The projected success of Red Dead Redemption 2 is a frequently discussed topic among fans and professionals alike, and is also often touched upon publicly by high ranking executives at Take-Two Interactive. The amount of hype the game generated in the months after its announcement, back when we didn't know anything about it, was more than what some games with full marketing managed, so the its success is inevitable. But to what extent?
One of the most common comparisons drawn, and standard to which people intend to hold Red Dead Redemption 2, is Rockstar Games' most recent release, Grand Theft Auto 5.
It makes sense at first glance, as both games are installments in popular and critically acclaimed franchises from one of the best-known game developers. Both are vast open world adventures that push the boundaries of what games can deliver in terms of visuals and depth of detail.
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However, comparing Red Dead Redemption 2, or indeed anything, to GTA 5 is being rather unfair to whatever you are comparing.
GTA 5 recently crossed the 95 million copies shipped mark which, since then, has certainly reached 100 million. The game is also the single most profitable media product ever created, eclipsing any other game, movie, TV show, song, album or any other work of media in terms of revenue.
Those are some colossal shoes to fill, and really, expecting any other game to do it is more than a little unreasonable. GTA 5 defied many known conventions of the industry to get where it is at. Beyond some unique circumstances, a healthy amount of luck also played a part in this achievement.
Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick knows this, and stated how unrealistic an expectation it would be to gun for an equal measure of success for Red Dead Redemption 2. Speaking with Gamesindustry.biz, Zelnick expanded upon how at Take-Two they don't assume victory until the sales are actually in.
We don't believe in our success until we deliver it. We never claim victory until it's occurred. We have very powerful, smart, capable competitors bringing great products to market and we need to win - that means we have to work harder than the next guy.
The above quote is a direct response to E3 2018. Many fans have already declared 2018 as "the year of Red Dead" due to the amount of hype the game is getting. There is no denying that it is among the most anticipated games of this year and has pretty good chances of being the best selling one, but it does have some stiff competition.
I think a healthy degree of paranoia and insecurity about releases is probably a good thing. I'm fond of saying that arrogance is the enemy of continued success.
Strauss Zelnick revealed that at Take-Two they don't like attaching exact numbers to sales projections. Pre-orders help gauge interested and the data derived from them are invaluable to retailers, however in the grand scheme of things, post-launch sales are the main attraction. Take-Two and Rockstar are confident that Red Dead Redemption 2 will do well financially and bring a tidy profit, but they are reluctant to go into greater detail with their expectations.
However, the numerous comparisons to GTA 5's success have reached Zelnick as well and he addressed this tidbit directly.
It's hard to expect anything to perform as well as the most profitable entertainment product of all time. I don't think that's a realistic expectation.
For all the hype Red Dead Redemption 2 is getting, hype only goes so far. The long-term success of GTA 5 may have inadvertently cast a shadow over the upcoming Western epic. 100 million copies is a big, fancy number that sticks in the mind. What doesn't stick in the mind is that GTA 5 sold that much over the course of 5 years, across 5 platforms, with 3 distinct releases, drawing upon more than 10 years of brand recognition and after the snowball effect of the huge player base had a profound impact.
The problem with the rampant comparisons to GTA 5 is that the human brain is awfully terrible at making and maintaining logical connections, and gamers are often particularly quick to render judgment. If this idea that the two games need to be rivals is engrained in the fanbase, Red Dead Redemption 2 not selling 100 million copies within mere days of launch will be considered a failure by some due to how skewed viewpoints become.
For a very long time now the question hasn't been whether Red Dead Redemption 2 will become successful, but how successful it will be.
A return on investment is pretty much guaranteed - though we don't know the game's budget, based on GTA 5's $265 million, we wouldn't guess that it went too much above that. Several million copies will likely be sold on day-one.
Rockstar Games has been kicking the hype machine into gear with more trailers, screenshots and the reveal of the special editions these past months with a promise of more info more frequently here on out.