The Remarkable Success of the GTA V Casino Update Shows Rockstar Knows its Player Base

The opening trailer for the recent Playstation 5 reveal caused a brief flicker of excitement as the Rockstar logo appeared; finally, surely this is it, a new Grand Theft Auto game to welcome in the next-generation? Excitement quickly turned to apathy and disappointment amongst many expectant fans as it became apparent that Grand Theft Auto V, first released in 2013 on PS3, was receiving yet another remaster for a next-gen console. Grand Theft Auto Online continues to be a cash cow for Rockstar which they simply won’t stop milking, but how can its enduring popularity be explained?

Rockstar has been criticized for its use of microtransactions across GTA Online but the expansions themselves have been released consistently and always for free. The game has been kept fresh for seven straight years with updates including numerous new heist missions, a range of flashy new vehicles, and a host of different guns.

A huge update in 2016, three years after the game’s release, signaled the company’s commitment to refreshing the game world for as long as there was a loyal user-base. ‘Adventures in Finance and Felony’ provided players with an alternative to the conventional heist missions with lucrative crate missions whilst adding an entirely new weapon locker as a response to the player criticism of the existing weapon wheel. In this sense, Rockstar has shown that they have a keen ear for the wants of the community and are willing to adapt to keep them on board.

The most highly anticipated update of all, perhaps, came in 2019 with the release of the Diamond Casino & Resort expansion. The resort building has been an inaccessible feature of the game world since its inception with a teaser ‘Opening Soon,’ whilst six years might stretch anyone’s definition of ‘soon’ it still arrived to great fanfare.

The update was so popular that the game set new records for daily, weekly, and monthly active users in both July and August; a remarkable achievement so long after the game’s initial release. The update took inspiration from the vibrant design of online gambling sites like Paddy Power, which allows users to play casino roulette games among other table games. GTA’s Diamond Casino also offers roulette alongside blackjack, poker, and slot machines allowing players to win in-game supercars and high-end properties. And such, GTA Online experienced another boost in popularity with players have more options to pick from.

The update also included its most complex heist mission to date, in which player mistakes don’t necessarily mean ‘mission failed’ but rather the heist will continue with the added inconvenience of the error incorporated. This commitment to introducing new gameplay elements, a full seven years later, has helped Rockstar to retain a community for far longer than could have been imagined whilst continuing to entice new players onto the platform.

Incredibly, in January this year, the game re-entered the top five game sales figures for the month across all platforms. Its longevity has led to it becoming the third best-selling video game of all time with over 120 million copies sold and it still shows little sign of slowing down.

GTA V is a true phenomenon and, like it or not, Rockstar will continue to support it for as long as such a large community continues to play its online offering. For those desperate for the next installment, there is perhaps some light at the end of the tunnel with rumors of a GTA VI release date in 2023 (a full ten years since the latest iteration). If you’re itching a fix in the interim, maybe it’s worth delving back into the world of GTA Online – its transformation over the years may just surprise you.