GTA was an unusual choice to start the show, and it's easy to mock the fact that Sony's "Future of Gaming" event opened with a trailer for a six year-old PlayStation 4 game, which itself is a port of a seven year-old PS3 game. Even so, this is a major coup for PlayStation. Grand Theft Auto 5 is the biggest console game in the world, and it remains in the charts in almost every market to this day, shifting millions each and every year. It has become the must own game for every new PS4 and Xbox One customer.
Yet even more significant than its consistent sales performance is the number of engaged players who continue to play its multiplayer mode, Grand Theft Auto Online. This speaks to one of the most interesting challenges facing both PlayStation and Xbox during this new console transition.
Previous generational shifts have all been about the unique games coming to these fancy new machines. What are the exclusives? How does the new FIFA look? What new games do we have coming that we've not seen before? This time, however, it's also about the games we've been playing for years and years.
PlayStation has immediately made a play for the GTA audience, and it's doing it in two stages. The first is making a significant amount of in-game currency available to PS4 owners "every month until the PS5 version of the game launches in 2021." This is Rockstar's way of keeping this audience engaged in its world while it works on the upgrade. Then, once that offer ends, PS5 owners are able to claim a free version of Grand Theft Auto Online -- as long as they do so within the first three months of launch.
This may not have been the most exciting thing to happen during last week's PS5 event, but it is a crucial move in Sony's mission to get players to upgrade to its new console quickly. And it's a strategy that will no doubt have been noted by the other big publishers, such as EA, Ubisoft and Activision -- which were all notably missing from last week's event.
The deal between PlayStation and Rockstar has the potential to win over millions of fans for Sony's next console