I am a proponent of the theory that the spectacular success of the Grand Theft Auto Online changed Rockstar's approach to game development, and it is primarily responsible for curbing single-player add-ons, first to Grand Theft Auto 5, and later to Red Dead Redemption 2. Still, it's hardly surprising, because everyone nowadays would like their own evergreen game that can be updated with content relatively effortlessly. And it's even better to have two games like that. And indeed, such a game was created, and it is called Red Dead Online – but it currently seems that it will die faster than expected.
For people monitoring the condition of the online western on regular basis, this is, of course, nothing new. Rockstar had the foundations laid on launch, but anything beyond that seemed a hustle. For nearly four years, the online module was expanded with only eight major additions, which did provide quite a lot of fun (in my case, nearly 250 hours thereof), but are really only a fraction of what Grand Theft Auto Online offers today.
I have long believed that the vision that was outlined with the introduction of the 'roles' would be realized in the future, and in addition to more specializations, we'd also get story expansions akin to those from GTAO. Today, Rockstar makes it clear – we won't see any major new expansions again. Instead, existing roles will be expanded, there will be new telegram missions and... that's it. The withering mode will be kept alive for now – maybe someone will still be tempted and pay real money for virtual gold bars, which later will become useless, as long as you play regularly.
I have no illusions that Red Dead Online was simply not profitable nor popular enough compared to Grand Theft Auto Online. That's not to say it's the players' fault – no, it's Rockstar itself, which apparently isn't really up to challenge of keeping two similar titles in mint condition for longer. The old-timers got bored with the game long ago, and newcomers will quickly opt out when they find out that the amount of content is severely limited and doing the same thing over and over again yields no real results.
Only a handful of the most hardcore enthusiasts will remain loyal, playing once in a while, when another event is announced. If, however, the existing formula was enriched much earlier – if only with ideas submitted by fans – the situation would be completely different. For example, populating Mexico and additng settlements to it would be a cool idead, considering it already exists as an empty location in the game anyways. Story additions that worked perfectly in GTAO would also work well here. It was possible, but it was recalculated that this wasn't a viable investment, certainly not at the time.
Red Dead Online is not a bad game per se, it's the exact opposite. It has enormous potential that, with a little good will, could be successfully developed for years. However, Rockstar gave up without a fight, apparently assuming that no one will miss the western game. That's a mistake. There really is no shortage of dedicated fans of RDO – just look on Reddit. These people are there, but they just learned long ago there's no point arguing with Rockstar. And that's all too bad, because I think RDO was the more interesting of Rockstar's online games. It didn't have all that infantile quirkiness of GTA, it was much more serious and more realistic. And I, for one, loved it.