What Happened to Rockstar?

Rockstar was once a studio that excelled in top-notch narrative writing that influenced a generation of young writers and video game developers. Releasing back-to-back classics every year.

With just one release in the last four years, the company is now almost unrecognizable.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

It’s far too easy to pass off what’s happened to Rockstar as merely a symptom of the times. We could look to the transition that Valve has made ever since launching Steam for a clue as to why Rockstar has severely backed off the gas in regard to their development pipeline.

It’s with a heavy heart that we look back upon the illustrious catalogue that the famed developer has put out over the years – only to see it peter out to a near standstill. We must accept the caveat that Rockstar is still releasing games, although their nature has become something much, much different.

Like Valve, Rockstar has gradually made the transition from pumping out multiple games over several years to producing one massive game that’s expected to last for many years to come.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong about this change of strategy. Rockstar has made more money on Grand Theft Auto V than any other game they’ve released before. And the cash continues to flow in due to the popularity of Grand Theft Auto Online – the MMO-like portion of the famed criminal escapade simulator.

Rockstar’s new game is a prequel to the already-established Red Dead Redemption. Which certainly indicates a lack of urgency for the company to explore new IPs on a regular basis.

With Red Dead Redemption II coming out this fall, it will likely mark the advent of another large expensive game straight from the Rockstar vaults.

This ever-growing move toward egregiously budgeted AAA games has shifted the role of the consumer. Shouldering them with handling the remuneration for all those man-hours spent crafting such elaborate virtual playgrounds.

The more that we head in this direction, the larger the projects get, and the more time they need to come to fruition. As such, if the announced project isn’t what you’ve been hoping for from your favourite studio, you’re out of luck. Enjoy the next five or more years of waiting before they maybe strike the chord you so desperately want.

As far as we know, no one is pounding the pavement screaming for another entry in the Manhunt series. What we do miss is the potential for Rockstar to showcase their incredible creative power in the form of some new and interesting IP.

As far as we can remember, CD Projekt Red is one of the only AAA studios to make such a daring transition from one IP into another – from The Witcher to Cyberpunk 2077 – in recent history, and even their transition has taken upwards of half of a decade to complete entirely.

The ultimate question lies within what players truly desire more these days: do we hunger for massive open-worlds filled to the brim with activities and quests to complete? Or do we yearn for more streamlined and nuanced narratives that leave us deeply impacted?

Regardless of our desires, it seems that the trend is leaning heavily to the former. The deeper the companies can get us entrenched in their gameworlds, the longer they can keep us there. The longer they can keep us there, the more attachment and involvement they’ll have with the game world – and thus, be that much more open to continually handing over cash to keep it afloat.

Just like any cause that people passionately flock to support around the globe, the era of content as a cause has arrived.

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