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GTA 5 changed gaming and you barely noticed

It's a safe bet you've heard of Grand Theft Auto 5. Even people who can't tell the difference between an Xbox and one of those "Nintendos" have heard of Grand Theft Auto 5. As you may have guessed, the game centers around stealing cars, but the franchise is so much more than that. From the streets of Liberty City to the heights of Mount Chiliad, Grand Theft Auto games offer an experience that keeps players coming back for more, even years after release.

Rockstar Games has an undeniable hit on their hands. Grand Theft Auto 5 has made a name for itself through controversy, wild success, and still more controversy. No matter how nefarious the crimes committed (murder, robbery, prostitution, etc.) in-game, the good name of Grand Theft Auto bounces back into a favorable light. Few scandals can mar Rockstar's masterpiece franchise, a game series that has left a lasting mark on the industry. Here's how Grand Theft Auto 5 has changed gaming.

Grand Theft Auto 5 is the best-selling game of all time in the US

Grand Theft Auto 5 came out in 2013 and quickly became the crown jewel of Rockstar's significantly bedazzled lineup. Yes, Red Dead Redemption and its sequel raked in fans and praise, but Grand Theft Auto 5 has claimed a spot as one of the most successful games in history, rivaling universally beloved titles like Tetris and Minecraft. In fact, according to Rockstar, Grand Theft Auto 5 has outsold all other games in the United States. 

In 2017, Rockstar parent company Take-Two announced Grand Theft Auto 5 had sold 85 million units since release, a number that has climbed to almost 110 million as of May 2019. The ongoing demand for the game has made Take-Two untold profits, a cash flow that doesn't look like it's going to stop anytime soon. People continue to buy the game, often at full price, topping even new releases year after year. Despite its age, Grand Theft Auto 5 remains fresh.

Grand Theft Auto 5 pioneered unprecedented freedom

Feel like cruising down the street in a super car? Hitting the strip clubs? Committing first-degree murder? You can do it all in Grand Theft Auto 5. (Please restrict your murder sprees to the virtual world.) The Grand Theft Auto series, especially Grand Theft Auto 5, offers players an unprecedented amount of freedom. The world is your oyster, and you can do with it what you wish. Rockstar made a game so detailed and large players have yet to get bored with it. 

Even after the main campaign, the side missions, and the high stakes heists, players have found new and innovative ways of entertaining themselves in Grand Theft Auto 5. The game lets you express yourself in all new ways: creating game modes, inventing new stunts, taking up photography, and even conducting social experiments. With seemingly endless possibilities, you can be as chaotic or law-abiding as you like. It's up to you to determine what kind of antics to get up to in Grand Theft Auto 5.

Grand Theft Auto 5 perfected the games as a service model

In a genius move, the folks at Rockstar released an online component for Grand Theft Auto 5. Supported by weekly content and bonuses, GTA Online has kept the game alive, thriving, and, most importantly, profitable. By monetizing Grand Theft Auto 5 in this way, Rockstar became one of the first companies to find wild success in the now vogue games as a service model. 

Ever notice modern games work a little differently than before? Rather than one-and-done releases, the industry has embraced the strategy of making experiences that never end; updates, seasons, and new modes keep the games going long after launch. EA has thoroughly (perhaps to its detriment) embraced this games as a service model, as has Rockstar. The company hopes lightning will strike twice with Red Dead OnlineTake-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick told investors: "It may not always be an online model, it probably won't always be a virtual currency model, but there will be some ability to engage in an ongoing basis with our titles after release across the board. That's a sea change in our business." And business is booming.

Is Grand Theft Auto 5 to blame for microtransactions?

Other gaming companies have noticed the success Grand Theft Auto Online continues to enjoy. Intent on making money after launch, developers and publishers have snuck more and more microtransactions into their games, many of which are shameless, even predatory. Grand Theft Auto 5 did not invent microtransactions, and the game doesn't go so far as to make you pay for extra save files, but the money Take-Two has made off of them may have inspired other gaming companies. 

Take-Two draws in massive profits from these microtransactions. Almost half of its revenue for fiscal Second Quarter 2018 came from "recurrent consumer spending." In layman's terms, microtransactions such as DLC and in-game currency have made a large contribution to Take-Two's financial success. Those small purchases — a Shark Card here, an upgrade there — can really add up.

Grand Theft Auto 5 helped popularize roleplaying

Grand Theft Auto 5 gives you an incredible amount of freedom to play the way you want to. When you add friends to the mix via Grand Theft Auto Online, you can even return to the days of your childhood and play pretend. Grand Theft Auto roleplaying is a thing, and a surprisingly popular one at that. Players, often streamers, take on personas that fit in the world of Los Santos and go about their lives, creating their own storylines in character. 

These servers filled with talented actors playing as inventive characters draw flocks of viewers who watch as drama unfolds live on stream. Serial killers prowl the streets. High speed chases are practically common place. Grand Theft Auto roleplaying servers offer a taste of the Grand Theft Auto movie that will never be. The roleplayers adhere to a basic set of "laws" to keep the playing field even between the cops and the criminals. It's not a perfect world — the community experiences its own scandals — but it sure is an entertaining one to watch. Viewers and players alike find themselves hooked on Grand Theft Auto roleplay.

Grand Theft Auto 5 has made careers

Grand Theft Auto videos have flooded YouTube, with many channels centered on Grand Theft Auto 5 content. Thanks to the longevity of the game, these channels haven't run out of material yet. Some popular channels gained notoriety by playing around in the chaotic world of Los Santos. 

The success of the Achievement Hunter channel can largely be attributed to the Grand Theft Auto franchise. A massive chunk of their content, including the flagship Let's Play Grand Theft Auto series, focuses on Grand Theft Auto 5. These videos have received thousands of views. In fact, when Rockstar released the popular heists in 2015, Achievement Hunter fans accused the company of stealing the idea from the Let's Play gang, who had already planned and executed (with varying degrees of success) a series of heists. These chaotic, ill-conceived Grand Theft Auto heists were so popular that the group performed their final heist live in front of a sold out audience. Thanks to Grand Theft Auto, these six hooligans turned playing video games into a live spectator sport. Grand Theft Auto 5 has helped make several lucrative careers.

Grand Theft Auto 5 paved the way for adult gamers

What does the average gamer look like? For years, the misconception persisted that the title "gamer" belonged solely to a teenage boy. Recent surveys have proven this assumption incorrect, with 40% of video game players falling in the 18 to 35 age demographic. It turns out 46% of gamers are female, with the average age for both male and female players falling in the early to mid 30s. Believe it or not, Grand Theft Auto 5 did much to publicize the fact that yes, adults play video games

It seems silly now, but the early 2000s were filled with games that carefully appealed to kids. Grand Theft Auto blazed its own trail, embracing mature ratings and proving adults can be just as avid gamers as kids. Grand Theft Auto 5's bombastic success pushed gaming further into the mainstream, its mature plot lines proving games don't have to be kid friendly to be successful. Sure, kids play Grand Theft Auto 5, but is it really a bunch of 12-year-olds with their allowances that made Rockstar millions? We don't think so.

Grand Theft Auto 5 made multiple main characters popular

Who is Grand Theft Auto 5's protagonist? Micheal, Trevor, and Franklin all share an approximately equal amount of the spotlight. (Although, we'll admit  Trevor leaves a big impression.) The game made the most out of having several storylines weave together. While Grand Theft Auto 5 didn't invent the concept, the game helped popularize the idea of multiple main characters, each with their own stories to play through, rather than one hero who represents the whole franchise.

Previously, most AAA titles had one franchise-spanning star such as Lara Croft, Nathan Drake, Mario, and Sonic. Developers have built empires on the shoulders of well-liked characters. In contrast, Grand Theft Auto places the emphasis on the world, the environment you can explore. By offering multiple main characters to explore Los Santos through, Rockstar gave players a more well-rounded experience, a trend you can see in titles like We Happy Few and A Way Out.