Red Dead Online felt like a missed opportunity from the start

Red Dead Online could have been great if Rockstar realized it had two separate audiences with different motivations.


Last week, Rockstar announced that it would be halting “major themed content updates” for Red Dead Online. If you read between the lines, you’re not buying enough Gold Bars, and so development resources are needed elsewhere. While the mode isn’t officially dead or being abandoned, we’re one step closer to confirmation of what’s been evident for some time now; Red Dead Online will never realize its potential and find its proper audience. Red Dead Online players are virtual outlaws in a world that don’t want them no more.

Who is this for?

Red Dead Online Funeral

Source: Rockstar Games

In the lead up to Red Dead Redemption 2 in 2018, there was no question that Rockstar was going to roll out an online mode. The hope was that Red Dead Online would be for folks who had outgrown the gameplay loop of GTA Online. Red Dead Online needed to be somewhere to go with friends to enjoy the slower pace of nature while exploring a gorgeous world. It needed to be for people that were as excited about brushing and feeding their horse as GTA Online players were about landing stunt bikes on chimneys. Red Dead Online had to be monetized differently from a GTA Online model that unapologetically pushes players to spend money on Shark Cards as an alternative to grinding gameplay. That model would not fit with the beautiful and slower paced world that hosted Red Dead Online.

It’s no secret that didn’t happen. Shark Cards were rebranded as Gold Bars, and the gameplay loop felt too familiar to GTA Online from day one. Yeah, there have always been cool things to do in Red Dead Online, but the rewards and progress are watered down to encourage players to open their wallets. I’ve spent hours playing and barely made enough money to buy a new weapon. To make cash quickly, my posse and I would optimize our routes for collectibles. This was a grinding process that made me consider just buying Gold Bars to get what I wanted, and a few times I did. But what it also did was create resentment towards Red Dead Online from myself and those I played with. This isn’t what we asked for. We faded away from GTA Online because of this monetization method and were disappointed to find Red Dead Online was much of the same.

Red Dead Online

Source: Rockstar Games

It feels like Red Dead Online was doomed from the start. The world is one that appeals to a more relaxed crowd, and yet is flooded with GTA Online DNA that those folks just do not have time or interest in engaging with. Red Dead online should have been a quiet place to escape everything that GTA Online stood for but was instead designed to convince the Los Santos crowd that they wanted to ride horses and rob trains.

It's a shame that it went down this way. I'll throw money through the monitor at you, if I am allowed to buy, decorate, and develop my own ranch. Let me pay $20 a month for a private server so I don’t have to get tea bagged by a horse, sign me up. The catch is the world must be complemented by its gameplay and the gameplay must respect my time. Those two points do not devalue the GTA Online experience, which at times has drawn me in. It’s a huge part of Rockstar’s success. The thing is, we already have GTA Online. We didn’t need a cowpoke knockoff.

The writing has been on the wall for a long time with Red Dead Online. Pay attention to the content coming to GTA Online and compare the two and it’s clear as an Ambarino sky. Red Dead Online has been fading for some time now, but it didn’t have to be this way. If Rockstar had recognized early on that it had two separate audiences to appeal to, and that those player bases didn’t have the same priorities or motivations, you’d have two thriving online experiences. Instead, we ended up with Grand Theft Red Dead, and I’m passing on that like Uncle on manual labor. Lumbago is a real thing, you know.

Managing Editor

Bill, who is also known as Rumpo, is a lifelong gamer and Toronto Maple Leafs fan. He made his mark early in his career through guide writing and a deep understanding of editorial SEO. He enjoys putting in the work to create a great content, be it a wild feature or grinding out an in-depth collectible guide. Tweet him @RumpoPlays if you have a question or comment about one of his articles.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    July 13, 2022 2:45 PM

    Bill Lavoy posted a new article, Red Dead Online felt like a missed opportunity from the start

    • reply
      July 13, 2022 3:03 PM

      The worst part about it is that the multiplayer in the original Red Dead Redemption was a hoot. It could have used more content, but what was there was a lot of fun. I'd hop on with a group of shackers and form a posse, and then we'd ride around doing the various gang hideouts. It was a ton of fun and I wish Read Dead Online was closer to that than the endless grind that Rockstar made it to chase after that Shark Cash money. Really shot themselves in the foot not realizing the audience for this game wasn't a bunch of 14 year olds with their parents' credit cards. :P

    • reply
      July 14, 2022 11:24 AM


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