When Rockstar Games announced that Red Dead Redemption 2 wouldn't hit its original Fall 2017 release window, it wasn't all that surprising. Delays have become more of a norm than an outlier this generation, making release dates as believable as mainstream media.
But when Red Dead Redemption 2 faced its second delay to start the year, it wasn't exactly something we were expecting, and definitely not what we were hoping for. The big question is: why was it hit by two delays in such a short period of time?
The most obvious thing to point at is polish, and I don't mean polish sausage. Rockstar is a master of well-refined code, and you'd be mistaken to expect anything but a prime time ready product. Even with this in consideration, I happen to believe there's more to the recent delay than just "polish", especially after reading the credible leak posted by TwustedReviews this morning.
In case you haven't gotten around to reading the leak, here's a quick breakdown:
Multiplayer modes: Battle Royale, Revive and Survive, Money Grab
GTA online style apartments return in the form of camping tents
Companion app to launch alongside the game
Main campaign and multiplayer fully playable in 1st person (though come on, you've gotta play this in 3rd person to see your character!)
Eagle Eye is returning - edit: article calls it Eagle Eye, but is probably Dead Eye
Fishing as a side activity
As much as each point is worth consideration, the biggest item is undoubtedly two words contained in the first line: Battle Royale. You can probably immediately identify what this entails. Yup, Rockstar is headed into PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Fortnite territory.
The thing is, Battle Royale didn't hit mainstream conscience until a few months ago, at which point Red Dead Redemption 2 was supposed to release. Might this be why a second delay came out of nowhere?
What we're likely looking at here is Rockstar's attempt to tap into the early wave of Battle Royale popularity. This is the big new thing in gaming, after all, with potential to become the multi billion dollar, soul-stealing genre that MOBAs became a decade ago.
Such an idea could work incredibly well. Red Dead Redemption 2 is already an open-world game, so level design serves no trouble. The real question is if the engine can handle dozens of players in a single instance. Although I'm uncertain jumping to any conclusion about player count, we do know that Rockstar earned grey hairs working through network and technical challenges with Grand Theft Auto Online.
Of course, all of this is simply speculation, but to some degree it makes sense. Rockstar Games has made a truckload of money from monetizing Grand Theft Auto Online, and as such analysts have been expecting it to make Red Dead Redemption 2's multiplayer component a big part of the experience.
And you know who would be happiest about such an announcement? Shareholders. Battle Royale = $$$.