick, whether it’s through added story-line content or cosmetic items through micro-transactions. Seemingly gone are the days where players would freely unlock additional content and be rewarded simply for progressing or achieving higher than others within the game itself.
But is there method to Rockstar’s madness? GTA V, despite its wealth of free content, does feature micro-transactions with varying amounts of purchasable in-game currency known as Shark Cards. With every new release, players are required to spend in-game savings to access new features such as offices, clubhouses and aircraft hangars which can act as a base of operations for missions. The twist in the tail however, is that these new facilities can cost a small (in-game) fortune, which sometimes leaves a lot of players empty handed. Those who are keen to play new content but lack the financial means are then forced to make a choice; either slowly grind through in-game missions, saving up the necessary funds, or with a few clicks, pay for in-game currency and buy their way to the top. Many choose the latter, giving Rockstar the financial kick mentioned earlier.
But is it all worth it? For Rockstar at least, that answer is undoubtedly yes, but for players, that value seems to be subjective. For £35, a player receives $8,000,000 of in-game currency. Considering that a fully customised hangar costs upwards of $4,000,000 and several vehicles also sit at seven-figure sums, that in-game currency burns off pretty fast- make of that what you will. As of 2016, these micro-transactions alone had doubled Rockstar’s original production budget and, with the added income it has reaped, it will most likely continue. The question is, will other games follow suit and continue to offer in-game micro-transactions but free DLC?