GTA Online offers some of the most ludicrously fun experiences available in gaming. I don’t think that anyone who has spent more than a few hours playing it can objectively deny that. Rockstar Games has crafted an immensely effective formula that is designed to maintain player engagement years after the game originally launched. It has been so successful, in fact, that even Rockstar remains surprised at its longevity.
Rather than rely on paid DLC expansions, like most other multiplayer titles have done for years, Rockstar has released every single content update for GTA Online for free. There’s some great stuff to be explored in these expansions, and they’ve gotten better with time too.
The Import/Export DLC brought with it an assortment of wild rides that completely changed the way players cruise around Los Santos. Vehicles like the Ruiner 2000 (think KITT from Knight Rider) and the Rocket Voltic provide ample opportunities for vehicular chaos while rampaging through the city.
Likewise, the latest addition to GTA Online, titled Gunrunning, introduces a myriad of new upgradeable death machines and weapon enhancements. They’re designed to maximize the carnage and fun by providing diverse tools to tackle any situation; be they during missions or free roam. Check out what you can do with the new rocket-powered gliding motorcycle, the Oppressor, courtesy of Reddit user Marteeeeene:
Getting so much new content for free, however, comes with one hell of a catch. All of these incredibly awesome toys are also incredibly expensive. That’s by design. Each update has proven more expensive than the last, meaning that GTA Online routinely experiences the virtual equivalent to real-world inflation. Bet you didn’t expect ten years ago that you’d need to conduct periodic cost/value analyses when playing a video game, huh?
On the surface, it all makes sense. Rockstar provides these content drops at no cost because they’re hoping you’ll want to spend some money on Shark Cards (an in-game currency system paid for using real money) to gain access to all of the new stuff. The problem is realized when you begin to do a little math.
Let’s use the game’s latest update, Gunrunning, as an example. In order to minimize the cost of purchasing the new vehicles that came with the DLC, you’ll first need to complete their associated contract missions. Otherwise, you’re paying a premium to bypass this step. In the long run, it’s cheaper to do the missions, so we’ll assume that they’re a given.
In order to even access the missions, you’ll need to be a CEO or the owner of a Motorcycle Club. You’ll need an office or a clubhouse too. We’ll assume you already have access to all that. Next, you’ll need to purchase a Bunker. The least expensive choice will run you $1,165,000. Then, you’ll need to buy a Mobile Operations Center. That’s going to cost a minimum of $1,225,000.
With me so far? Okay. So, rather than list every single vehicle individually, I’m just going to give you the total cost to buy them all. Remember, this is after the prices have been significantly reduced thanks to running the missions for a discount. Ready? $13,020,000. I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
So far, that means you’ll need a minimum of $15,410,000 in GTA Online in order to get the basic models of every new vehicle that is currently available. On top of that lofty sum, there are also many upgrades available for these vehicles. If you pay to expedite all of the research for those, it’ll cost you about $10 million more. There’s also the new Mk II upgrades for several weapons. Oh, and the new clothing and accessories as well.
What does this add up to in the end? Well, it can vary based on a number of factors but you’re looking at anywhere between $30 million to $40 million to get basic access to all the Gunrunning content.
What’s the big deal, then? So, you have to grind for a while to get all the cool stuff—so what? If you don’t want to do it, you can just buy Shark Cards, right? Sure. You can certainly buy Shark Cards, rather than spending months grinding out all the cash necessary to experience the new content. That’ll be $500 please, and thank you.
Yeah. Shark cards are insanely expensive. The best value available is the aptly named Megalodon Shark Card, which will give you $8,000,000 of GTA Online currency for $99.99 of your real money. You’d need to buy five of them to sink your teeth into the meat of the DLC.
Okay, so that’s crazy and clearly meant for rich people. So, let’s just grind for the cash in-game. I’ll hop into my helicopter and run an import mission. Then I’ll export the highest tier cars for a quick $100,000—easy.
I just hope there’s nobody who swoops in with a Buzzard attack helicopter to destroy my vehicle in transit. Oh; I’ll also have to wait for a mandatory 20-minute cooldown between deliveries. I can’t exit the game either, or else the cooldown will pause until I’m online again.
Rockstar has gone out of their way to impede your already slow progress as well. They want you to buy Shark Cards—that’s clear as the day is long—and minding your own business in empty lobbies to grind an income is not something they want you doing.
Other players are encouraged to attack your transport business—not that they needed a reason—which is required to be conducted in free roam. If that’s not enough, NPCs with aimbot levels of accuracy are ever-present to interfere with your transactions, and, should you find yourself in an empty lobby, their presence can be felt all the more fiercely. Also, at any given moment, your stockpile of illicit goods can be raided or stolen too, rendering all the patience and effort you put into acquiring them completely moot.
At the end of the day—when all’s said and done—it’s not impossible to earn cash in GTA Online. It’s just incredibly, prohibitively time-consuming. Some days are better than others, depending on the kind of players you run into. Usually, though, you’re lucky to walk away with a cool $300k for each hour you spend grinding. At that rate, it’ll only take you about 134 hours to come up with the amount you’ll need.
I suppose that what I’m getting at is this: Rockstar Games and their publisher 2K Games simply don’t respect our time. If I wasn’t clear previously, I want to say that they’ve crafted a masterpiece in GTA Online, and it’s home to some of the best experiences to be had in multiplayer gaming. I just wish they recognized that our time is just as valuable as theirs. We made GTA 5 one of the most successful games in history; it’s the least they could do.