By the time the dust had settled, and the sun had successfully chased the moon from the sky, it finally succumbed to, and had its fiery light extinguished by our lunar neighbor once more. The day was finally September 18th, 2013, and Grand Theft Auto V was now officially 24 hours old. Although still a babe cradled snuggly inside of 11.21 million virtual cribs worldwide, Grand Theft Auto V’s cry had sold a glass shattering $800 million dollars worth of revenue making Leslie Benzies, Imran Sarwar, the Houser brothers, and ALL of Rockstar North the proudest parents of most would say all-time! Not another game created in the modern era could come close. Grand Theft Auto V would end up breaking seven Guinness World Records, not even mentioning the fact that it had previously smashed the internet the day Grand Theft Auto V’s trailer dropped. No game had ever seen the likes of what Rockstar Games had accomplished.
Thanks to Grand Theft Auto Online, an official re-release with enhancements on the current PS4/Xbox One generations, and an official release for PC; Grand Theft Auto V still hangs around the top echelon of games every month for sales and notoriety to this day, 5 years later. To date the game has shipped just north of 90 million copies and generated $6 billion dollars. This not only makes it the most profitable video game of all time, it makes Grand Theft Auto V the most profitable entertainment product ever!
Accomplishing these feats were monumental challenges for Rockstar, but now the real challenge begins; the only thing harder than achieving greatness is duplicating greatness! Some of the greatest entertainment properties have failed to live up to their prior success. A lot of times great accomplishments lead to insurmountable stress, and a lot of amazing hit-makers end up crumbling under the mountains of stress and fame. For example at the very end of 1976, American Rock n Roll band The Eagles released what would be their most famous album, and critically one of the best records of all time, Hotel California. The album produced 32 million copies sold worldwide with only the radio, small television markets, and word of mouth for advertising; this also led to the band winning two Emmy awards out of five nominations. After the year and a half that it took to create the album and the nearly yearlong tour that followed, the band was drained. Their next album The Long Run would take two years to complete and although the sales were decent, it was critically bombed for not living up to the hype that Hotel California had surrounded them with. This, coupled with the stress that the former album created led to the Eagles imploding halfway through 1980. They had created a monster, and that monster ate them. All of the members would not unite under The Eagles name for fourteen years!
With that taken into consideration, what is the fate of Rockstar games? We know Red Dead Redemption II is releasing in October, and yes the game seems to be hitting all of the right spots, and checking all of the right boxes when it comes to what we the fans expect from Rockstar. I still can’t help but think that all may not be well in Rockstar-Land. The success of Grand theft Auto V, and the Grand Theft Auto series in general, some would say rested on the shoulders of Leslie Benzies. But where is Leslie Benzies now? Well, I can assure you that he is not affiliated in any way with Rockstar Games. As a matter of fact the closest he has been to Rockstar since April of 2015 has been located inside of courtrooms and lawyers offices. The “Big 3” that was the Houser brothers (Sam & Dan), and Leslie Benzies produced and created many games that changed and some that really revolutionized what a video game is in the modern era. Benzies had his hands on the reigns as far back as Grand Theft Auto III, and we all know how much that game meant, and still means to gaming culture as a whole. Through back room deals, envy, greed, and maybe even some jealousy, Benzies was forced out of the company he had help make not millions, but billions with and if you believe him, billions for!
To my knowledge, Red Dead Redemption II will officially be the first major Rockstar title that Leslie Benzies won’t be a part of. Even though he had no official title on the first Red Dead Redemption; There is a pretty solid rumor that the Housers had to turn to Benzies to “save the game” when things apparently weren’t going so hot with development. The game ended up being another genre defining hit for Rockstar, and if this rumor is true (and it seems that it just might be) then that means that Benzies has had his virtual fingerprints on everything that has made Rockstar games what it is today. Virtually he IS Rockstar Games as much as Rockstar Games is a part of him.
Delays are inevitable; almost every major AAA title experiences them at some point. Certain realities however now beg the question of why Red Dead Redemption II has been delayed two times? Delays that have pushed the game back a full calendar year from its original launch date. Also the first Red Dead Redemption was developed almost exclusively by Rockstar San Diego, whereas its sequel is being developed by “Rockstar Studios”. Which means the development team is a collaborative effort between every single studio under the Rockstar banner functioning as a singular unit. This theoretically means that it is effectively taking 10 different studios to complete a successor game that the original only needed one studio plus Leslie Benzies to complete.
It is known that the Housers are big fans of online play, and with the endless customization in Grand Theft Auto: Online what does this mean for Red Dead Redemption II? More importantly how is that level or depth of customizable options going to cross over to Red Dead Online? There are only so many ways to customize a horse and a ten gallon hat. To me it is starting to seem as if Rockstar is banking too much on their Grand Theft Auto V hype, and that is maybe setting Red Dead Redemption II up to fail! If this is true then Leslie Benzies is no where around to bail them out, which could explain the long delay and the mediocre trailers that we have seen where actual game play has seemed to be scarce. With a lot of modern games, single player has suffered, and has been sacrificed (emotionally) for the prosperity of an online multiplayer game style. Diehard single players (me included) have been rode hard and put up wet just so certain gaming companies can get a slice of the PUBG/Fortnite pie. Can it really be possible that the company that reinvented the single player story has abandoned it for greed and micro transactions like so many other companies have? I’m looking at you EA! Could the single player game play be obsolete in the current Red Dead Redemption II trailers because the Housers have given up on it for a more “connected” online experience?
I am certain that Red Dead Redemption II will be another notch in Rockstar’s belt when it comes to hit games, just like The Long Run was for The Eagles. With so many people that complained about the length of Grand Theft Auto V’s story, I still wonder, and actually worry that Red Dead Redemption II has taken another step or even leap away from what made Rockstar games the industry leader it is today. There is an old saying that goes something like “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. There are so many companies playing the Game of Thrones when it comes to online play and micro-transactions. This one is on top and then the next, on and on it goes crushing us (the consumer) that are below it. A game that immerses us inside of every corner of the world you have painstakingly created, a game that keeps us invested long after we have liberated this, and defended that. Mostly, give us a game that we will be proud to stand in line and hand over our hard earned money for. We all know you can achieve this and I promise if you take that chance you will be rewarded with more than all of that money Grand Theft Auto: Online has given you. You will be rewarded with something way more valuable…RESPECT!
Red Dead Redemption II officially releases on October 26, 2018 for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One. To get your everyday Red Dead fix, stay tuned right here to Gamer Professionals! Your NEW leader in all things gaming!