Make or Break: Community Rallies Behind Red Dead Online

On the back of what has likely been one of the most successful years ever for GTA Online with the Los Santos Tuners and The Contract updates, 2022 has brought further woes to the Red Dead Online Community only seven days in.

As Rockstar returned from the holidays, bonuses reset to a new event with your usual discounts and double money rewards; nothing out of the ordinary you might say, until folks copped the “all month long” at the end of their announcement tweet. These words only rubbed salt into the wounds of an already frustrated community, many of whom were still holding onto a glimmer of hope that a delayed winter update would be on the way in the new year.

The reaction so far has been less than savoury, as expected, and much like the clown shenanigans of 2020, the community has banded together to express their dissatisfaction at the lack of attention Red Dead Online is publicly receiving. Twitter has spawned a #SaveRedDeadOnline hashtag campaign, our GTAForums community has been locked in discussion, and YouTubers have been contemplating where their content creation may lead this year given where things seem to be heading.

So where did all this freshly boiled bad blood come from?

Prior to release last summer, Blood Money had the opportunity to really boost the morale of a player base that had been more than outspoken about the depth of Red Dead Online’s content updates since leaving beta in 2019. With the announcement of the so-called “summer update” came a bundle of information promising crime-filled activities for those who are less than honourable out on the frontier, along with an action-packed trailer, gorgeous artwork and a beautiful song written especially for the game by Blues musician Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. Despite being a western game, it was the kind of content that fans had already felt was lacking in scope, so the update carried with it high expectations and a decent amount of hype. That promise-filled balloon deflated pretty quickly however, and unfortunately for Blood Money, feedback from the wider community turned sour in little less than a week.

The shortcomings of the update only encouraged the community to re-visit older and more glaring concerns about Red Dead Online’s direction, such as the unexpected nerf of Gold earnings for Daily Challenges and player streak resets at the end of 2020. Daily Challenges were changed to provide only 0.1 Gold per task, or up to 0.25 Gold per task if you maintain a streak of 28 days, before it reset itself. With some veteran players losing 400-day streaks, and new players facing an excessive grind to afford even one of the roles, the community couldn’t help but feel like Rockstar didn’t want, well, anyone, to play the game. Blood Money had provided no new items to purchase, meaning the serious wealth daily players had amassed just sat there, meanwhile Arthur Morgan’s outfit was brought back to the game from an earlier Outlaw Pass for a staggering 52 Gold, converting to $20 IRL cash if you opted to go down the MTX route.

And here we are, once again

As described earlier, the growing opinion across Social Media and community spaces is a mixed bag of anger, frustration, and sadness for what is becoming of Red Dead Online. Some folks are of the view that the game should simply be left to die, encouraging players to put their money where their mouth is and just stop playing, something that might actually be more visible to shareholders than hashtags on Twitter. On the other hand, many are ready to fight to the end for what has become their favourite multiplayer space for the potential it offers, the updated mechanics over GTA Online, the peaceful scenery and the friends they have made through it; the Twitter hashtag has received over 10,000 mentions at the time of writing this and has reached multiple gaming media outlets.

All this kind of feels like treading over old ground, however, as we’ve been in this position before. A while ago we had a similar discussion, and back then we also acknowledged a game that had vast potential and a dedicated community just yearning for something meaty to bite into. These statements are still true, but so is that “seemingly lack of direction” we pondered on as well at the time. With nothing but love for the masterpiece that is RDR2 singleplayer, it’s simply a shame that so many question marks still hang over the status of Red Dead Online, and what action we might see, if any, from Rockstar this year. Whatever side of the debate you may stand on, and whether you play Red Dead Online or not, it’s understandable that the community is keen for answers at this stage in the game’s life.

What will it take to turn things around?

Without official data and no roadmap, from the outside it appears that Red Dead Online is stuck in a bit of a catch 22 situation. Any live service demands resources, but if you’re going to put in those resources and dedicate time and effort to achieve something mind-blowing for the sake of longevity, it must turn a profit. That’s just business. GTA Online is succeeding in all ways possible on that front; it has consistently brought in revenue over its lifespan from both longstanding and new players buying Sharkcards in exchange for in-game cash. Red Dead Online, on the other hand, reached its third birthday last year and already has four types of in-game currency; Cash, Gold Bars, Role Tokens and Capitale. Only Gold Bars are purchasable with IRL money, but that in turn can give you access to everything in the game regardless of the in-game cost to your character. There’s a lot more to be said that I can fit in here about the economy of Red Dead Online, but if both your hardcore and your new players are struggling to find their place in it, something surely has to give.

Maybe Red Dead Online was never intended to receive longstanding support in the same way GTA Online has, given the more “niche” setting, but many adore it exactly for its difference to modern counterparts. RDR2 stands tall as a champion of the western genre, and realism, therefore, has it’s limits. You could probably argue that there’s not much realism in quirky Naturalist outfits or Halloween themed moonshine bars, but the community is in agreement there is still room for content to be a pushed a lot further yet. There are many DLC concepts and floating ideas that spread around the community, for example this extensive collection by Yangy of GTA Base, but seeing these ideas come to fruition is almost a pipe dream without developmental resources from Rockstar, and there’s no indication to us as players of what exactly it’s going to take to make that happen – leap of faith, perhaps? If players and profits aren’t meeting in the middle and it’s being held back for business reasons, well we’re just back at the beginning of that catch 22 mentioned earlier, and still nonethewiser.

What if an update is actually coming?

We can eat our words, I guess? Remote working and pandemic surges have definitely hampered production across the globe, and it’s exhausting for us, let alone developers! It is still entirely possible however that something special is on the way this year; something perhaps placed on the backburner in 2021 due to the focus on the GTA Trilogy and GTA Online updates. That might sound too optimistic to those that have completely lost faith, but we simply don’t know until we get there, and as we all know, communication is not something Rockstar offers very frequently.

Amongst the top things I have personally seen requested in the community, all hopes are set on 5 very different things:

  • New roles, or expansions to existing roles
  • Character properties, or community areas akin to the Diamond Casino in GTA Online
  • The conclusion of Jessica LeClerk’s storyline with new ‘A Land of Opportunities’ missions
  • The Rockstar Editor
  • A visual upgrade patch on new-generation platforms

The issue here is that if there is an update, but it doesn’t live up to the expectations of the above, the community will find themselves back at square one, contemplating what is next, if anything at all. It all sounds very doom and gloom, I know, but gamers are used to a little more information when it comes to live service these days, and only awkward speculation can fill the void of communication.

What can I do to help?

A tough one, as the community is pretty divided from where I’m standing. If you’re settled on the idea that the game is already “dead”, then folks encourage you not to play at all, uninstall, or to avoid talking about it. If you want to save it, some are even suggesting we buy Gold to increase the game’s profit margin, but I’m not too sure about that one personally, because we could be throwing money at a brick wall. I’m at a loss on where things might be heading next, so some clarity is all I’d ask for myself, as I’m very much on the side that wants Red Dead Online to succeed for a few more years to come yet.

Other than that, you can make your thoughts known on your own Social Media, make a post on GTAForums, tweet out the #SaveRedDeadOnline hashtag to spread your love for the game if you wish to do so, or send feedback to Rockstar directly using their feedback page. Please avoid harrassment of other community members and especially Rockstar developers, as it is not their responsibility to answer for business or marketing decisions and serves only to reduce the importance of the message the community as a whole is trying to get across.

If you’re already over Red Dead Online… We can’t change what’s done, we can only move on – Arthur Morgan

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