Rockstar Games has officially announced the launch date of the early access beta phase of Red Dead Online. The multiplayer companion game to Red Dead Redemption 2, built on the same foundations as previous success title Grand Theft Auto Online, will allow players to explore the game's world together.
We've known that Red Dead Redemption 2 will get a multiplayer mode ever since the game was first announced, and suspected as much even longer. After the sustained, continuous success of GTA Online, which continues to see high player numbers 5 years after launch, it was clear that Rockstar will try to repeat the model. With microtransactions allowing players to purchase in-game currency for real money, a great deal of Take-Two's revenue is provided by this game alone.
With Red Dead Redemption 2's immediate and massive market success, it's likely that lightning will strike twice for Rockstar. RDR2 outsold its predecessor's lifetime sales in less than a week. Black Friday and Cyber Monday no doubt will boost player count even further, and then Christmas is coming up. This triple whammy of high-spending events is guaranteed to boost sales.
Rockstar opted for an open beta release before a proper one this time around due to the anticipated interest. In the case of GTA Online, the company had famously assumed that the multiplayer mode won't draw much attention at all. Instead, it's population boomed and stayed so high that Rockstar continues to support it with free DLC. Knowing how popular Red Dead is, Rockstar wanted to avoid the typical catastrophic launch that many other hyped multiplayer games have had.
Too often highly anticipated multiplayer or MMO titles suffer disastrous launch-days due to the developers being unprepared for a massive influx of players all trying to log in at once. This is why even the beta has a tiered launch: early access will open tomorrow, on the 27th of November, with full public access opening on the 30th, Friday. Between the two, players will be given access in waves based on various criteria outlined below.
The official statement announcing Red Dead Online refers to the multiplayer mode of the previous title, Red Dead Redemption. In a much more limited capacity, that game allowed players to explore and interact with the same game world as they could in single player. Players could customize their characters with full-body skins based on people we met in the storyline, and engage in a few co-op or PvP game modes. The same statement also calls out "best of everything we have learned since then about creating deep multiplayer experiences" which obviously means GTA Online.
On Tuesday, 27th of November, only those players who own and activated an Ultimate Edition code for the game will have access to Red Dead Online. The next day, Wednesday, all players who according to Rockstar's data played Red Dead Redemption 2 on launch day (October 26th) will be given access to the beta. On Thursday, this is expanded to all players who played the game between the 26th and 29th of October. Finally, on Friday, anyone who owns the game can access Online.
Rockstar is asking the assistance of players in the early days of the beta to report any problems they encounter in the multiplayer mode. Additionally, Rockstar is hoping to incorporate player feedback beyond mere bug fixing. Ideas, suggestions and general feedback regarding the gameplay experience will also be used by the developers to improve the experience further.
The multiplayer mode will take the gameplay of the story mode as a basis for the content but will allow you to customize your character and your abilities. Based on the description posted by Rockstar, much of the activities you'll initially see in Red Dead Online will be similar to what you played in the campaign - fishing, hunting, searching for treasure, robbery, fighting other gangs and so on.
However, a Posse system where you team up with 7 players to form your own gang is bound to shake things up. PvP can happen organically just by bumping into other players who decide to let their guns do the talking, or in specific competitive game modes with proper rule sets.
Red Dead Online is set to be supported by regular free content updates much like GTA Online. This will keep the game fresh and interesting with new things to do, items to buy and more. Part of the reason for the lasting success of GTA Online is the content support that all players can enjoy for no extra cost, and this is something Rockstar is planning to implement in Red Dead Online too. As part of their deal with Sony, that DLC is going to be available on PlayStation 4 earlier by 30 days, typically, than on Xbox One.
More details will be revealed about Red Dead Online tomorrow when the beta launches.