PART OF THE CREW
Tellingly, Rockstar has just announced its 'Crews' idea; a title-agnostic clan system existing across all of its releases, capable of creating dynamic rivalries which persist outside of the games but are settled within them. It will anchor multiplayer to further emotional weight in the real world, and as such is going to be vital to GTA V.
"But GTA sells millions," you may scoff. "Why should Rockstar worry?" Well, there's another issue that Rockstar must address.
You see the frustrating, ironic thing about GTA is that despite being a game beloved by tens of millions worldwide, it's actually appreciated by few of its buyers. Most people who buy it are not like you and I. They don't read games magazines or websites. They're not interested in developers' creative intent. GTA is a mass-market phenomenon because it's bought in huge numbers, but many of its 'fans' buy it simply because it's a mass-market phenomenon. They're the folk who use their consoles as COD and FIFA dispensers; folk who'd be catatonic after a second of Braid.
When they start a new GTA game, the second they're in control they find a gun and start wrecking stuff. Rockstar's cinematic ambitions and philosophical narrative is not for them. They treat GTA simply as a drop-in, drop-out destructive sandbox, and as such are responsible for one of the most depressing stats in gaming. According to an official Xbox Live Achievements report, less than 30% of players (on Xbox 360, at least) finished the main story in GTA IV, let alone any side-missions.
Rockstar is rightly proud of its groundbreaking work. And with so many players using it simply as a way of casually messing about, something needs to be done. GTA V must be built in a way sympathetic to the less dedicated, more anarchic player. It needs to allow them to experience the story on their own terms, but without alienating those who do 'get it'. It must surely be the next planned evolutionary point from Max Payne 3's innovations.
It's been discussed how the four-man heist footage in GTA V's trailer hints at co-op action. But what if that co-op action is an option in every story mission? What if GTA V blends Max Payne 3's narratively-structured multiplayer ideas with Red Dead's living online open-world? What if it layers those ideas over Los Santos' entire main campaign world, to create a game simultaneously a single-player narrative campaign, and (optionally) inhabitable with dynamic multiplayer carnage?
What if story missions can become multiplayer, with real people taking over allies and enemies on the fly?
What if story missions can become multiplayer, with real people taking over allies and enemies on the fly? You still get GTA's epic story, but instilled with an ever-shifting organic turf-war between Crews. Let some of those skirmishes tweak less intrusive background details of the main story, like shifting the balance of criminal power, and you have an elegant, innovative solution to every issue we've discussed here.
Remember how GTA IV's in- game mobile phone was intended as an organic link to multiplayer, navigating game modes while also bonding them as parts of a cohesive world? Just another stepping-stone. Soon enough, GTA will be calling you on your real phone.