So Grand Theft Auto V is a big deal. A really big deal. So big that the promos announcing the release of the second trailer are hyped to infinity, riding the awesome wave of Game Informer’s mega large cover story. You can now switch characters, rappel down buildings, pilot fighter jets and so much more – and everything is extra sparkly thanks to a new engine Rockstar is touting. They even expect the game to sell a whopping 25 million units in the first 12 months.
Think about that for a second. Sales are a tricky thing to track but if you take a closer look at such blockbuster titles as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 or Halo Reach you’ll find they are come somewhat close in global sales or never see that figure in their first year. So Rockstar is essentially laying claim to something that’s never been done before, or that’s back by enough accurate data to prove that it has.
In between all this hype, something feels off.
When Rockstar was on a high, according to sales, critics and more than anything, according to gamers, was in the Grand Theft Auto III era. When the game came out, it was revolutionary. Sure there had been sandbox games before, but nothing quite on this scale or level of detail, and certainly not with this much content. The greatness continued with Vice City and reached a fever pitch with San Andreas, that was treated as the one true sequel, having been the largest and most feature-packed of the series.
Then Grand Theft Auto IV happened aka “The One Critics Got So Horribly Wrong It’s Not Even Funny”.
Now, GTA IV isn’t a terrible game. On the contrary, it brought the series into the next generation and featured quite a few interesting features that would become staples in other open world games, such as the mobile phone (as seen in Saint’s Row). It also upped the level of detail, creating an alternate New York City that mirrored the real one so very closely. The game was big, there was plenty to do, fun and laughs all around.
Was it the hype that ultimately lead to GTA IV becoming one of the most infamous games of all time? Maybe the result of astronomical expectations from a market that was expecting the “next level” of GTA? Or was it all Rockstar’s fault – pimping a game they knew wasn’t perfect to the heavens, making a mint off gamers’ expectations, only fueled by a rabid media that had only hyped the game further by awarding it spotless reviews? Whatever may be the case, GTA IV sold well, as Game Informer recently reported, crossing 25 million copies sold since it’s release.
The conditions this time around seem to mirror GTA IV’s perfectly. People love it, hate it, want to know more, can’t get enough of it, can’t go anywhere without it being mentioned, and it’s still a good 5 months away from release. Let’s not even talk about the number of rumours that have been circulating around the game in the past, oh, 2 years or so. Are we just setting ourselves up for another disappointment? Because Grand Theft Auto IV may have been one of the first big blockbuster games, but GTA V is now one of many, that includes Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Assassin’s Creed 3, to say nothing of Halo 4. Dozens of sandbox games have come and gone, delivering their own take on the genre in millions of unique and interesting ways that many peopel admit is superior to GTA IV. Whether GTA V will be able to provide something new and interesting isn’t the question though. The question is: Can we expect Rockstar to do it competently this time?
It doesn’t really matter in terms of sales. There’ll be enough gamers lining up to buy the game, enough perfect scores magazines will be willing to deliver on a silver platter, and enough returns to fund the next decade of GTA. And if it doesn’t deliver up to the astronomical expectations that we’ve created for ourselves, then, well, there’s always the next one that we can count on to release long after the memory of GTA V subsides.
But let’s as least pretend we remember what happened last time, if only vaguely?