287 days later and counting, Red Dead Online has not had a new content update since the 13th of July 2021.
As we approach the one year mark since the last update, fans only have one question: Is this the end of support for Red Dead Online and how did we get to this point?
The current state of Red Dead Online is one that is quite surprising considering how it all began, with Red Dead Redemption 2’s release on October 26th, 2018, the launch was huge as Red Dead Redemption 2 itself remains consistently in the top 10 best selling games each month since its launch, and is one of the highest rated games during the Xbox One & PS4 generation, largely considered one of the greatest single player games of all time. It was no surprise that an online component would be successful, a month after the gigantic success of Red Dead Redemption 2. Red Dead Online was released to mixed reception in a beta state, compared to the glowing reception of the story mode, Red Dead Online felt like a skeleton of a game that was a great foundation for what could be one of the best online games on the market, however instantly the biggest issue was the game’s second currency “Gold Bars” which was able to be purchased with real money.
Gold Bars led to huge issues with the in-game economy itself as the mode felt like it was entirely designed to get the player to spend, the more easily earnable currency being RDO$ was earned in pennies with prices of items ranging in the thousands, this was in huge contrast to the single player mode which allowed the players to very easily earn money and enjoy it on items.
Red Dead Online was already in hot waters from day 1, but it quickly amassed a community as it still lends itself to being the best online cowboy game you could possibly play. Role play communities quickly prompted up, and customization was (while expensive) quite enjoyable. Players quickly found themselves making their own fun since the map and gameplay systems the mode was running on were all carried over from the stellar single-player.
Thankfully, Rockstar kept updating Red Dead Online well into 2019 and 2020, Consistent updates with ups and downs kept rolling and an economy rebalance didn’t take long to arrive after launch, however the mode didn’t peak until the release of “Frontier Pursuits” towards the end of 2019, taking players’ feedback and pushing Red Dead Online way more towards an RPG. Frontier Pursuits was largely celebrated by the community and remains the biggest content drop Red Dead Online had in its history, adding a grand total of 3 roles for the players to grind through and earn rewards.
However certain design decisions seemed strange to players, overpriced roles were instantly the biggest gate to any players returning to Red Dead Online, 15 gold bars were not easily acquirable quickly without paying, many players were eager to give the mode another chance were instantly turned away due to this massive wall.
Bounty Hunter was the most hyped role before launch, seemed to be entirely balanced around waiting for timers for a bigger cash drop instead of rewarding players for skilled play, seemingly pushing players to spend more time doing nothing over having fun, this was never changed by Rockstar. However this was countracted by the daily challenges system which was introduced in an earlier update but had a huge expansion making it the most viable way to earn Gold Bars with streaks that reward the most dedicated of players with the currency. It felt for the first time that Red Dead Online could have a very bright future if it kept going down this direction, Rockstar seemed determined to take feedback into account and aside from a few hurdles that pushed new players away, fan feedback was largely glowing towards this update, and Rockstar seemed determined to ride this wave, for some time…
Moonshiners was another fairly successful update that was released only a few months after Frontier Pursuits, this time adding in the first (and only) purchasable properties into the game, fan reception wasn’t as positive due to the entry price of 25 Gold Bars and the slow progression of this role however it fully capitalized on the demand of story mode style missions, adding in 5 missions with fully mo-capped cutscenes and realized characters, however this update wasn’t the highlight of this period for Red Dead Online.
In August 2019, Rob Nelson, the co-studio head of Rockstar North did an interview with Gamesradar, confirming Rockstar has a whole catalogue of ideas for the future of the mode, including ideas such as running a train company, properties, and slowly expanding each of the players’ businesses, slowly adopting a non-linear journey for the players where they can write out their own story using the tools and jobs that are available in the game, this sounded insanely promising and set Moonshiners & Frontier Pursuits as the beginning of a Golden Age for the mode, but this was short lived.
We all know 2020 had issues that rendered everyday life to change drastically, Rockstar switched to a fully remote working environment during this time, this was when the development of Red Dead Online took a huge shift.
With slower development time, Red Dead Online received the Naturalist update, widely regarded as the most boring role in the game, it has the players spam shooting animals in the wild using “sedative pallets” in order to retrieve “samples” from the animals to grow a collection of them and sell for a price and XP. Legendary animal hunts were also added, a carryover from story mode and were a welcome addition but overall the update felt like it was the last thing the player base was hoping for, at the time the biggest requests were for more properties and an outlaw role.
Late 2020 saw another update, a medium-sized expansion to the Bounty Hunters role, while this update was received pretty well, it seemed to have what can only be described as some disastrous balance updates, the daily challenges streaks were massively nerfed, now limiting the players at 28 days max, while also halving all Gold Bar awards from them, with the new Bounty Hunter upgrade costing another 15 gold bars and the previous two updates costing 25 gold bars each. It seemed clear that Rockstar wanted players to pay more,
Alongside this, GTA Online (Rockstar’s other giant online mode) had one of its biggest updates ever with the Cayo Perico Heist, and Rockstar announced that they’d also be remastering the 2013 game for the second time for the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S with no word on if Red Dead Redemption 2 would get the same treatment, this was the beginning of the end for Red Dead Online.
After seven months of silence and a “clown protest” from the fanbase due to a lack of updates for that year, 2021 had a single update for Red Dead Online,
“Blood Money” was the long-requested “Outlaw Role” that players had been asking for, promising large scale cooperative robberies, to call this update a letdown would be an understatement. Capitale was introduced, being the game’s now fourth currency, Blood Money was less of a role and more of a series of tiny jobs that barely had rewards for the players, Capitale was also one of the slowest earned currencies in the game, being needed for the more fun larger robberies. This entire update had a strange feel to it. Cutscenes were far shorter, missions were all re-using assets from older stranger missions or story mode, prices for new items were overpriced, reception from the community was hugely negative, and the entire update seemed to be made for one purpose which was to sell Gold Bars.
This blow was even worse to the community when only a week later GTA Online shipped out the “Los Santos: Tuners” update, massively outshining Red Dead Online’s 2021’s Summer update in every way, adding long requested features, a new social space, missions, and vehicles, it was clear where Rockstar’s priorities had lied now.
2021 ended with another massive update to GTA Online “The Contract“, Blood Money was the last content drop that Red Dead Online would get for the foreseeable future.
#SaveRedDeadOnline became a trending topic on all social media platforms, being covered by many news outlets, and still being posted all over the internet, Red Dead Online had amassed quite a large community over the years, people wanted it to succeed, a movement was started as an outcry for Rockstar to give the mode what it deserved, however there has only been silence since then from Rockstar. There is no word on if the mode will ever receive an update again, GTA Online had its new release during this time and as expected was a massive success, GTA+ was announced as a new subscription to GTAO to push even more revenue from the already “most profitable entertainment product of all time”
Do we believe Rockstar has given up on Red Dead Online? Taking into account 287 days and counting with no updates, event “weeks” that have turned into months, the last updates to the mode all being attempts to see how far they could push predatory mechanics to sell gold bars and the continued never-ending success of GTA Online.
We can conclude that yes, It is a very fair assumption that Rockstar has given up on Red Dead Online, for now.