GTA+ Isn't a Bad Idea, It's Just Poorly Timed

Rockstar's announcement of GTA+ for the new PS5 and Xbox Series X remasters of GTA Online is not inherently a terrible idea, but it is a poorly timed one. Since 2021, Rockstar has been making moves that have routinely upset its fan base. This is a developer that used to be showered in praise, even with the occasional bit of mainstream controversy. While I'm not ready to ring the bell that declares Rockstar's golden days are over, the beloved developer needs to do better.

The GTA+ announcement came at the worst possible time. The service is an exclusive subscription for the Xbox Series X|S and PS5 versions of GTA Online and offers perks for members. For $5.99/month, players get $500k in-game cash and discounts, reward boosters, and free items. At the moment, there is no notable gated content or anything of that nature, GTA+ is just a completely optional booster pack. If this was released a few years ago, it might have drawn some eye rolls, but ultimately, it probably wouldn't have devolved into a social media screaming match.

But, this is being released in 2022. In the last year, Rockstar has largely neglected Red Dead Online in comparison to its GTA counterpart after making it standalone, confirmed it will charge $40 for Grand Theft Auto V's latest remaster starting in June 2022, and released the much maligned GTA trilogy which only underscored the new era of Rockstar. While those ports/remasters were primarily handled by Grove Street Games, it still had the Rockstar logo featured prominently on the box. That's typically a stamp of excellence, but it was anything but with the trilogy.

GTA+ does not help Rockstar disprove the notion that it has gotten a bit greedy. Many responded to the news with concern. Will this result in big content updates being gated off to GTA+ in the future? Will in-game payouts for things like the Cayo Perico Heist be dialed back in favor of pushing fans toward GTA+'s perks? No one knows right now and these are questions that fans probably wouldn't have posed if the developer wasn't on a hot streak of misfires. We reached out to Rockstar for clarification about the long term plans for GTA+ but did not receive a response.

(Photo: Rockstar Games)

Of course, it's a developer that has to make money. We know they're working on the next Grand Theft Auto right now and that it will take some time, so something has to fill the void and please shareholders. Games like Call of Duty have opened the door to annual battle passes in premium titles, so it's not a new concept, it's just one that doubles down on back to back errors in judgment.

Just a few weeks ago, people were expressing their frustrations with how underwhelming the new GTA V remaster is. To follow that up with the GTA+ news feels backhanded. We still have no idea what the long-term plan for Red Dead Online is, there's still no story DLC in sight for GTA V or Red Dead Redemption 2 after years of requests, and much more. Of all the things Rockstar could've chosen to announce or discuss, this was the wrong one and it was done at the wrong time.

Of course, with the lack of goodwill from fans, it's hard to say when Rockstar could've timed this news. Perhaps when the next big update releases? Maybe after the first trailer for Grand Theft Auto 6, if that's planned for this year. There must have been a better way to soften the blow after asking fans to pay $10 – $20 for the remaster before the price goes up to $40 this summer.

I'm not writing this to ride a Rockstar Games hate wagon, but more to highlight a growing problem with Rockstar's communication with its fanbase. The confirmation of a new Grand Theft Auto was a great step in the right direction, but there has to be more transparency so we don't feel like there's a significant disconnect between the developer and the community. An FAQ that addresses concerns for GTA+ would do wonders. One has to hope the backlash to this news isn't falling on deaf ears, but sometimes it's hard to tell. GTA+ isn't that bad of an idea, it just feels inappropriate at this exact moment.