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Grand Theft Auto Goes...Social?

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Thursday, Mar 27, 2008
Yesterday, Rockstar Games announced the Rockstar Social Club, which sounds like a good idea despite the fact that there's nothing "social", really, about it.

Shh…did you feel that?  That little tremor, underneath your feet, did you feel it?


That was the hype train, embarking on its latest journey through mass media city, blog village, and all points in between.  Its passenger for the next month will be Grand Theft Auto IV, set to claim the title of most hotly hyped release of 2008 now that the buildup to Super Smash Bros. Brawl has passed us by.  GTA4‘s seat is likely saved until at least mid-May, when it will likely have to step aside for the adventures of Geriatric Snake in Metal Gear Solid 4.


The sparkplug that’s starting the train’s journey to April 29th, then, is the announcement of this:


That’s right, folks, the Rockstar Social Club will be opening on the same day as GTAIV‘s release, complete with all of the seedy connotations and orange neon you can handle. 


Before you start thinking that Rockstar’s games are going to turn into a dark, irreverent version of Second Life, one thing should be clear: There is nothing, at least according to the press release that showed up in my e-mailbox yesterday, “social” about the Rockstar Social Club.  It is an online leaderboard with a fancy name, which requires only a PlayStation Network ID or an Xbox Live Gamertag as admission to enter.  Offer up one or both of those things, and you get to measure yourself against the legion of other Grand Theft Auto junkies out there in a number of different ways.


That said, as far as leaderboards go, the Rockstar Social Club sounds pretty snazzy.  It’ll be keeping track of the race to get to 100%, and the first 10 insomniacs to do so will get an extra-special trinket of some sort that they will undoubtedly be able to Ebay for big bucks.  It’ll have a map keeping track of every recorded crime committed in Liberty City.  The bit that sticks out most, however, is the following:


The Liberty City Marathon—A ranking of special physical milestones achieved in the game - from the amount of miles walked, driven, or swam - to the number of bullets fired and stunt-jumps jumped.  There will be additional special marathon-based competitions in the future from this area as well.


I’m a huge fan of the achievement system, given that achievements can serve as suggestions, prompting ways to play games that one might never have tried had Gamerscore points not been attached, thus extending the life of a game beyond its immediate goals.  Still, there’s something more than a little humorous about the idea of keeping track of, say, who swam the most in a game called Grand Theft Auto.  You just know that there are going to be a few poor souls whose ultimate goal is to top the distance-swam leaderboard, and watching that race as it happens is going to be a little bit hilarious in a sad sort of way.  Still, kudos to Rockstar for finding ways, more than a month before the game is even released, to extend the play experience of a game destined to eat hundreds of hours of our time anyway. 


The full press release is after the jump, and the latest trailer is sitting below.  Looking forward to GTAIV?  Couldn’t care less?  Let us know in the comments, and enjoy your weekend.



Grand Theft Auto IV Trailer: “Good Lord, What Are You Doing?”



  

On April 29th Rockstar Games will release the most anticipated game of 2008, Grand Theft Auto IV. In addition to the game, the company is launching the Rockstar Social Club, a new website that will extend your experience of Grand Theft Auto IV and all future Rockstar Games titles.


The Rockstar Social Club is more than just a standard gaming site. It features all of the statistical leaderboards that gamers have come to expect, and combines them with performance-based competitions and awards.


Registration for the Rockstar Social Club begins on April 15th and anyone can sign up with their Xbox Gamertag and/or a PlayStation Network ID.


GTA IV, the first game featured on the Rockstar Social Club, has exciting features beyond multiplayer leaderboards, including:


* LCPD Police Blotter—A virtual map and tracker of single-player criminal activity logged in Liberty City from the aggregated data of millions of connected players - showing the most dangerous areas of town, most commonly used weapons and more.


* The Story Gang—This special single-player leaderboard recognizes players who complete Niko Bellic’s main story arc of Grand Theft Auto IV - The leaderboard ranks players according to the total amount of playing time it’s taken to complete the story, as well as a historical rank by who has completed it first.  Members of this club will receive special online widgets and merit badges marking all of their in-game accomplishments.


* The 100% Club—Watch to see who will be the first to complete 100% of the game. The first ten people to be identified on the Social Club as reaching 100% will be sent an ultra-rare commemorative ‘key to the city’ to mark their accomplishment.  In the future, the 100% Club will then carry a historical leaderboard showing rankings of who has completed 100% of a game in the shortest span of playing hours.


* The Hall of Fame—This area will dynamically recognize those singularly elite players who have reached the top of the hill on various statistical leaderboards, and will also contain a personal awards display of special in-game landmarks and successes in Social Club competitions.


* The Liberty City Marathon—A ranking of special physical milestones achieved in the game - from the amount of miles walked, driven, or swam - to the number of bullets fired and stunt-jumps jumped.  There will be additional special marathon-based competitions in the future from this area as well.


The Rockstar Social Club doesn’t stop there. With special competitions, leaderboards and challenges rolling out regularly in the weeks and months following the game’s release, this is just the beginning of an on-going Liberty City experience and is a small taste of what’s to come from Rockstar Games for GTAIV and beyond…


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