Image courtesy of Rockstar: Meet the newest member of Liberty City’s most wanted list, Johnny Klebitz, AKA you.
Just when I thought it was safe to put away my Xbox 360 copy of Grand Theft Auto IV for good and concentrate on my other obsession, that venerable bastion of gaming journalism USA Today reports that Rockstar Games has announced a street date for the first of two new downloadable episodes for the game. On February 17th, the episode, entitled “The Lost and the Damned“, will be available for download on the Xbox Marketplace. No price has yet been announced.
Stepping away from the original GTA IV protagonist, Niko Bellic, the new content will be centered around Johnny Klebitz, a member of the Liberty City motorcycle gang, The Lost. Members of the gang were briefly seen (and dispatched with the series’ customary violence) on a few missions during Niko Bellic’s storyline.
To me, this is the future of video games. With the price of developing a successful video game skyrocketing (GTA IV’s production costs have been estimated at 100 million dollars), it only makes sense for studios to maximize the returns on games that they’ve already created. It’s far easier and profitable to add new weapons, characters, vehicles, or levels to an existing successful game than making a new one. This is never more true than in a “sandbox” game such as the GTA franchise. They’ve developed a living, breathing city with hundreds of locations, why throw all that work away after only one story?
Working in an existing world will also allow creators to put develop content much more rapidly, since they already possess the tools and knowledge to create within the game. With the current development cycle for games equaling (or surpassing) that of major motion pictures, I’m all for anything to get great games out faster.
I think this is a positive step for both gamers and the companies. My only fear is that the gaming industry will fall victim to the crushing lack of originality that grips Hollywood, that prompts them to churn out endless sequels of previous hits instead of trying something new (third installments of The Mummy and Shrek, I’m looking at you!). If this dire fate can be avoided, I look forward to a rich future of being able to get a new fix of my favorite game at a lower price (fingers crossed!) and much more frequently.