Rockstar and 2K parent company Take-Two believes its games are worth more than the $60 it charges for them.
"We deliver the highest quality experiences in the business, and we charge much less for them than we believe they are worth to consumers," said Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick during a financial call today. "And then we deliver, typically, an ongoing component that is free. And that is already a great deal of value. Any monetization is of course totally optional."
Zelnick was responding to a question about big free-to-play moves by competitors, namely the success of Call of Duty: Warzone, and whether Take-Two might consider doing something similar—like offering a free version of GTA Online.
From Zelnick's point of view, GTA Online and Red Dead Online are already "free" components of Grand Theft Auto 5 and Red Dead Redemption 2. That's not quite the definition of "free" that I use, but his point makes some sense: After you buy the big singleplayer open world games, you get to keep playing the online components without any further payment (microtransactions being optional). And both GTA Online and Red Dead Online continue to get free updates.
When he elaborated, Zelnick did address the real meaning of the question: Would Take-Two consider splitting GTA Online from GTA 5 and making it properly free-to-play?
Maybe. Zelnick noted that GTA Online is going to be a standalone game on the PS5, where it'll be free for "about three months."
"So, as you can see, we're open minded about our business model," said Zelnick, "and I wouldn't rule out the possibility that, at some point, certain experiences can be come free as a matter of the entry point."
That said, Zelnick reiterated that he likes "tethered free-to-play," which is just his name for the current GTA and Red Dead model, where a free-to-play style online experience is included with a paid singleplayer game.
And why wouldn't he? Both GTA and Red Dead continue to make a ton of money.
"Grand Theft Auto Online has been successful for seven years, and we expect it to set a new record in this fiscal year, amazingly enough," said Zelnick.