Rockstar's Houser: There's a "huge audience" for single-player

Dan Houser explains why GTA V's online mode didn't come at the game's launch

Next week, players will get a chance to play Grand Theft Auto V's microtransaction-powered online multiplayer mode, GTA Online. In an odd state of affairs, Rockstar decided not to release GTA Online when GTA V came out. Rockstar co-founder and Grand Theft Auto V writer Dan Houser told Polygon that part of the reason for the delay was logistical.

"To make games on this scale is very, very hard and anyone you speak to who works on those big games will, if they're honest, admit that there are a lot of moving parts," Houser said. "So, we were concerned that trying to finish them both for the same day would lead to a compromise in quality. On a practical level, it was very important that they each get a period when they can be really focused on by large numbers of the team to iron out as many problems as possible."

The second reason behind the staggered launch is focus: players would be too busy with GTA V's single-player to care about the adjoining GTA Online. With the delayed release, players have had two weeks to come to terms with the world of GTA V before jumping online.

"I think we were concerned that some of our previous games, while they still had a very fun multiplayer component to them, it was almost like it was being cannibalized by the enormity of the single player game," Houser said. "People were just not focusing on it. So by moving it, we really wanted to go all in and make this much bigger, much more encompassing, a stand-alone product essentially. By making it separate you give people a reason to look at it as a different thing."

"You can play single player," he added. "You can really learn how the game works, learn the mechanics. You can start multiplayer after two weeks and it will really give them a real focus on where to look at the thing. I think that separating it out will just help people look at it as different products in their own mind a bit more and really give it a good chance to try and play it and enjoy it. Otherwise, you try it for two minutes, it's hard to connect because it's day one, and back you go to the single player, play that and never go back into playing online."

Houser still sees significant value in single-player games, even with the rise in online multiplayer titles.

"I think the well executed multiplayer game clearly attracts a big audience, but it doesn't attract as big an audience as in a single player game. It just doesn't do that yet," Houser explained.

"Not everybody, not even with Call of Duty, not everyone is playing the multiplayer," he said. "There's a huge audience for people who love single-player adventures. And I think what we make is action adventure-games. Games with ever stronger mechanics and an ever stronger adventure component. They're not quite RPG's but it's getting harder and harder to say what the difference is between an RPG and what we do. The space between the two has in the past few years has gotten smaller and smaller."

"I think a short single player game struggles. That's what's happened. But a big single player adventure can do well if it's a good game. Just as a focused multiplayer game can do well if it's a big game. The only area where it's become tough is for a short single player campaign without multiplayer. That's become a tough market, I believe. The rest of it, everything is just moved in one direction without moving away from the other direction."

Related stories

Red Dead Online's in-game poker unavailable in certain regions

Despite no connection with real-world money, players in countries with strict gambling laws may not be able to access minigame

By Rebekah Valentine

Rockstar acquires Dhruva Interactive from Starbreeze for $7.9m

Indian art production studio joins Red Dead Redemption publisher as Starbreeze continues to struggle

By Rebekah Valentine

Latest comments (5)

Pier Castonguay Programmer 5 years ago
Proud member of the exclusively single-player player. I can't stand online matches, it seems to me like repetition over repetition of a simple game rule. I want story, I want to see my actions going somewhere, not just raking up points. To quote the article's example, I completed (and loved) every Call Of Duty campaigns ever done, but never played multiplayer since a few matches in CoD4.
8Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Paul Jace Merchandiser 5 years ago
The only area where it's become tough is for a short single player campaign without multiplayer. That's become a tough market, I believe.
I agree with that, although there are others who like short single player campaign games due to time contraints. While I also don't mind them every now and then, I would never pay full $60 retail for a single player only game that last less than 8 hours and included no multiplayer. To me games like that are worth $30 max. That doesn't mean there aren't any good short single player only games but for me I'd have to pay for them according to the value I would be getting out of it. But for a longer single player only game thats 15+ hours or something like Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic I and II(40+ hours) that also has a really great story line and fantastic gameplay I would gladly pay the full $60 retail price.

But regardless of people's opinion on game length, there will always be just as much demand for single player games as there are for multiplayer games. Luckily I enjoy them both. It all demands on the specific game experience I'm looking for.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Paul Jace on 29th September 2013 3:56am

2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 5 years ago
Hm. I remember when people re-played "short" games and didn't shift them back to the stores so quickly. A good game to me is like a good book. Long or short, if it's GOOD, it gets filed away and taken out again and again.

MP seems more like reading the same chapters over and over with a focus on twisting the outcome in one's favor, but hey - to each his or her own, right?
5Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (5)
Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 5 years ago
Honestly, Im drawn to games with good stories, narative and characters. Games like Metal Gear, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Persona, Fire Emblem, Legend of Zelda, Tales of Series (namco) They always suck me in. So much that I dont care too much about multiplayer in games. To me the multiplayer part is just an added bonus that doesnt add to or break a single player game. To me multiplayer games are good for a quickfix, maybe like a half hour. I find myself doing the same thing over and over again. Im currently contemplating if I should get into an MMO. MMO's allow you to do more things but require a massive amount of time and dedication to play properly. Im very close to buying Final Fantasy:Realm Reborn. But as far as single player games, they take up 90% of my game playing time. With good short ones like Vanquish that beg to be replayed, while others that are longer Ill pull out once in a while and if they allow multiple saves Ill probably play my favorite part all over again. Both ive replayed variouse Fire Emblem games and persona games because they have a good story and good characters. But I keep saying, both expiriences are so different I dont think one should replace the other.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany5 years ago

I played Splatterhouse 2 so much on my Megadrvive when I was a kid that, last Christmas, I verified that I'm still able to finish the game without loosing a single life. Almost 20 years later

Fully agree with you there. Those are the good games: the ones that stay in your forever.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.