Meet Grand Theft Auto’s investment bankers

By James Cook on October 28th, 2013

There are the casual investors: those people who experiment with a few thousand dollars. Then there are the serious bankers. Bankers have exclusive information, up-to-date stock alerts, online tools and a community of fellow traders to call on. Welcome to the strange world of Grand Theft Auto V’s living, breathing stock market.

If Reddit’s GTAMarkets community is anything to go by, tens of thousands of players are taking the stock market in Grand Theft Auto V very seriously. The community shares tips on shares, along with tactics about how in-game characters can make the most out of their investments.

Players figured out that the game’s meth dealer Trevor sleeps for 12 hours, ghetto-dweller Franklin sleeps for eight, and the game’s mature family man Michael only needs six hours. Once players have learnt these, they can strategically sleep in the game to advance time and check the changes in their portfolio to steal a march on other investors.

To add to the complications, there are two separate stock markets: one for the PlayStation 3 and one for Xbox 360. Separate updates and tips are issued for players on each system. A typical news round-up reads as follows.

“PIS ($48.46 +13%) is still running hot. Some say it’s leveling off but in reality the gains are just slowing down but it is still gaining.

The game’s stock market is called BAWSAQ instead of NASDAQ. Say it with a Scottish accent.

“One of the most intriguing options right now is Crevis outdoor sportswear (CRE) who has been slumping the past 24 hours up until just recently is on the rise! This stock has jumped +11% today. Currently at a price of $455.16 I believe this stock definitely has the potential for major growth!!”

It’s remarkable to see people trading stock tips for fictional companies inside a video game. Humorous companies such as CNT (Grand Theft Auto V’s CNN) and Pißwasser (the game’s beer of choice) are all traded. The game’s stock market is called BAWSAQ instead of NASDAQ. Say it with a Scottish accent and you’ll see why the name was changed.

Always-on

For the GTA stock watchers, their obsession doesn’t end when the video game console is switched off. You see, the game’s developer Rockstar Games updates stock prices every 120 minutes. Players wanting to know the stocks to follow often keep track of live updates through several different websites using an API substitute.

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This site updates every fifteen minutes, allowing hardcore Grand Theft Auto players all the data about their in-game stocks in one place.

gtavstocks.com uses the API data and reformats it into a site with a scrolling ticker. The site features adverts to fund its massive hosting bill. Interest has been so great that recently, in a single day, it used over ten gigabytes of bandwidth.

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The Kernel spoke to gtavstocks‘s creator, Reddit user OiledSteelCan, to find out more about the website helping avid GTA stock market fans.

“Making this website has really changed my life. I make websites for a living, but it’s hard to find work, so when I don’t have any projects that I get paid for, I have to come up with something that can pay for my living. I have also stated that any advertising income not used for paying for the server, rent, food and such will be donated to charities, so at the end of this month I am estimating a $100 donation to Breast Cancer Research (Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month I thought that was fitting).

“I will put all donations up on the website to keep track. I find it to be a nice way to give back.”

‘When I don’t have any projects that I get paid for, I have to come up with something that can pay for my living.’

While he may be adept at creating websites, does OiledSteelCan have any stock market experience in the real world?

“I have mainly only worked in IT, web design and a few years in the Army dealing with radios, so the only experience I have with money is spending it. After dabbling with the game market I am now investing money on the real market since it was so much fun to do so in the game.

“I have not invested a huge amount. I got $200 on Ariad Pharmaceuticals, it seemed OK and I have gained about 10 per cent so far. It actually seems like the real world market moves much faster than the game market.”

Despite all the tools available to carefully track stocks, the GTA Markets community has had far more success with a “pump-and-dump” scheme. Players invested heavily in the game’s beer company PIS, and then sold it en masse once the following understated sell announcement was posted.

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Depending on who you speak to, the PIS scheme was either a great success or a failure. Instead of the stock price crashing after the sale, it climbed. Players who invested early found themselves with shares valued much higher than their purchase price.

Reddit user mwilkens posted this image of his stock earnings.

Reddit user mwilkens posted this image of his stock earnings.

Reddit user LunchBokth is another prominent member of Grand Theft Auto’s banking community. It was he who announced the sell order for PIS stock in the grand pump-and-dump scheme. We asked him why players are spending so much time on a small feature of the game.

“A lot of the coolest content, like powerful weapons, super cars, and flashy clothes, is most easily obtained via in-game vendors who don’t sell cheap. If you don’t pay attention before you complete the main story, you could miss out on a lot of it.”

If you build it

Apparently the game’s developer has kept very quiet about the stock market since the game’s launch.

“When the game came out, the stock market feature was lightly covered by Rockstar in their informational promotions. Since launch, Rockstar has kept silent regarding the feature.”

And as for LunchBokth, what’s his background? “I’m a recent graduate receiving my BS in economics from a college in Oregon, USA. I live in San Francisco. I would like to obtain an employment background in big data, banking, or analytics.”

Grand Theft Auto V’s immersive stock market seems to have caught Rockstar Games off-guard. Players have hacked together an API, and communities are springing up all over the internet. People with an interest in economics are helping to formulate plans and tips, while more casual players are being introduced to real-world investment… all thanks to something called BAWSAQ.

Read more: The rush to solve Grand Theft Auto V’s biggest mystery