Last week, I set up a short survey on what players want from the future of GTA Online. I did this to try and get a snapshot of where this sprawling game is now, and where you think it should go next—just to start a broader conversation about the game, really, but also to learn more about what areas of the GTA players value the most, and which they feel could improve.
GTA Online keeps racking up expansions and remains enormously popular on Steam, after all, and while I have my own thoughts on what I'd like from the future of GTA, I thought this would be an interesting experiment following our readers' version of the PC Gamer Top 100. The response was pretty great: there were 7,963 completed entries to the survey in eight days. It was possible to leave more than one response, but assuming only a few people would bother doing that, it's not a bad cross-section of the audience (GTA's daily average during the last month is just over 54,000 on Steam alone, according to Steam Charts).
Each question required people to provide an answer, and they could select up to three for the two multiple choice questions (about what you'd like to see the game do next and technical improvements). When you see the percentages for those answers, then, they won't add up to 100—that's the percentage of people who chose that answer, but they also had the option of selecting up to two others.
For the question about Shark Cards and money, I only allowed one answer, so the percentage represents the amount of answers to the survey. I've left the survey open so you can see the questions in full while digesting these results. Along the way, I'll provide some commentary on what these answers might tell us.
60% want new playing spaces
This was the most popular answer to any of the questions posed, which I kind of expected: people want new places to explore in GTA Online (I gave Liberty City as an example in the question). I love Los Santos and consider it the best open world ever created, but I do feel like I've seen every beach, highway and building a thousand times, which is inevitable. Clearly a lot of people feel the same way.
So what's the answer? I like the idea of a new playing space in GTA, and rumours about new areas (that haven't come to anything) have done the rounds for a while, now. But it's also hard to see Rockstar making an entirely new city just for the purposes of a multiplayer expansion. Would they have to create new radio stations for it? New NPCs? How would they charge for it? Would there be no option to explore it in singleplayer? I like the idea of the singleplayer's existing North Yankton map being used as an arena for multiplayer modes like Motor Wars, or maybe a co-op mission—that'd be a neat bit of variety in the short term.
If Rockstar ever remasters GTA IV in the fashion of GTA V, that's where I'd speculate that Online could expand, by adding a refreshed version of the gorgeous Liberty City landmass. Maybe you could import your character between games. Or, they could just wait until GTA VI, but that's likely many years away.
2017 is set to be GTA Online's record year in terms of moneymaking, though, and the game isn't going anywhere. Nothing's more likely to extend its life further than a whole extra playground to mess around in.
56.5% want new heists
GTA Online's heists feel like the strongest connection between the game's online and offline in terms of design. They're strings of narrative-driven missions where each player is given a different task to do, culminating in a huge, set piece-y mission where everyone gets rewarded with a nice pile of cash. Sadly, there haven't been any new ones since March 2015, and speaking to IGN in September of that year, it didn't sound like more were in Rockstar's future. "They were a tremendous undertaking and for now we have other ideas for GTA Online that we’re working to deliver," said Rockstar North's Director of Design, Imran Sarwar.
Nonetheless, 56.5% of you want more heists, according to our survey. Indeed, I suspect heists are the only way I'll get all the PC Gamer guys to put more hours into GTA Online again. What I love about them is that while money is the end goal, the design of the missions and the surprising ways these cinematic set pieces unravel felt like their main purpose.
In Smuggler's Run and Gunrunning, you inevitably spend more time thinking about money and making money, because deliveries are what you're building towards. Many of the mission types in both expansions are fantastic fun, but overall they're about growing piles of cash. More heists would be a nice departure from that. Completing a heist with a team of friends is just magic, and the vehicles Rockstar has added since offer a lot of potential for new, chaotic set pieces.
Meanwhile, 30.3% like the idea of more temporary events and changes to the map or world state, like when the city is snowy at Christmas. 38.4% like the idea of more story-led mission arcs, like those in the main game, and 17% want more properties to buy. 19.7% want more business options, like those in Gunrunning and Smuggler's Run. The least popular option was more adversary modes, which had just 3% of the votes, and just above that was more of a focus on racing, which attracted 6.8%.
Shark Cards and grinding: 34.5% of players don't like GTA's payment model, 27% don't care either way and 9.7% of players like it
Shark Cards are a divisive matter in GTA. They're a way to speed up the process of accumulating cars, planes and helicopters from the in-game stores by spending real money. I've seen them mentioned in the comments of pretty much everything I've written about GTA on PCG. You don't need Shark Cards to enjoy GTA Online, and the game offers weekly ways to get double experience and money, but how they shape the game is clearly an issue for a bunch of people. 34.5% of people chose the 'I don't like them' option in the survey when asked about Shark Cards and/or grinding.
Elsewhere, 27% chose 'I have no strong feelings one way or another', while 9.7% of people like the game's payment model. Personally, I do like the idea of GTA Online growing as paying customers support the continued life of the game for a free audience, but variants on 'less grinding' and 'cheaper prices' came up a few times in the optional 'Other' box for this question (less than 3% of answers).
In the spirit of disclosure, I've so far spent £11.99 of my own money on one Shark Card to help buy a helicopter I wanted. Personally, I felt I could justify that after playing the game for longer than anything else in my Steam library. That doesn't mean I love the system or agree with the pricing of everything, or even how players are rewarded for their time, but loot crates have become a reality of modern multiplayer games and I can't see how this is terribly different. Again, I don't like loot crates either, but at least here you always know what you're paying for.
I also added a hypothetical option of GTA having paid expansions, rather than microtransactions, and this got an okay response—15.9% like the idea of that. My thinking there was more in line with the GTA IV and Red Dead expansions, where new modes, maps and so on were sold as part of a larger paid package. I wouldn't mind paying a standard £7-£15 price for the latest expansions if I could get a few guaranteed nice cars and aircraft out of it. Only 3.5% like the idea of GTA Online being a paid subscription fee MMO, which isn't enormously surprising.
Slightly more people either don't mind or like Shark Cards than dislike them, then: 37.5 to 34.7. Money is bound to remain a divisive issue for as long as GTA Online exists.
51.7% think loading times is the technical issue that most needs to change or improve, followed closely by cheat detection
This was a close-run multiple choice question: when I asked what should change or improve on the technical side of GTA, 51.7% chose 'how long it takes to find a session when you boot the game'. 49.2% chose cheat detection. Griefing from other players got 41.1%, and matchmaking speed was clicked by 33% of people who filled out the survey. How the game runs while you're playing online got 23.9%.
Booting up GTA Online can feel like the opposite of finding a quick match in Rocket League—waiting for my character to wake up in their biker bar, apartment or hangar always feels like it takes longer than I'm used to from playing modern online games, and clearly a lot of people agree. That said, I imagine this is something Rockstar would have already solved if it was easy to do, and there's a hell of a lot going on in any given GTA Online server.
A quick note: after just under 4000 responses, I added an extra option called 'Nothing needs improving' to this question, in case the weighting of it seemed a bit too negative (people could also leave the 'other' option blank, if they wanted to—a sizeable 10% of responses did). From the remaining 4000-or-so surveys, 185 people decided nothing needed improving.
Casino DLC, better character customisation and other specific things players want
I left the option for players to add one thing they'd change about the design of GTA Online, as well as blank options in the other questions that people could fill in themselves. Almost 90% of people left the last question blank, and a lot of answers varied on 'nothing', and a fair few that did answer complained about money again.
Elsewhere, though, there were some interesting suggestions, so I wanted to highlight a few. 100 people mentioned the idea of GTA Online getting a casino, or some kind of casino-themed expansion. GTA V's had Vinewood Casino with an 'opening soon' sign since launch, so this idea's been floating around for a while. A few people mentioned greater character customisation options, like hair types/detail, build, height and fashion, particularly for female characters (over 20 people specifically mentioned this one). There were a fair few calls for more water-related stuff to do: 12 people specifically mentioned submarines in their answers, and one guy wanted an underwater city to explore (!).
And of course, zombies: this came up 50 times. 301 people mentioned 'singleplayer', usually asking for either GTA Online content/vehicles to work in GTA V, or for the elusive singleplayer DLC that Rockstar once said was coming in 2014. I certainly sympathise with the latter, being a huge fan of the Episodes From Liberty City pack released after GTA IV, although I can't see it happening based on this IGN interview from 2015. I really enjoy GTA Online and like seeing it grow, but it'd be nice to have both, eh?
GTA Online is fascinating to me: with no mandatory paid expansions and no public roadmap for the game, its long term future is a total mystery. What Gunrunning and Smuggler's Run tell us, though, is that Rockstar is trying to expand the game beyond the bounds of GTA singleplayer and into less explored areas of the series.
Thank you to those who filled out the survey—GTA Online isn't going anywhere, and hopefully the game eventually explores the things you're craving in Rockstar's online open world.