We’re approaching the six-year mark since Rockstar Games released Grand Theft Auto 5 – and probably five and a half years since players completed the original story mode that came with the game – but Rockstar is still finding new ways to keep players interested in a game which passed one hundred million sales at the end of 2018.
As is the case with many modern video games, the story mode was barely half – if that – of the game’s package. The real fun to be had in the virtual city of San Andreas comes in the massive Grand Theft Auto Online feature, which is an open sandbox enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of players online at any one time. There have been numerous additions made to the game to keep those players entertained, but the most recent announcement by Rockstar confirms that players are finally going to get a feature that was promised way back when the game was brand new. The infamous Diamond Casino & Resort is finally going to open.
The existence of the building has become something of a running joke for players ever since it was first noticed. The building has always been there, but a banner proclaiming that it would be ‘Opening Soon’ has been there just as long. ‘Soon’ never seemed to arrive, and eventually, players stopped expecting it. The idea of introducing gambling into a video game is a thorny one for games companies – especially taking into account the current scandal about loot boxes – and even with GTA’s theoretically over-18 audience, there would still be questions about whether minors could gain access. Now, it seems like Rockstar have finally found a way around it.
We don’t have a specific launch date for the casino yet – ‘later this summer’ is all Rockstar are willing to give away – but in a brief press release on Twitter they promised ‘state-of-the-art gaming facilities.’ That’s a bold claim to make given the current popularity of online Slots UK, and the rich variety provided by slot games websites. There are genres of slot games which are stylized to cater for every type of player under the sun, and so unless Rockstar is planning to offer literally hundreds of games in the way that the best online casino websites do, that promise looks likely to fall short.
There’s also a question of whether players will be able to win real money, of the kind they’d be able to withdraw and spend in the real world. Gambling games have been included in the online version of Red Dead Redemption Two for some time – and have been well received by players – but in that game, players can only buy in-game dollars. The dollars are useful for buying in-game accessories of the kind that can enhance the playing experience, but there’s no method of withdrawal. GTA has always been a little different, though – unlike Red Dead Redemption, GTA players are able to use real-world money to buy in-game dollars. As it stands, there’s no way of converting the in-game currency back into ‘real’ dollars after purchase, but the implementation of the gambling system might change that. It’s hard to see how the ‘life-changing prizes’ being touted by the casino’s ‘Lucky Wheel’ could live up to their billing otherwise. The ‘After Hours’ expansion of the game has transformed it significantly since it was first launched, and has included plenty of adult content. As a community of players, we think he GTA Online audience is – just about – grown-up enough to cope with real gambling.
As well as the luxury casino and its range of table-top gambling games, there are also now whispers that Rockstar is going to add horse racing to the game – along with the ability to bet on it. The Vinewood Racetrack stands behind the casino, which presumably isn’t an accident. If casino games are too complicated for some players, they might prefer to spend their virtual (or real) dollars on horses and riders instead. Again, we’ve seen horse racing and gambling on horses implemented in Red Dead Redemption 2, and so it seems like Rockstar are using the Old West-based game as a testing ground for features for their more popular title.
The casino – along with the other developments that Rockstar has planned for GTA Online this year – is likely to be the final stage of additions and enhancements for the game. Players have been speculating about Grand Theft Auto 6 for some time now, but given that the next generation of consoles is now approximately a year away from launch, Rockstar will likely hold off and wait for the new format instead of issuing a brand new game on a generation of consoles with a limited shelf life. As such, the addition of the casinos is one final push to get the maximum return possible from their aging creation.
It’s hard to overstate just how big a success Grand Theft Auto 5 has been for Rockstar. Since it was launched, it’s understood to have made more money than any video game, book, or movie in history. Such is its enduring popularity that since the day it was launched in 2013, it’s only spent one month out of the top 20 charts for the most purchased games in all of the USA, while retaining popularity n a similar manner around the world. According to some sources, the total amount of revenue its raised for its creators is in excess of $6bn.
Now that we know for sure that the casino is coming, it might be time to shake off your GTA rust and re-familiarize yourself with the game before the new feature is launched. It also might be a good idea to hit an online casino or two as well, and get your head around the type of casino games you might be playing when the new addition goes live. We all know how vicious other players in GTA can be, and they’ll spot a rookie or a rusty veteran a mile away. Every time we think we’ve finally broken the addiction and escaped San Andreas for good, this game just finds a way to pull us back in!