The launch of Grand Theft Auto V was highly successful, netting $1 billion in sales in the first three days despite not launching with GTA Online, the accompanying multiplayer mode.
In an interview with Polygon, Rockstar’s Dan Houser attributed the delay to logistical issues and the belief that the multiplayer will perform better if launched separately.
"To make games on this scale is very, very hard and anyone you speak to who works on those big games will, if they're honest, admit that there are a lot of moving parts," he said. "So, we were concerned that trying to finish them both for the same day would lead to a compromise in quality. On a practical level, it was very important that they each get a period when they can be really focused on by large numbers of the team to iron out as many problems as possible."
Houser also believed that players would be too focused on the single-player mode to consider investing time in multiplayer. By delaying its launch, he believes players will have had enough time to become familiar with the world of GTA V, and thus offering a better online experience.
"I think we were concerned that some of our previous games, while they still had a very fun multiplayer component to them, it was almost like it was being cannibalized by the enormity of the single player game," Houser said. "People were just not focusing on it. So by moving it, we really wanted to go all in and make this much bigger, much more encompassing, a stand-alone product essentially. By making it separate you give people a reason to look at it as a different thing."
"You can play single player," Houser elaborated. "You can really learn how the game works, learn the mechanics. You can start multiplayer after two weeks and it will really give them a real focus on where to look at the thing. I think that separating it out will just help people look at it as different products in their own mind a bit more and really give it a good chance to try and play it and enjoy it. Otherwise, you try it for two minutes, it's hard to connect because it's day one, and back you go to the single player, play that and never go back into playing online."
Houser also noted that the core of a video game remains as its single player, despite the growth and success of multiplayer titles. "I think the well executed multiplayer game clearly attracts a big audience, but it doesn't attract as big an audience as in a single player game. It just doesn't do that yet," Houser explained.
Rockstar has warned that the launch of GTA Online may be troublesome as server overload issues are expected.
Grand Theft Auto Online launches October 1 and is included free with every copy of GTA V.