A Red Dead Online bug is turning the game into a ghost town

Red Dead Online key art
(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

Red Dead Online doesn't seem long for this world. After Rockstar announced last month that RDO wouldn't receive any more 'major' content updates, players have alternated between explosive violence and quiet grief. A few have simply quit the game entirely.

Including, apparently, the NPCs.

A recent bug, first documented on Reddit, has turned Red Dead's bustling metropolises and rolling plains into deserted ghost towns. Horses pull empty carriages down desolate streets, wares sit untended on market stalls, and you can't even find wild animals if you head out into the countryside. It's like someone's told them the game is doomed and they've all run off to find new employment.

Judging by the comments, the bug has been affecting players randomly for the last week or so, plunging unsuspecting RDO fans into their own personal 'Twilight Zone' episodes as they dash around the map looking for nonexistent human life. It's almost too on-the-nose as a metaphor for the state of the game, which has always been a black sheep in Rockstar's lineup even before Rockstar came out and said it wouldn't get any more big updates. Of course, almost any game you can name would look like an underachiever compared to the money-printing success that is GTA Online.

It's honestly kind of cool, both as an unintentional bit of satire by the game's own NPCs, and as a weird, eerie experience that players find themselves plunged into without warning. Booting up a game that's normally so adept at recreating the indescribable 'feel' of living spaces and finding it utterly devoid of life is a fun twist. The Halloween-style driverless carriages and the subtle panic of running from street to street as you try—and fail—to find another living soul are just a spooky bonus.

For long-time players, though, it's just another reminder of RDO's inevitable fate. Plenty of comments are from morose fans, upset that Rockstar still hasn't patched the bug after around a week of trouble, and unhappily reminded that—without big updates to keep people engaged—RDO's future probably does involve a lot of empty streets and missing familiar faces.

It's not hard to guess why Rockstar isn't prioritising patching RDO bugs like these. Development on GTA 6 means the company is currently putting any game that doesn't make more money than a small country on the backburner. Not to worry, though, while Red Dead's online component fades away, its excellent single player is as strong as ever, and modders continue to expand on it every day.

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.