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Red Dead Redemption 2 on Game Pass is a very smart move

With Rockstar's new plan, the payoff is big and the risk is small.

Published Thu, Apr 23 2020 4:03 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 11:44 AM CST

Red Dead Redemption 2's arrival on Xbox Game Pass next month is a strategic move from Rockstar Games.

Red Dead Redemption 2 on Game Pass is a very smart move 4 |

Microsoft just announced 2018's blockbuster hit Red Dead Redemption 2 is coming to Xbox Game Pass on console on May 7. The service gives you instant and unlimited access to a pool of more than 100 games for $10 a month, but RDR2's arrival comes with a huge $1 trial promo for Game Pass Ultimate (Game Pass + Xbox LIVE Gold). This is a big tactical move from Rockstar.

The idea here is simple. Rockstar is using the Game Pass Effect to do two things: Sell more copies of RDR2, and hopefully boost Red Dead Online's numbers and microtransaction spending.

Game Pass actually leads to more game sales, not less, and it's a phenomenon that's been well-documented from Microsoft. When a game shows up on Game Pass, users are more likely to buy it so they can keep playing after the subscription ends. Game Pass is kind of like a sampler platter for games. If you like the appetizer, you'll likely order the main course.

Full game sales are also an entry point for the game's online mode, and Rockstar's main motivation here is Red Dead Online. Like GTA Online, RDO represents an opportunity to earn millions long after the game is shipped. Xbox Game Pass removes the main friction point separating gamers from RDO (buying the game) and gives them instant access to the online mode.

The hope is that gamers will switch back and forth between story mode and Red Dead Online to not only boost the playerbase, but organically increase engagement through interactive play. And once engagement is up and players have invested time, they're more likely to invest money and buy microtransactions.

Red Dead Redemption 2 on Game Pass is a very smart move 35 |

This cyclic online-driven strategy is a hallmark of Rockstar Games' business model.

It's the main driver for Take-Two Interactive's microtransaction earnings, which typically rake in hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to heavy-hitters like GTA Online, which made over $500 million in 2019.

One very interesting thing to note: GTA V is leaving Game Pass the same day RDR2 shows up. This rotation is important to note. Rockstar doesn't want to provided too much instant access to its premium game + service combo.

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Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4)

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Derek is absorbed with the intersection of technology and gaming, and is always looking forward to new advancements. With over six years in games journalism under his belt, Derek aims to further engage the gaming sector while taking a peek under the tech that powers it. He hopes to one day explore the stars in No Man's Sky with the magic of VR.

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