Grand Theft Auto is a long standing video game series, created by Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games. First developed and released in 1997, Grand Theft Auto (GTA) is a name used to reference how motor vehicle theft takes place in the US. The game allows players to pursue a number of missions, putting gamers into the shoes of criminals to create a number of ambiguous crime sagas; reckless driving, shooting of third persons, battling criminal gangs for territory bringing out action-adventure.
Rockstar’s blockbuster franchise has evolved over the years. It is created based on fictional locales. For example, Grand Theft Auto (1997) is set in London. Today, the game is mainly based on American cities like Vice City, San Andreas and Liberty City representing Miami, the state of California and New York City respectively. Note that the series’ subsequent titles tend to lay emphasis on the fictional locale and its surrounding areas.
Evolution of the Franchise
- GTA (1997) – The first in the series, GTA has simple graphics, focusing on criminal activities in Liberty City, Vice City and San Andreas.
- GTA: London 1969 (1999)- Although it played from similar engine as GTA 1997, it had British references; Sid Vacant (Sid Vicious of Sex Pistols and their song Pretty Vacant)
- GTA: London 1961 (1999) – This expansion pack was released exclusively for PCs, with scenes of London in 1961 and a Briton resembling James Bond.
- GTA 2 (1999) – It had a number of changes on its graphics and gamers could set day or night mode when playing thanks to the improvements on the game’s lighting system.
- GTA III (2001) – Saw the introduction of 3D isometric view supported on PS2, making it an instant hit.
- GTA: Vice City (2002) – Showing scenes of Miami of 1980s, the game had brighter colors with GTA III similar graphics.
- GTA: San Andreas (2004) – With over 27 million copies sold, this game was Rockstar’s bestselling PS2 game with fictional scenes of; San Andreas (California), Los Santos (Los Angeles) and San Fierro (San Francisco).
- GTA Advance (2004) – This game faced a number of technical challenges as it was supposed to be part of GTA III, for the GB Advance.
- GTA: Liberty City Stories (2005) – It came with improved graphics; higher resolution to support variations in weather effects.
- GTA: Vice City Stories (2006) – It was a prequel to GTA: Vice City but with more colorful environments in the city.
- GTA IV (2008) – Undoubtedly the biggest leap to the HD era, GTA IV came with more dense interactive features; more realistic character and animation thanks to the Euphoria physics engine.
- GTA: The Lost and Damned (2009) – Featuring the Lost and Damned motorcycle gang, this release was basically an add-on to GTA IV, downloadable on Xbox Live.
- GTA: Chinatown Wars (2009) – An interesting installment of all GTAs, it combines old school top down GTA and third person 3D games ever created.
- GTA: The Ballad of Gay Tony (2009)- Featuring a new character, Luiz Lopez, this downloadable add-on for GTA IV, seeking to fulfill a number of nightlife mission around Liberty City.
- GTA V (2013) – With substantially improved graphics, GTA V allows gamers to switch in between characters at will.
- GTA V: First Person Mode (2014) – Launched on Xbox 360 and PS3, First Person Mode comes with more powerful consoles, brighter graphics, denser foliage and more detailed textures.
Financial Success of GTA
The GTA series is currently a powerhouse in the entertainment industry. Rockstar North is seeking to make the game playable in new powerful consoles while improving GTA’s graphics to accommodate the needs of the ever growing list of gamers. As of May 2015, the franchise had launched the latest copy of this series, GTA V, which sold over 52 million copies.
Currently, GTA franchises boasts of selling over 235 million copies of the game series worldwide since its inception in 1997. This number closely follows the first person shooter game series, Call of Duty at 250 million copies. GTA V has shipped over 54 million copies, contributing around 17.5% of all franchise sales. Its predecessor GTA IV (2008) shipped over 25 million copies worldwide.
Rockstar Games intends to launch an online version of GTA V since the studio has continually supported other games in the series through its popular online mode, GTA Online. GTA Online has been growing and it has been predicted that it could be the future of Rockstar’s games having generated over $65 million on its first quarter after being launched. The studio is also working on a new story mode in order to expand its GTA series. It is likely that overall revenues could double, clocking up to $250 million per year, therefore sustaining Rockstar Games for a very long time.
Additionally, GTA 5 has topped in a number of commercial charts as the bestselling game. As at mid-2015, GTA 5 set an extremely high bar for other releases. In just 3 days of its availability, the crime title set the record for the fastest game to reach $1 billion. The franchise has also been voted in a number design awards; for example, in 2006, GTA was ranked among the top 10 designs in the world. Additionally, the GTA has broken a number of records on the Guinness World Records. They include:
- Most Successful Game on PS2 as at 2008 Gamers Edition- GTA: San Andreas.
- Largest Voice Cast on a Single Game- GTA: San Andreas.
- Most Successful Entertainment Launch of All Time- Grand Theft Auto V.
The GTA franchise boasts of selling a number of merchandise distributed by Rockstar’s official store. They include;
- T-shirts and Apparel with printed GTA characters like Michael, Trevor and Franklin.
- Wall posters and Art prints.
- Claude Action Figure from GTA III.
- San Andreas Playing cards and poker chips.
- Grand Theft Auto 3 Kubrick Box Sets.
Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. wholly-owns labels Rockstar’s GTA franchise and 2K. As end of the financial year 2015, the firm posted a net worth of $2.59 billion in its financial statement. Take Two is overly dependent on the key management and product development personnel on Grand Theft Auto franchise in order to keep afloat in the video game industry. However, Take Two has sealed a number of lucrative deals with World Wrestling Entertainment in order to develop WWE 2K video game.
- The furor over the “Adults Only” rating slapped on GTA: San Andreas scared off advergamers eyeing $11.5 billion video-game industry as one of the major emerging advertising media.
- Television personality Karen Gravano and actress Lindsay Lohan filed separate lawsuits against Rockstar, alleging that characters in the game were based on their likenesses.
- Target, an Australian department store, pulled the game from their 300 stores following a Change.org lawsuit against depictions of violence against women in GTA series.
So what’s the franchise worth?
Take Two, the holding company for the franchise turned down a $2 billion acquisition from Elecrtronic Arts back in 2013. This is before the more than $1 billion in sales of GTA V. Take Two’s current market valuation is $3.3 billion. If you consider what GTA’s share of profit is for the company it can be estimated that the franchise is worth somewhere in the range of $330 million up to around $600 million. Not bad for one game.