Skip to content

Is Red Dead Online free if you have RDR2?

The short answer is yes – Red Dead Online comes included with every copy of Red Dead Redemption 2 at no additional cost. Keep reading as we dive into what Red Dead Online offers, its reception from players, and what the future may hold for this online wild west world.

What is Red Dead Online and how does it work?

Red Dead Online is the multiplayer online component of Rockstar Games‘ Red Dead Redemption 2. It allows players to explore the open world environment of RDR2 alongside friends and other players.

After completing the prologue and intro missions, you‘re free to roam the wilderness, take on missions and activities, and interact with the game world. Here‘s an overview of what you can do in Red Dead Online:

  • Missions – Join up with other players to complete cooperative objectives like robbing banks, delivering goods, assaulting hideouts and more.

  • Free Roam – Explore the open world either solo or with friends. Hunt, fish, search for treasure, take in the scenery, and interact with other players you meet.

  • Competitive Modes – Face off in team-based and free-for-all competitive modes like Make it Count, Up in Smoke, Spoils of War, and more.

  • Five Finger Fillet – Challenge other players to this quick draw game of timing and dexterity.

  • Poker – Play poker matches in Saint Denis or on trains to win cash. You can also participate in private invite-only poker games.

  • Races – Join races on horseback or wagons that take you across the landscapes and towns.

  • Roles – Take on one of several specialized roles like Bounty Hunter, Trader, or Collector to progress and unlock unique gameplay.

  • Properties – Purchase properties like camps, moonshine shacks, or prestigious homes to unlock activities and upgrades.

  • Character Customization – Create and customize your cowboy or cowgirl down to every detail. Tweak appearance, outfits, weapons, and more.

The online world persists whether you‘re playing or not. You‘ll encounter dynamic events, weather, and other players roaming the landscapes. Every session brings new emergent moments and challenges.

Is PS Plus or Xbox Live required for Red Dead Online?

If you‘re playing Red Dead Redemption 2 on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, an active subscription to PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold is required to access the online features. This is a requirement for the majority of online multiplayer games on consoles.

However, Red Dead Online does not require any subscription on PC. You only need the base Red Dead Redemption 2 game purchased on platforms like Steam, Epic Games Store, or Rockstar Games Launcher.

PlatformSubscription Required?
PlayStation 4PlayStation Plus
Xbox OneXbox Live Gold
PC (Steam, Epic, etc)None Required

So in summary, PS Plus or Xbox Live is needed for consoles, but you can enjoy Red Dead Online on PC at no extra cost.

What gameplay mechanics make Red Dead Online unique?

While clearly building on the foundation of Red Dead Redemption 2‘s singleplayer, here are some notable gameplay elements that help Red Dead Online stand out:

  • Ability Cards – These special cards provide passive effects and bonuses. You can equip multiple cards in a deck to enhance health, damage, defense and other attributes. Different combinations support varied playstyles.

  • Gold Economy – Gold bars are the premium currency. They can be earned through play, purchased with real money, or acquired from daily challenges. Gold bars unlock items and progression.

  • Roles – Choosing a role like Bounty Hunter, Collector, or Trader unlocks specialized progression paths and activities tailored to that role.

  • Camps – Set up a camp to access crafting, resting, and a personal space. Higher rank camps gain better locations and amenities.

  • Dynamic Events – Random encounters, enemy gang ambushes, NPC rescues, and other emergent activities keep the world full of surprises.

  • First Person Mode – New to Red Dead Online is the option to play in an immersive first person viewpoint.

So while the core open world gameplay remains familiar, new multiplayer-focused systems greatly expand and enhance the experience.

How has the reception been to Red Dead Online?

Fan reactions to Red Dead Online have been somewhat mixed and polarized based on who you ask. Here‘s an overview of some common player perspectives:


  • Gorgeous open world and flawless RDR2 gameplay adapted well to multiplayer
  • Exciting to play through missions and events with real teammates
  • Roles and progression systems add rewarding long-term goals
  • Varied PvP and PvE activities cater to different playstyles
  • Significant expansions like Frontier Pursuits have added depth


  • Lacks depth and content compared to GTA Online
  • Ongoing bugs, glitches, exploits and balance issues
  • Oppressive monetization focused on pushing gold bar sales
  • Repetitive mission structure becomes stale over time
  • Rampant griefing and toxicity between players
  • Sparse major updates leave the game feeling neglected

Based on player numbers and sales, the overall reception leans positive. Red Dead Online hit a peak of over 1 million daily active players in early 2021 according to Rockstar.

But reviewers and core fans remain mixed. It hasn‘t quite reached the heights and consistency of other AAA online experiences like GTA Online. There‘s a hope for Red Dead Online to still grow into an exceptional multiplayer universe with the right updates over time.

What is the future of Red Dead Online?

The future roadmap of Red Dead Online is unclear at the moment. Rockstar surprised players in July 2022 by announcing no major updates were planned while development shifts to the next Grand Theft Auto game.

This has left fans worried about the online mode being abandoned. Popular analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities told

“I think that the Red Dead Online community has good reason to be disappointed, as Rockstar had marketed the game as an online experience that would be expanded and enriched over time. The company didn‘t mislead intentionally, but they have clearly reallocated resources to Grand Theft Auto 6.”

However, Rockstar also said they will "continue to build upon existing modes, add seasonal content and in-game events, etc" So smaller updates seem likely even if major expansions are on hold.

There are theories that once GTA 6 is launched, Red Dead Online may again see larger content updates. But only time will tell. For now fans are left eagerly awaiting any news on return to proper support.

How does monetization work in Red Dead Online?

There are two main currencies used in the economy of Red Dead Online:

  • Cash – The standard currency earned by playing missions, PvP modes, selling items, etc. Used to purchase weapons, items, clothing, ammunition, etc.

  • Gold Bars – Premium currency that can be purchased with real money, earned from challenges/bounties, or acquired slowly in-game. Used to purchase roles, businesses, cosmetics, etc.

Prices in the in-game stores are denominated in one of these two currencies. Here‘s a breakdown of pricing in the economy:

Custom Outfit$500 – $1500 cash
Hat$22 – $124 cash
Horse$130 – $950 cash
Pistol$53 – $1000 cash
Rifle$363 – $1334 cash
Sniper Rifle$409 – $2923 cash
Revolver$317 – $317 cash
Bounty Hunter Role15 gold bars
Collector Role15 gold bars
Moonshine Shack25 gold bars
25 Gold Bars (premium currency)$4.99 real money

Gold bar bundles go up to 350 bars for $49.99. So while many items, weapons, and activities can be unlocked with in-game cash, certain premium cosmetics and roles require the premium gold bars.

Overall the monetization has been quite profitable for Rockstar but also controversial. Lifetime revenue from Red Dead Online reached $790 million in 2021 according to SuperData estimates. But some players argue it exploits aggressive microtransactions rather than fair in-game rewards.

How does it compare to other online experiences?

Red Dead Online entered a competitive landscape full of established multiplayer juggernauts. Here‘s how Red Dead Online stacks up to some other heavy hitters:

GTA Online – Made by the same Rockstar Studios, GTA Online is widely seen as the pinnacle of evolving online worlds full of action. Red Dead Online lacks the breadth of activities and updates so far.

Fortnite – The free-to-play technical and social marvel of Fortnite far outweighs what Red Dead Online has accomplished. Fortnite feels like a vibrant community; Red Dead Online can feel empty.

World of Warcraft – While very different games, WoW sets the gold standard for engaging progression systems and long-term retention mechanics missing from Red Dead Online.

Call of Duty – Fast paced complex progression has allowed Call of Duty online mutliplayer to dominate yearly sales. Red Dead Online‘s systems feel simplistic by comparison.

Minecraft – The ultimate sandbox, Minecraft provides endless emergent gameplay. Red Dead Online struggles to compete with the creativity and player freedom Minecraft allows.

While Red Dead Online excels at roleplaying in a life-like wild west, shortcomings become apparent when stacked against the very best online gaming experiences. It doesn‘t fully deliver on the expectations set by today‘s live service blockbusters.

But there‘s hope continued long-term updates and evolution could turn it into a world-class persistent online playground for cowboys and cowgirls!

Is Red Dead Online worth trying?

At the end of the day, while it doesn‘t quite achieve its full potential yet, Red Dead Online remains a quality online game, especially considering it comes free with every copy of Red Dead Redemption 2.

For those looking to spend more time in the meticulously crafted open world of RDR2 with friends by their side, it‘s absolutely worth playing. The foundation provided by Red Dead Redemption 2 is exquisite.

Just temper expectations around depth and updates, especially in light of recent news of further development being paused. There are certainly frustrations to be aware of like potential monetization pressures or lack of major new content.

But with an open mindset, Red Dead Online can provide dozens of hours of enjoyment across tons of gameplay activities, progression systems, competitive modes, and open world events. If you enjoy Red Dead Redemption 2, the online multiplayer mode is a free way to expand your adventures.

So in summary: yes, any RDR2 owner or fan of western worlds should give Red Dead Online a fair shot. Just be ready for the occasional rough edges that come with any evolving online game experience. At its peaks, Red Dead Online truly shines and brings amazing immersive escapism.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.