The Fragile Economics of Grand Theft Auto Online

Official poster for Grand Theft Auto Online. Source: Rockstar Games.

Who says fake economies don't have real-world consequences? Grand Theft Auto Online creator Rockstar Games has cut the payout for repeating previously completed missions in half.

Talk about interesting timing. Parent company Take-Two Interactive (NASDAQ: TTWO  ) is in the midst of paying out a "stimulus package" of 500,000 "GTA" dollars to players to compensate for technical glitches that crimped gameplay in the first few days of GTA Online's availability.

At the time, Take-Two said it would stage the stimulus, paying out just 250,000 at a time in order to "keep the current worldwide in-game economy balanced." Apparently, that wasn't enough. Cutting replay values is also key to keeping economic forces in check.

From Rockstar's explanation of the changes in replay rewards:

Please remember that we are continuing to regularly balance the dynamic in-game economy and whenever we discover that there are unintended loopholes that some players are exploiting to grind cash or RP, you can expect that we will be adjusting or closing them.

Anyone else see the irony of Take-Two cracking down on thieves in a game that rewards stealing? Regardless, the changes reflect just how immensely popular GTA V has become, even if Take-Two's stock price -- down a little more than 1% since the game's release -- doesn't reflect it.

Time Warner could have a hard time exciting hard-core games with tomorrow's debut of its latest console hero, Batman: Arkham Origins. Too many of them are busy stealing cars.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. What do you think of GTA Online? Do you believe that Take-Two Interactive shares deserve to trade for a bigger premium? Leave a comment below to let us know what you think.

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Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On October 25, 2013, at 12:12 AM, JoshTorgerson wrote:

    I think their model is not going to be profitable because too many people have already accumulated gigantic sums of money (hundreds of millions) through exploits. The cash currency economy is already in shambles. However, if R* turned to selling in game cosmetic items (weapon skins, additional car mods, ETC) I still think they could make a boatload from micro transactions just due to the fact that so many people bought the game and are playing GTAO. I also think that TTWO is undervalued even without micro transactions as a source of revenue, but thats a different topic =)

  • Report this Comment On October 25, 2013, at 11:51 AM, gaucho420 wrote:

    Its a good thing the payout was cut in half on repeat missions. I played online tlast weekend with a player who clearly camped out in one particular mission, as he knew every nook and cranny like the back of his hand, which made the mission extremely dull and unfair.

    This way, you won't have people mining for gold by repeating the same mission over and over again, which quite frankly ruins the experience for everyone else. This is no different than the DB who camp out by the other team's spawn point in Battlefield, killing you as you spawn into the game. That's great you know the map that well, but it simply makes me look for another map or game.

    As far as people having "hundreds of millions", per Josh above, that has not been my experience. Most people still have small guns, crap cars and I've seen someone with a plane or helicopter 3 times since its launched and I've put in about 30 hours so far. 30 hours in, I have about $20k, spent about $20k and I tend to do quite well, so the supposed hundreds of millions doesn't apparently give anyone an edge, as my and my $20k have a kill to death ratio well above a 1.0.

    Perhaps the college crowd with tons of hours has hundreds of millions, but those of us in the workforce do not! Job, paying bills and living life get in the way!

  • Report this Comment On October 25, 2013, at 11:54 AM, gaucho420 wrote:

    And TTWO selling skins will not make them much money. That's a standard already on many games and I've never heard skin DLC doing that well.

    What they need is an expansion that includes SF or Vegas, and that adds in both single and multiplayer additional missions.

    I have the collector's edition, which came with extra skins and I looked at the once and never again.

    Added missions, vehicles, guns...things to use in the world besides a different look is what will sell. IE- REAL DLC.

  • Report this Comment On October 25, 2013, at 12:56 PM, speculawyer wrote:

    Meh. At the minimum, GTA Online has been successful at limiting the number of copies hitting the used market such that new copies of GTA V continue to sell strongly.

  • Report this Comment On October 28, 2013, at 12:32 PM, MattyF4i wrote:

    @gaucho420 (yay 420!); to be fair, I've earned something like 4-4.5 million in GTA O, with approximately 6 days of in-game time. I'm not much of a gamer, just a GTA fan. I haven't used cheats, or exploits, just consistently do new high paying missions, lot's of survival (20k for passing wave 10, only takes 10-15 mins in a solo session), races (fastest way to make cash and rp if you can drive), armoured trucks, and selling high value cars like the Felon GT, or the Gallivanter Baller (9500, and 9000 respectively). Where as people using the glitch they had in patch 1.03 were making many millions a day. A couple hours equates to a week worth of playing... I've been saving for days to purchase the Entity and Rhino.

    PSN: MattehF4i

    Sorry for the off topic, but it's sort of relevant, I suppose. Moderate at will.

  • Report this Comment On October 28, 2013, at 12:35 PM, Deadflats wrote:

    Best game ever. No competition.

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