Rockstar recently treated us all to the latest trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2. The hotly anticipated release will be the developer’s first game since 2013’s Grand Theft Auto V, as well as their first game made from the ground up for the current generation of gaming.
A common theme for RDR 2’s presence in the realm of consumers is the fear that it will follow the same path as GTA V. By which I mean less focus will be directed towards a single player experience in favour of the allure of multiplayer profits. It is true that GTA Online has generated more revenue than any other entertainment product in history. It is also true that Take-Two Interactive (Rockstar’s parent company) have gone on record in saying that the success of GTA Online has led to them to consider the integration of similar online components in their future products.
At first glance, the fear of a monetised Red Dead sequel seems to be justified. However, such fears being the only notion for Rockstar’s future disregards the goodwill they’ve built up with their fanbase through years of memorable gaming experiences. The comment section for the latest Red Dead trailer on Facebook was almost exclusively oh so ingenious jokes about chrome plated horses and some other Western “puns” on a Shark Card. Brevity truly is the soul of wit.
To write a game off months before it’s even released (despite a lack of any tangible evidence to do so) only contributes to an insidious pessimism in popular culture that is ruining our enjoyment of things. The common complaint in the wake of GTA Online’s monster success has been that Rockstar will now sacrifice their single player experiences in favour of the profits available from multiplayer ventures. The only issue with that is that it isn’t actually based on little more than a hunch.
Look at the contrasts in marketing for GTA V and RDR 2. Rockstar banked heavily on their online component for Grand Theft Auto, and it played a prominent part in the game’s trailers prior to launch. In many ways, it was the primary selling point for the game. GTA IV had a rudimentary multiplayer mode, but it was more akin to the first Red Dead Redemption with an open Liberty City that was scattered with different game modes.
Rockstar built up GTA Online as a gamechanging shift in the industry. It was something that could possibly define the future of the entire series. Where its future goes at this point is complete speculation. GTA VI is still (presumably) quite far off, assuming Rockstar have been 100% dedicated to getting RDR 2 ready for market. It’s safe to say that GTA Online will continue to be a dominant force in their vaunted crime sim franchise, but let’s look at Red Dead’s promotion and try to extract anything in that same arena.
We’ve had three trailers at this juncture: a teaser trailer and two official trailers. The teaser mostly showcased the wildlife and fauna of the world, as well as some brief glimpses of character models and the drop-dead gorgeous lighting (seriously, I’ve never seen sunbeams look so alluring). The official trailers offered us more information on our protagonist, Arthur Morgan, and his role in the epic Western. We were also reintroduced to Dutch van der Linde and his ragtag crew of ne’er-do-wells. This includes John Marston, who will be re-contextualised entirely with a more youthful and less world-weary portrayal.
That’s three trailers and zero talk of online gameplay. Some may say that this is just clever marketing to downplay the significance of the online modes, but that would hardly harm sales. If GTA Online was such a dirty IP, then it wouldn’t have made more money than any other product in entertainment. People are going to buy RDR 2 regardless, the trailers could just be Sam and Dan Houser counting their money and it’d probably break pre-order records. A deliberate choice has been made here to highlight the level of detail in the game’s world and the key players in its story. Rockstar are obviously incredibly proud of what they’re putting together here and rightfully want to show it off.
Rockstar have one of the best track records in video game history. It’s rare that we’re let down by their games and they wouldn’t spend nearly five years making their follow-up to GTA V just to saddle it with an uninspired single player that’s offset by a money grabbing online experience. They’re better than that. While I’m not the biggest fan of GTA V’s story in terms of its themes and characters, it is still tightly written and affords the player a lot of freedom with its mechanics and depth of the world.
So, before making the decision of what Red Dead Redemption 2 is going to be without any knowledge of anything beyond the three trailers we’ve got, let’s try to keep things in perspective. How about waiting until the game is out and then formulating an opinion? What a novel thought.