Red Dead Redemption 2‘s multiplayer mode, Red Dead Online, is beginning to come into focus. It appears to be borrowing from the highly successful model that Rockstar employed with Grand Theft Auto V‘s online mode, GTA, in that fans can expect an expansive, open-ended playground filled with activities. Red Dead Online will also get regular updates to help players coming back–and presumably spending money. GTA Online has been a revenue juggernaut for parent publisher Take-Two, and while there are no solid details yet on how Red Dead Online will monetize players, you can absolutely expect microtransactions to factor in.
We spoke with Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter about Red Dead Online and its revenue potential. He said he expects the game to be successful from a money perspective, though he doubts it will match GTA Online. That’s no surprise. With 95 million copies solid, GTA V is one of the most successful games in history, and that kind of success is unlikely to be repeated, especially for a relatively smaller brand like Red Dead. Even Take-Two itself does not believe Red Dead Redemption 2 will sell as well as GTA V.
Still, Red Dead Online is expected to be a big-time money-maker. Pachter said said he believes the game can bring in around $10 per user each year. If the game sells 25 million copies, it could have 10-15 million monthly active users for Red Dead Online, which, assuming $10 per user, would come out to as much as $150 million per year in recurring revenue.
That is short of GTA Online’s revenue, but it’s still a massive figure. Not only that, but the margins on microtransactions are excellent, and all of this is on top of the $60 or more people will pay for the game itself.
“I think RDR Online will certainly be successful,” Pachter said. “Revenues from GTA Online peaked at around $125 million in the December quarter, and are still around $100 million per quarter through three quarters this year, so GTA Online is annualizing around $400 – 500 million per year five years after it initially launched.”
“I doubt that RDR Online will generate [as much revenue per user as GTA Online], but think that $10 per user per year is likely (similar to what we see from Hearthstone, Overwatch, League of Legends and Fortnite),” Pachter added. “My skepticism is clearly uninformed, as they may make this the best online experience of all, but I think that the setting makes success at that level less likely. Nothing wrong with the old West, but it isn’t as compelling as riding your helicopter to your nuclear bomb facility that was funded from your meth lab.”
As Pachter notes, one of the big questions for Red Dead Online is how many users it has. That is tricky to predict, but it’s a safe assumption that many will try the mode, with a smaller–but still significant–subset spending money on extra content.
In GTA Online, players can spend money on GTA$, which they can then spend on in-game extras. It remains to be seen how microtransactions work in Red Dead Online, but given how wildly successful GTA Online has been and continues to be, you can bet that Rockstar will further emphasise and encourage extra spending with the western.
Red Dead Online launches in the form of a public beta November, following Red Dead Redemption 2’s release on October 26 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
“Using the gameplay of the upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2 as a foundation, Red Dead Online will be ready to be explored alone or with friends, and will also feature constant updates and adjustments to grow and evolve this experience for all players,” Rockstar says about Red Dead Online.
Microtransactions are commonplace in video games at Take-Two and pretty much every other major publisher. Last year, Activision Blizzard made an astonishing $4 billion from microtransactions. Just recently, it was discovered that Halo Infinite is likely to feature microtransactions.