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Why did Epic Games make GTA V free?

Hi friend! Have you ever wondered why Epic Games decided to give away one of the world‘s most popular games, Grand Theft Auto V, for free? I looked into this and want to share with you the inside story behind Epic‘s fascinating strategic decision.

In short, Epic made GTA V free for a limited time in 2019 as a power move to attract millions of new gamers to their new Epic Games Store platform. It worked brilliantly, bringing in huge user growth despite costing Epic millions. Read on and I‘ll explain the full context!

Epic Was the New Kid Battling Steam

Let‘s rewind to 2018 when Epic Games launched their Epic Games Store for PC games. Prior to this, the dominant player by far for gamers to buy PC titles was Steam, owned by Valve.

Epic knew they faced an uphill battle against the entrenched Steam. So they devised a smart plan to compete: give away high-quality free games every 1-2 weeks.

This free games program kicked off with some popular indies like Subnautica, Celeste and Axiom Verge. Epic spent millions funding these freebie deals, but it paid off by hooking gamers into using the Epic Store.

Within Epic‘s first year they gave away over $2,200 worth of free games! And user numbers skyrocketed from 30+ million in 2018 to over 108 million by 2019.

Epic‘s free games tactic was paying off big time. But they knew that to truly rival Steam, they needed to land some epic exclusives.

GTA V – A Blockbuster treat

So in May 2019, Epic went all out by making one of the world‘s most acclaimed and best-selling games free for 2 weeks: Grand Theft Auto V.

Let‘s reflect on GTA V‘s absolutely mind-blowing popularity:

  • Released originally in 2013, but still played daily by millions
  • Has sold over 160 million copies total across all platforms
  • Has grossed over $6 billion in revenue, one of the most profitable entertainment releases ever

For any gamer who didn‘t own GTA V (a dwindling number!), this was an incredible value proposition. Just create a free Epic account and the huge critically acclaimed open world action game was yours at no cost.

Epic knew exactly what they were doing partnering with Rockstar Games to make this happen…

Epic‘s Store Crashed from Demand

When Epic announced GTA V would be free on their Mega Sale in May 2019, it destabilized their entire store. How?

So many users flooded the store to grab their free copy that it crashed Epic‘s servers for almost 8 hours straight!

Imagine the internet equivalent of a huge crowd stampeding to get the last remaining Black Friday TV. Epic couldn‘t keep up with the insane demand.

Once the servers stabilized, customer numbers stayed sky high. The free GTA V promotion gained Epic over 5 million new registered users during the 2 free weeks.

We can estimate based on typical game sale costs that Epic likely paid at least $10 million for the rights to distribute GTA V temporarily at no cost.

But for a free game giveaway, they couldn‘t have asked for a bigger blockbuster. This cemented Epic as a major force in the PC gaming sphere.

Aftermath – A Key Inflection Point

Epic making GTA V free marked a key inflection point in their battle with Steam. Here‘s how:

  • It exposed GTA V to new audiences who created Epic accounts just to grab this freebie
  • Drove increased in-game spending by new owners on GTA Online items
  • Validated Epic‘s free game strategy as a growth engine and key differentiator
  • Proved they could negotiate massive deals other stores couldn‘t match
  • Reinforced the Epic Store as a major destination for PC gaming deals

Since this landmark promotion, Epic has continued to grow its free games program, offering over 100 free titles worth $2,500!

And millions of new active customers have been hooked by the constantly rotating selection of freebies.

While initially costly, the investment has paid off handsomely by making Epic a gaming juggernaut. Plus it‘s been a huge win for us gamers who have enjoyed these awesome free titles!

The Takeaway

So in summary, friend, offering Grand Theft Auto V at no cost for two weeks in 2019 was a tactical masterstroke by Epic Games. Despite the multi-million dollar price tag, it turbocharged their user base growth and planted the Epic Games Store firmly on the gaming landscape.

It exemplified Epic‘s willingness to spend big on loss leaders to compete on exclusives and value. And it demonstrated the immense demand gamers have for free access to top-tier titles.

For us fans, it was an amazing chance to play one of the world‘s premier franchises without spending a dime. For Epic, it bought them an army of new users – surely making the expensive but successful promotion well worth it in the long run.

So the next time you play a fantastic free game from Epic, remember it traces back to the smart gamble they took making GTA V free! Does this help explain why they made that surprising decision? Let me know if you have any other gaming questions!



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