Everybody in the know about the gaming industry expected Red Dead Redemption 2 to be an enormous hit. Coming from Rockstar Games, the developers of what is currently the most profitable game entry of all time, Grand Theft Auto 5, it was only natural that RDR2 carried enormous weight and potential. Even so, an opening weekend of making £382 million exceeded expectations, making it the single most successful media weekend ever.
So, what is it that made Red Dead Redemption 2 such a knockout?
First and foremost is the legacy of Rockstar Games themselves. GTA has long stood as their flagship series and has kept audiences captivated with its open-world gameplay ever since GTA 1 on PC, DOS and PS1. Likewise, GTA 3 on PS2 raised the bar for what open world games could manage, which GTA 4 and 5 raised even further on the PS3 and PS4. As the first major Rockstar Games property built exclusively for the modern generations of consoles, the expectations for RDR2 were high. No longer held back by the limitations of the former generation, RDR2 could spread its wings like never before.
Also incredibly important is the topic of American Westerns as a whole. Media set in the old west has been some of the most popular for generations, and for good reason. The idea here comes from that of untamed wilderness, of civility trying to succeed in a land long lawless, and the challenges which both the lawful and outlaws find in surviving this world.
From classic spaghetti westerns like Eastwood’s A Fistful of Dollars to novels in the vein of Charles Portis’ True Grit, the concept has a strong past, and this has only continued into the contemporary age. Modern adaptions of many properties in an ever-expanding range of media borrow heavily from American westerns, going as far as the anime series Cowboy Bebop, and as close as the Gunslinger: Reloaded slot game from Sloty Casino. The theme is a classic in the true sense of the word, with a longevity and versatility which few could hope to measure.
We also have to thank the success of the first game for helping show that this was not merely a side-project of Rockstar, although in this the legacy is worth almost as much as the original game’s quality. As great as the first Red Dead Redemption was, it ‘only’ moved a combined 15 million copies over its entire lifespan. RDR2, on the other hand, managed to ship 17 million copies in the first 12 days alone.
The popularity, then, could be seen as the result of a range of complementary factors. The legacy of Rockstar games themselves and that of the original game helped sell the viability of the product. The fact that the game was built from the ground up for new technology showed that this entry would be able to accomplish things never before seen from a Rockstar Games property. And, finally, the ever-present interest in the genre as a whole facilitated mass appeal, even among those unfamiliar with the game’s backing details.
With Red Dead Redemption 2 Online coming very soon, we have to wonder just how much further this game could go. Will overtake GTA 5 as one of gaming’s crowning achievements? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below
We wouldn’t bet against it.