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Rockstar apologizes to GTA Online players with $500,000 of in-game cash

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Grand Theft Auto V
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Grand Theft Auto V

Washington politicians take note: This is how you do a stimulus package!

As an olive branch to players who have suffered through server woes, vanishing characters and a variety of other technical hiccups marring the launch of Grand Theft Auto Online, Rockstar Games has announced plans to give players $500,000 of in-game money.

Anyone who logs into the online game and plays for a while this month will be eligible for the windfall. The deposits will be made directly into players' in-game bank accounts.

Of course, as with any living economy, Rockstar is taking pains to avoid in-game inflation. Instead of offering a lump payment, the money will be distributed in two separate deposits of $250,000. The dates for those drops aren't determined yet, but Rockstar's hoping to make the first payment next week.

The cash comes with yet another patch for the game, which is also expected next week. That update, says Rockstar, is expected to conclusively fix the persnickety issue of vanishing vehicles as well as a few other remaining bugs.

"For players who experienced cloud server errors, connection issues, and lost game progress and characters in these first days of GTA Online, we hope this GTA$ helps to facilitate a fresh start or makes your continued life in Los Santos and Blaine County extra sweet," the developer said.

The online component of Grand Theft Auto V, which was added in a free downloadable patch, has been struggling mightily since its October 1 launch. The first three days were largely unplayable, as a massive influx of gamers crashed the servers, creating a virtually impenetrable logjam. Eventually that was ironed out, but even when they’d access the game’s online world, players still found problems. Created characters were disappearing, causing players to lose not only their online avatars, but their rank, apartments and cash. A patch for that was released earlier this week.

It’s not uncommon for online games to suffer from issues during the week or two after launch, and to their credit, Rockstar has been up front and communicative the entire way via blog posts and now an actual in-game cash payout. GTA V players can also hold off diving into the online mode -- a first for the series -- and instead focus on the game’s sprawling single-player story.

That’s a luxury other recent problematic games haven’t enjoyed. EA’s SimCity made headlines with a litany of connectivity problems during its launch in March, but unlike GTA V, the game required an online connection to work at all, even for solo players. Like Rockstar, EA tried to make nice with frustrated players by giving away a free EA game. A nice gesture, but the damage had been done.

Similar issues plagued the launch of Blizzard’s role-playing hit Diablo III the year prior, though that game’s recent port over to the Xbox 360 and PS3 appears to have gone much more smoothly.

Despite the online problems, GTA V has been nothing short of a historic success for Rockstar. The game has enjoyed record-setting sales since its launch in September; analysts expect those numbers to turn the month into a winner for the games industry.

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