GTA 6 is in active development, Rockstar has confirmed. Buried deep within a Newswire post that first detailed improvements en route to GTA Online, and then offered a release date for its incoming next-gen release on PS5 and Xbox Series X – March 15, by the way – the developer nonchalantly said “active development for the next entry in the Grand Theft Auto series is well underway”. Rockstar closed the news post by saying it looks forward to sharing more information soon. And, within minutes, Grand Theft Auto was trending globally on social media.
This is, of course, the longest we’ve ever had to wait for a new Grand Theft Auto game. And while we’re likely some ways away from the finishing line yet, Rockstar has set things up nicely for GTA Online’s final push before it picks up and moves to a new city. When Microsoft’s Peter Moore announced GTA 4 on stage at E3 2006, he spoke excitedly of “a fanbase that hangs on every mere mention of the next chapter”. Over 25 years on, and the best part of decade into the lifespan of GTA 5, and that’s truer now than ever before. And Rockstar knows exactly what it’s doing.
GTA 5 was announced in late 2011, two years ahead of the game’s full release. The tweet, posted on October 25, 2011, simply read “#GTAV” with a link to Rockstar’s website, where it was confirmed that Grand Theft Auto 5 was indeed coming before promising a trailer the following week. Shortly after that, the landing page to Rockstar’s website contained nothing more than the now iconic black, white, and green GTA 5 logo.
Back then, Rockstar’s position in the games industry could hardly be argued – having shipped everything from GTA 3 to Vice City, Red Dead Redemption, Max Payne, San Andreas, GTA 4, and LA Noire among many other critically and commercially-acclaimed games – but this reveal underlined its status and oozed confidence to the point of arrogance, well-earned as it was. When Moore introduced the world to GTA 4 five years prior, he said Grand Theft Auto was a franchise that “generated more excitement than anything else out there, not just in our industry, but in all of entertainment.” A five-character tweet for its next big reveal was Rockstar proving this very point, transcending the games industry with a swagger akin to Niko Belic or Carl Johnson.
GTA 6, on the other hand, will enter a different world from its predecessors. Social media is a different beast today than it was over a decade ago, and the wants and needs of video game players have evolved in tandem over the course. Rockstar, otherwise used to adoration and praise for its blockbuster video games, capable of attracting the likes of Dr Dre and a wealth of real-world superstar DJs, came under fire last year for its handling of The Definitive Edition’s issues at release; while a distinguished group of Red Dead Redemption 2 players have recently launched a social media campaign designed to pressure Rockstar into reinvigorating the game’s flatlining online portion, Red Dead Online.
Which is to say: players are more vocal and more active on social media today than they’ve ever been, for better or worse. And while Rockstar’s official acknowledgement of GTA 6 is a vehicle to promote updates to GTA Online, the tentativeness of the delivery, for me, is in response to players calling out the developer for its lack of communication in other areas in more recent times.
The announcement of an in-progress GTA 6 will steal the headlines here, but the most interesting part of Rockstar’s latest Newswire is its plans for embedding new players quickly into GTA Online. Being able to skip the Story Mode prologue from the off is a big one as it’ll funnel players straight into servers with, potentially, zero know-how of how things work – even down to the controls. The so-called ‘Career Builder’ sounds like the Enterprise Starter Pack under a different guise, giving newbies access to businesses, properties and cars, with the option to restart a character and make use of these features extended to existing players. These players will of course be able to migrate their profiles from last-gen consoles, with new PS5 adopters being given free access to GTA Online during their first three months on the block.
Framing all of this with confirmation of GTA 6’s existence is a shrewd move from Rockstar, because, ultimately, we already knew GTA 6 was in development. More information will come regarding release dates, setting, characters, trailers, and more, but we already knew that too. Rockstar is using this moment to push players towards GTA Online, to re-engage lapsed players, and to remind current players of what they can expect in the immediate future as they tide the gap to the next, almost certainly more substantial reveal.
Not that Rockstar needs me to say so, but it’s a smart move. Modern day GTA Online has so much content, that will now look and play better than ever, and this really feels like Grand Theft Auto 5’s swansong. As one of the biggest entertainment products of all time, Rockstar has set what feels like an impossibly high bar for itself, so much so it’s almost hard to imagine how future ventures will ever eclipse what it has now. Still, as Moore said all the years ago, it’s “a fanbase that hangs on every mere mention of the next chapter”, and, to be fair, I am one of these players. I’m also in my mid-30s, which means GTA 5’s arrival in 2013 doesn’t feel all too long ago for me. It’s easy to forget that players who were then 18 are marching towards 30 themselves now, and that’s not taking into consideration those who might have picked up the game before drinking age in the UK. For those players, they’ve grown up with GTA 5. Reddit forums contain players pining for the heady days of yore, when the Doomsday Heist update launched a million years ago in late 2017.
With that, the promise of a busier GTA Online between now and GTA 6 is Rockstar’s dangling carrot, and, of course, a galvanization of the former’s “unprecedented longevity”. Rockstar is in no rush to reveal any more than it needs to regarding its next blockbuster, but formally acknowledging its existence speaks volumes for player-developer relations, and the latter’s place in time in 2022.
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