It’s 2020, and one of the biggest video games on the planet is Grand Theft Auto V. In 2021, Rockstar will be releasing an “expanded and enhanced” version of the game for next-gen consoles.
Grand Theft Auto V, in case you forget, was first released on the Xbox 360 and PS3 in September 2013. It didn’t arrive on the PS4 and Xbox One until 2014.
Let that wash over you for just a second. A single video game that was released before the PS4 and Xbox One even hit the shelves has remained both culturally relevant and commercially successful throughout those console’s entire lifetimes, and will now see an even longer shelf-life once it is released on the PS5 and Xbox Series X.
To give you an idea of just how long ago that was, the game was released with a trailer that spoke to America’s attempts to recover from its last financial meltdown, and there’s been time to have had another since. Other games on the best-selling list for September 2013 include Diablo III, Disney Infinity and Saints Row IV.
Or how about some other passage-of-time shenanigans: the five years of the PlayStation 2 generation saw three mainline Grand Theft Auto games released. Since San Andreas’ release in 2004, there have only been two new Grand Theft Auto games released in sixteen years. Two on the PlayStation 3, and none on the PlayStation 4.
There are of course a number of good reasons for this slowdown. Development costs and timeframes have exploded alongside the technological capabilities of newer consoles, meaning it’s simply not possible to release GTA games as close together as it once was. Then there’s the fact the Red Dead Redemption games have consumed their massive resources, something that Rockstar wasn’t having to worry about back in the PS2 days.
The biggest reason we haven’t had a new Grand Theft Auto game since 2013, though, is simply that Rockstar and Take-Two haven’t had to release one, and won’t for as long as GTA Online keeps making money.
A single game lasting seven years (and counting!) is impressive, right? In some ways, sure, but also, not really! There’s a lot here that sucks. Rockstar’s culture of crunch sounds like hell for the developers actually making these games, and for those of us not jacked into the GTA Online economy it’s a shame we haven’t got to see a new city/time period in a Grand Theft Auto game for almost a decade.
And while it wasn’t technically a game of this past generation, Grand Theft Auto V’s slow transformation from a single-player experience to a microtransaction-riddled online playground is one of the starkest examples of the way the video game industry has changed how it treats its product, and customers, in the PS4/Xbox One years.
Who knows when we’ll see a Grand Theft Auto VI. But whenever it is inevitably announced, one thing’s for sure: Grand Theft Auto V’s longevity and online success means the series will never be the same again.