Slowly but steadily we're drawing closer to the eventual release of Red Dead Redemption 2. Following yet another delay to October 26, 2018, Rockstar Games stated that we can expect further details to be revealed in the coming weeks.
Around the same time, a major but unverified leak may have revealed a large chunk of the game's features, both in single player and in the multiplayer Red Dead Online mode - and one particular element of the latter raised some questions. Firstly though, we need to review some of the other elements of this issue.
Recently, Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick more or less confirmed that microtransactions would be present in Red Dead Redemption 2 by saying that the company seeks to implement "recurrent consumer spending opportunities" into all upcoming releases. While after the success of microtransactions in Grand Theft Auto 5 it was basically a given that Red Dead Redemption will have something similar, hearing it from the boss man himself made them a near certainty.
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GTA Online, which features microtransactions, also contains an unopened Casino. Rockstar has teased opening it up with gambling gameplay in the past, and it seems like a perfect fit for the game's setting too. However to this day the in-game casino remains closed and one of the best bets as to why is because it would cause legal trouble (as in gambling with $GTA bought with real money via Shark Cards).
All this brings us to the question of Red Dead Online and gambling.
Gambling was present in Red Dead Redemption and its multiplayer mode, and was a fan favorite feature. Players mention it fondly on various online discussion platforms to this day. Since it's mostly guaranteed at this point that Red Dead Online will feature microtransactions, the future of multiplayer gambling in the title is in question.
There are, of course, a lot of unknown factors. The leak mentioned above indicates that the game will feature gambling minigames in multiplayer, but the leak hasn't been verified nor does it specify the details of said gambling. One way out could be by having players bet items, not amounts of money. If items won via gambling couldn't be sold at in-game shops, then the real-money economy isn't affected. Maybe this would be OK, maybe it wouldn't... (I'm no lawyer sorry).
Another thing to consider is that we don't know the nature of Red Dead Redemption 2's microtransactions. While GTA's model turned out to be extremely successful, that doesn't necessarily mean the same model will work for another franchise. Maybe players won't be buying in-game currency directly, but items, or standard currency and "premium" currency will be dealt with separately, unlike GTA Online's unified format.
The minimal gambling present in GTA Online via racing also raises the question of just how far anti-gambling laws can be stretched. Maybe the gambling in Red Dead Online will be present and will use the same currency as microtransactions, but have bet limits enforced and won't be a pronounced feature, more of a little semi-secret mini-game like the race betting is.
Either way, this question about in-game gambling in Red Dead Online shines light on just how little we know about the microtransaction set-up that Rockstar and Take-Two are planning for the game. Hopefully the next few weeks will see details published which clear things up.