photo by maks55amg

Since GTA Online first launched four years ago, Rockstar has continued to update the game with free expansions that give players new ways to enjoy the multiplayer mode. With the addition of heists, criminal enterprises, motorcycle gangs, stunt races, holiday events, and deep car customization, the game keeps evolving at an aggressive pace. Each update usually comes with new vehicles, properties, adversary modes, and fashion accessories as well. None of these require players to buy virtual currency via the Shark Cards, but the number of expensive in-game items and entry cost for many criminal enterprises has drawn the ire of a certain segment of the community. Whenever a new expensive sports car releases that costs millions of dollars, it doesn't take long to find players criticising the game for its monetary practices on Rockstar forums or GTA Online subreddit. 

We asked Rockstar Games director of design Imran Sarwar how the studio views these complaints.

"Every single evolution ever made in the GTA franchise has been treated, at the time, with derision and criticism by sections of the fanbase, including moving the game to 3D, having a talking protagonist, having an African-American protagonist, making the Episodes, and having three playable characters," he says. "GTA Online is no different. GTA has stayed relevant because we are obsessed with continuing to evolve and iterate, but whenever we do that, people don’t like it – so all we can do is make what we believe are great experiences.

"With GTA Online, we decided to give our players access to all updates for free, because it kept our players together and allows them to make their own choices about what they want from each update and in what order. Everyone has access to everything and no one is forced to pay a lump sum for items they may not want or need. With both GTA 4 and Red Dead Redemption, we sold DLC and unfortunately both times, it fractured the audience and helped to kill the games much faster than they deserved. With GTA Online, if there’s content people don’t like or want, they can simply ignore it and do something else, while still being in the same core world as everyone else. For us, this model works and has let us keep expanding the experience. Given the huge amount of stuff we have given absolutely for free, including heists and all the modes, and all the clothes which cost almost nothing, I really don’t think we can be accused of gouging the player base – people can happily play and never spend a dollar, aside from buying the game.  

"In addition to those regular large updates, we are always offering additional bonuses and discounts for players, which not only expose them to fun new items and modes they may not have considered owning or playing, but it means that simply by jumping into the game in the weeks prior to an update, you can quickly earn enough cash to buy the items you want when a new update arrives. The vast bulk of our millions of players are playing their way to the items they need. Forcing people to buy regular updates the size of something like Heists or Gunrunning would almost certainly elicit similar pushback to the criticism we receive for the way GTA Online works, and would definitely not have given us the ability to deliver content at this level of quality to millions of players in the same way."

To read more of our interview with Sarwar, head here