There's no denying that of all of the gems in the sprawling Rockstar empire, none have been more commercially and culturally successful than the Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto game series. Both have generated over $1 billion in revenue for Rockstar, making them the most lucrative video games ever released, whilst setting new records for the size and scope of their respective in-game open worlds, as well as their staggering production costs.
However, it's clear that of the two, one has proven superior over the other. GTAV has sold an astonishing 115 million copies as of the time of writing, compared to "only" 25 million sales for RDR2. Naturally, GTAV has been on the market for several years longer than RDR2, and the selling power of the GTA brand is always going to be a tough one to compete with.
Nonetheless, GTAV had sold far more when it was of the same age as RDR2 is now, suggesting that there is something else at play. With RDR2 recently getting a re-release for PC, accompanied by plenty of new content, it's clear that Rockstar is hoping to boost the numbers and rekindle RDR2's comparatively waning popularity.
Let's take a look at the PC version, and see if it has what it takes to compete with the constant flow of new content that is continuing to drive up GTAV's sales.
RDR2 for PC: What's New?
The PC gaming market had historically been a coveted and elusive prize for Rockstar until the release of GTAV online changed that. It might, therefore, seem confusing that they have clearly invested so much into the PC offline release, rather than doubling down on updates for Red Dead Online. The new PC version is basically an expanded version of the standalone console game, complete with the new missions, mods, weapons, and locations, as well as some new tracks to boost its already stellar OST.
There are three new bounty hunter missions, two new gang hideouts, and two new treasure maps. PC gamers can also enjoy exclusive access to a new mission, titled "To the Ends of the Earth", which consists of little more than a herb-finding task at the behest of an eccentric botanist who approaches your character. There are also seven new horses, four new guns (including a revolver that can shoot shotgun shells) and some new Trinkets that can enhance your abilities.
You may be thinking at this point, "is that it?". The answer is, basically, yes. PC gamers can expect very little else that is different from the console game, all while paying a higher price and having to hope that their computer will be able to handle the breathtaking amounts of power required to run the game. Of course, if you're new to the series this may not matter. However, it seems like Rockstar could have done more at this point if they want to replicate the success of GTAV.
Will It Be Enough to Catch Up with GTAV?
As you can guess from the tone of this review so far, we do not harbour high hopes that this heavily-marketed PC release will be enough to gain lost ground. If one was to explain the superior commercial success of GTAV, one would need to look no further than Rockstar's crown jewel GTA Online. This platform is what has kept the money flowing in for the developers, and it is what has ensured that GTAV has remained one of the most relevant games on the market in 2019.
Red Dead Online has seen nothing like the same success, with only a few hundred thousand active players, compared to tens of millions for GTA. Much of this can be explained by the dynamism of the development team behind GTA Online, who are constantly observing the market to attempt to integrate the latest and most popular trends into the game. Each update seems to seamlessly integrate the latest trends from gaming and culture as a way of keeping players interested.
Their 2014 'Deathmatch Racer' update was timed just before the release of the blockbuster Mad Max: Fury Road movie. Their 'I'm Not a Hipster' update incorporated the latest and even the most niche references in popular culture, and their 'Deadline' update sought to capitalize on the afterglow of Disney's Tron movie remake.
More recently, the developers have clearly been keeping their eye on the wider gaming market, specifically the rise of online casino gaming. The 'GTA Casino' update allows players to play real casino games in a Los Santos megacasino, with the chance to win money and become a high roller. Roulette is one of the central gaming options in this update, which was likely included by the developers in an attempt to cash in on the huge popularity of online roulette right now. In the world of online casino gaming, many different versions of roulette are available to play, including live roulette, French roulette, and American roulette. This variety has helped push the game into the top of the gaming charts, and undoubtedly informed Rockstar's decision to include it in GTA Online.
Compare this kind of market awareness with the rather stale, static nature of Red Dead Online, and it soon becomes clear that Rockstar will need to do a lot more than throw in a couple of side quests if they want RDR2 to catch up to GTAV.
When looking at the numbers, it's clear that GTAV outperforms RDR2 on every level. Whether this will change in the near future remains to be seen, but it does not look likely at the moment.