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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."

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Mike Williams avatar
Mike Williams: M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.
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