Last night, as I was playing Fortnite’s latest season, I hopped into a car to drive off into some empty part of the map to finish up a quest. As I drove, I noticed some new songs on the in-game radio that I hadn’t heard before. And I realized how nice that was, and how I really hope Rockstar does something similar in its next big Grand Theft Auto game.
Grand Theft Auto games have become famous for their radio soundtracks. Many, myself included, can still list most of the songs featured in games like GTA: Vice City and GTA San Andreas. Rockstar has long been in a league of its own when it comes to curating songs for in-game radio stations and clubs, and that’s remained true through the most recent GTA release, Grand Theft Auto V. And yes, it’s funny that the most “recent” GTA game is from 2013. However, unlike past GTA games, GTA V featured an always online and always evolving multiplayer mode which eventually grew into its own, bigger thing. So, for the past decade, millions of players have been completing missions and checking out new updates in GTA Online while listening to (mostly) the same music tracks that were added to the game in 2013. And it uh…it’s rough.
On the flipside, in Fortnite, I feel like nearly every time I log on I’m hearing new music. And often these songs are a mix of oldies and recent hits. For example, one of Fall Out Boy’s newest songs, “Heartbreak Feels Good,” was a part of the in-game radio players can listen to in cars while battle-royaling. This isn’t the case in GTA Online. Rockstar’s open-world blockbuster has “new” pop hits that were already a bit old in 2013 and that are still lingering around a decade later. Some of those tracks might even be played on classic radio stations now. And while I’m fine with having some great hit songs from the ‘80s and ‘90s in your open-world video game, the radio in Rockstar’s crime sim has long felt static and stale.
Now, to be clear, I know that Rockstar has, technically, added some new music to Grand Theft Auto Online over the years. In 2021, the developer added a long list of songs to the game. And in past updates, new dance music has also been added alongside some radio stations. New songs were also added when GTA Online made its leap from Xbox 360 and PS3 to Xbox One and PS4. And yet, these updates aren’t enough. They happen so rarely, and while the music is cool, a lot of it isn’t radio hits.
I understand that Rockstar cares greatly about curating songs and creating a vibe in its games. I appreciate that a lot, which is why I’m not just suggesting the studio stick Spotify support into GTA 6, create a playlist or two and call it a day. No. I want that classic Rockstar Games music curation to remain. I just also think that, in 2023, it’s become harder to accept how stuck in stone Rockstar’s GTA V radio stations are, and pulling a page from Fortnite might not be such a bad idea.
Imagine a future where, a few weeks after GTA VI launches, you boot up the game, get in a car, and a song that was released the week before is now playing on the radio. The DJ even mentions it. You bob your head to it as you run over some pedestrians or whatever and the world feels more alive (except for all the dead bodies you left behind on the sidewalk). These new tracks would still be curated by Rockstar, so as not to ruin the vibe it’s going for, but they would keep the world feeling fresh and make it a little more exciting to return to over and over.
Sure, over time it might get weird for the world of GTA VI to remain the same while music evolves and changes.
But that’s also assuming Rockstar isn’t going to update and expand Grand Theft Auto VI. As we previously reported, Rockstar’s plans for GTA VI might involve a large map that slowly grows and expands over time, a plan the company is going with in an effort to cut down on crunch. If this is indeed what happens with GTA VI—a game that starts as one thing and evolves over time—then Fortnite-like radio stations that update frequently with new tracks could be in the cards. And I hope so, because I don’t want to be stuck listening to the same 20 or so pop songs for a decade again.