Thursday 16 April 2020

Rockstar only "early in development" on GRAND THEFT AUTO VI

During a report on changes in corporate culture at Rockstar Games, Kotaku let slip that the company is early in development on their next game in the Grand Theft Auto series. Obviously, the Internet (or at least Twitter) has responded with dismay at the news, as it has been almost seven years since the previous game in the series was released.

DMA Design released the first game in the series, Grand Theft Auto, in 1997 as a 2D, top-down shooter and racing game. They were taken over by Take Two Interactive and rebranded as Rockstar Games under the leadership of the Houser brohers, Dan and Sam. They hit the big time in 2001 with the release of Grand Theft Auto III, which marked the move of the series into full 3D, with an enormous open-world city to explore and various storylines to get involved in. It was followed by Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002), San Andreas (2004), Grand Theft Auto IV (2008) and Grand Theft Auto V and Grand Theft Auto Online (both 2013), along with a large number of spin-offs and expansions.

Rockstar have made numerous other games, including Red Dead Redemption (2010), LA Noire (2011), Max Payne 3 (2012) and Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018). However, as an enormous company with multiple studios in multiple countries, it was assumed that work had already been underway for some time on what is presumed to be Grand Theft Auto VI and the game might be ready for release in the next couple of years. This appears not to be the case, due to the workload for Red Dead Redemption 2 being immense and requiring all studios to be all hands on deck for several years, with more than two thousand people having worked on the game.

Grand Theft Auto V is by some metrics the most popular single video game and also the single most popular entertainment media product ever released (barring books), with sales of over 120 million. The game's enormous popularity has been bolstered by the release of remastered editions and a constant stream of new content for Grand Theft Auto Online (which is included with all copies of GTAV). Rockstar's apparently reluctance to work on a sequel in that light is surprising, although fans have noted that their steady monetisation of expansions and new material for GTA Online makes getting a sequel less of a priority.

GTA fans have been joined in solidarity by fans of the Elder Scrolls fantasy roleplaying series from Bethesda Studios. The last single-player game in the series was Skyrim, released in 2011 and selling over 40 million copies since then. An online spin-off was published in 2014 but Bethesda have otherwise focused on other games, shipping Fallout 4 in 2015 and multiplayer shooter Fallout 76 in 2018. They are currently working on a new IP, Starfield, which is expected for release in 2021 or 2022. Some early development work and prototyping has been done on Elder Scrolls VI, but full-time production will not begin until Starfield ships. For that reason, it is unlikely that it will be published this side of 2025.

Work on Grand Theft Auto VI (or whatever it ends up being called) is at least underway, with the game likely targeting a 2024-25 release window at this point.

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