It’s no secret to anyone that Rockstar GamesRed Dead Online has struggled to get anywhere near the same level of success as its other, seemingly immortal multiplayer effort, Grand Theft Auto Online. The latter is still regularly near the top of NPD sales reports, and has been practically since its launch in 2013, while the former just hasn’t really taken off. But why is that?

Assuming for a moment that it’s not just because people prefer the modern-day setting of Grand Theft Auto – because, honestly, I really don’t think it is – here’s why I think that GTA Online excels, while Red Dead Online struggles to keep up, despite having three years to grow into those massive boots left behind by its older, more succesful sibling.

GTA Online has had an energy to it since it first launched that has just been missing from Red Dead. In the early days, players knew that heist missions were on the way for a while. Those that were the right level in the Online portion of the game in 2015 when the update hit had already gone through a GTA 5 campaign where story beats like The Jewel Store Job and The Bureau Raid proved that Rockstar could pull off a heist as well as any Ocean’s 11 remake or sequel. The anticipation and release of that first benchamrk content drop were enough to get everybody invested. From there, the GTA Online business model was born.

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