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Why GTA V and GTA Online Need to Die

Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V) was a massive success when it first released in 2013: it’s one of highest grossing and best-selling forms of media of all time. In fact, so successful were GTA V and Grand Theft Auto Online (GTA Online) that Rockstar Games has elected to bring it to the next generation instead of releasing a new installment.

With GTA V and GTA Online spanning three (!) generations, there’s only one thing left for those two games to do: die.

GTA Online

When GTA V first released in 2013, it was met with almost universal acclaim: reviewers and gamers alike praised the games’ depth, characters, story and more. Not only did it break players and reviewers brains, GTA V broke sales records as well. 

On release day, GTA V raked in $800 million dollars, breaking Call of Duty Black Ops II’s record of $500 million. In fact, the game surpassed $1 billion in just three days.

Though GTA V’s success was to be expected considering how well 2008’s GTA IV did – 25 million copies were sold from 2008 to 2012 –  no one could have predicted GTA V to be the juggernaut it ended up being. 

GTA V’s sales were exacerbated by the fact that the eighth generation of consoles – mainly the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – were released later in 2013. Rockstar quickly got to work and by the end of the following year, GTA V was available on the aforementioned consoles as well, padding their overall numbers. 

(Quick aside: I enjoyed GTA V so much that I purchased it thrice: for the Xbox 360, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.)

Soon after GTA V released for two generations of consoles, GTA Online, initially labeled as a prequel to V, released on both generations. That’s where things get a bit crazy, for lack of better term. 

In the years that followed GTA Online’s release, both V and Online grew exponentially, with V making more money than any movie in history in 2018. Also, as of this writing, GTA V sold more than 135 million copies in the seven years since its release. The pandemic could have contributed to this number as well – with some players buying V strictly to play Online with sales hitting over $6 billion total. 

With V being the immense success that it is, it’s only natural to expect GTA VI to come out, right? Not exactly: there has been no concrete news of GTA VI thus far. 

There have been rumors flying around that the game may not release for another four or five years, mainly due to the fact that GTA V will release for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S – its third (!) generation of consoles – in late 2021

This announcement left players feeling upset, to say the very least. 

A quick YouTube search shows the various levels of disappointment players had when Rockstar introduced GTA V for next-gen using a PlayStation 4 trailer from earlier in the 2010s, mind you – during a Sony event back in June. At least the next-gen version of the game will be “enhanced” and “expanded,” whatever that means, and will include additional content for Online

Therein lies the issue: Rockstar has focused so much time and effort on Online that a potential GTA VI has been, essentially, thrown by the wayside. From a business perspective, this makes sense: in 2016, Online raked in more than $500 million in microtransactions and in April 2020, Online posted record earnings.

But from a consumer’s perspective, this is off-putting. Speaking as a fan of the GTA series, seeing Rockstar devote most of its time to a game mode solely reliant on microtransactions is a bad look. In a way, Rockstar is telling players, “Hey! We don’t care about making new games so long as players keep feeding our pockets with a mediocre product.”

By all accounts, including the like to dislike ratio on the GTA V PlayStation 5 announcement videos, players have grown tired of playing the same GTA V and Online for seven years.

A typical sight on videos announcing GTA V and GTA Online for PS5. Courtesy of Youtube

Players have been clamoring for new story downloadable content (DLC) to have some reason to play V instead of Online. But the developers have constantly shot that idea down, be it because of Online making too much money or focusing on other intellectual properties like Red Dead Redemption 2. 

For context, from 2001 – when GTA III was released – to 2012, 14 total GTA games were released. That number includes spinoffs and story DLC. By the time the purported GTA VI will come out which, at this point, maybe almost 13 years? Only V and Online.

I understand that Rockstar Games is a business and the purpose of a business is to make as much money as possible. But at the same time, alienating fans of the series to focus on a 7-year-old product that makes money through dreaded microtransactions – without any substantial changes – is not a good look. 

In all, GTA V and GTA Online need to die. Perhaps with their deaths, a better game – ahem, GTA VI – will rise from the ashes like a phoenix.

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