Grand Theft Auto: 3 business secrets you can learn

10th February, 2017

Wouldn’t you love to offer a product that doesn’t just sell well – but sells better every month? Then you should pay attention to Grand Theft Auto.

Crash course for the uninitiated: Grand Theft Auto (GTA) is a series of video games in which players can explore a simulated world, interact with other characters and in general, do what they like.

In reality, that usually translates to players hijacking cars, committing violence and causing whatever havoc they can.

This has translated into a fair share of controversies, and even spawned a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe.

GTA is popular. Super popular.

The series has sold more than 200 million copies and the latest version, GTA V, has sold more than 70 million of that since its launch in September 2013.

That represents billions of revenue for its developer, Rockstar.

In a rare feat for a video game, every month sales increase.

Usually games perform like movies: they get a big burst of sales at the start, with the possibility of a longer tail if things go well.

Even that doesn’t happen most of the time.

GTA V hit #1 in the UK during January for game sales, three years after its initial release.

So what’s the secret – and how can you apply that type of sales longevity to your own business?

Go all in on your strengths…

The GTA series is known for open worlds, freedom and technological innovation.

Players can do anything, be anyone, and create a digital character that gives them ultimate freedom. That’s the accepted structure on which the series is built.

In making GTA V, the developers created the largest game world the series had ever seen.

GTA V sells because it’s a game that gives people what they want. It’s smooth, it has few bugs, and it’s a solid product in and of itself.

This is obvious and yet so many businesses ignore it: if you’re going to create a long-tail of sales, you can’t skimp on the effort up front.

Create a solid product based on what people want. Invest the time and effort in getting it right, rather than having to fix it later.

…but be willing to pivot

When GTA V was released, Rockstar added something they hadn’t in previous games: an online mode in which players could interact.

It was a way to bring something fresh to a long-standing franchise.

At first, it was kind of weird.

But then, more people started using it as they discovered they could log on with their friends and have the type of GTA experiences they were used to, online with other people.

Then soon enough, GTA V Online became the most popular part of the game.

In February of 2016, the developer said the online mode was still recording about eight million players a week.

Eight. Million. Every week.

GTA V was a great product in and of itself, but Rockstar understood the appeal of adding something new.

It then added a micro-transaction function to gain revenue from the millions of players.

Creating an online mode wasn’t easy. It was hard. It was a risk. There would have been plenty of conversations about whether it was worth it – but Rockstar did it anyway.

As a business, are you evolving your product to the times? Are you adding new features, keeping things fresh? Sometimes you might need to go back to the drawing board.

Who knows – the quirky little feature you think might not work could end up being your biggest selling point.

Make stuff and sell it consistently

Once Rockstar saw GTA Online was getting some traction, they decided they’d better support it.

Now, the company constantly updates the game with new features, modes and experiences for people to try out.

Whenever they log on, there’s always something new for them to do.

In order to create a long-tail, you need support. That support needs to come in the form of features, experiences and other offers of value.

Think about your own product line-up. Look at an older product or service that may be waning – are you supporting it? Are you adding new features or experiences?

Can you even turn those features into an ongoing stream of value that encourages even more people to sign-up?

You know your business best – we can’t give you a roadmap. But Rockstar clearly found a way to make money by supporting an already popular product with even more material.

Don’t just set and forget. Always think about new ways you can add to your existing line-up.