Rockstar Games has rightfully established itself as one of the biggest names in the industry, thanks to a consistent output of quality releases – many of which have gone down to be some of the greatest games of their particular genres. Be it the high-octane racing of Midnight Club or the Bullworth Academy in Bully or the apt representation of the wild west in Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar Games has consistently met expectations and delivered memorable experiences that stay with players long after the credits roll.
But among Rockstar’s vast sea of valuable IPs, the biggest fish is undoubtedly Grand Theft Auto. The series is what ultimately put the developer on the map, and almost every release in the franchise since Grand Theft Auto 3 has proven to be a celebration of open worlds for their time. The latest in line of these releases is Grand Theft Auto 5 which originally came out in 2013, and continues to be one of the most discussed and played games on the market after all these years.
After what seemed like an eternity of rumors and speculation, Rockstar has finally confirmed that the next entry in the franchise is in active development. But now the biggest question that’s been burning in the mind of every fan is why is the sequel taking so long to develop? Of course, that’s not an easy question to answer – but we can definitely try.
So, to start out – we need to understand that game development is an extremely tough task. Games are an amalgamation of art and technology, and it takes a lot of time and effort to finalize the creative direction for a game and develop the required technologies to realize that vision. The first step within that process itself can take a ton of time, and a game goes through multiple iterations before finalizing something that actually works and is fun to play.
And when there’s a ton of weight lying on a developer’s shoulders to deliver on so much established goodwill, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the conception and pre-production phase itself takes a long time. After all, Grand Theft Auto 6 has to be a massive jump from its predecessor now that it has already been well over 10 years since the last entry in the franchise was released 10 years ago.
Moving over to how technology works, it can also take a lot of time to research upon new tech that needs to be developed to provide the aforementioned bump. Rockstar previously filed a patent regarding virtual navigation in a gaming environment, which is speculated to make NPCs in Grand Theft Auto 6 more realistic than ever. It’s very likely that plenty of other such technologies might be in development for the next game, and that research and development will take its own time in addition to the production that’s involved in such a massive project.
And that cost of production increases exponentially with scale, especially when the developer wishes to achieve a high level of micro-fidelity along with the massive world. This cost is not only accounted for in terms of money but also the time that is required to complete those development costs. To put things into context, Grand Theft Auto 5 was a game built for seventh generation consoles, and it took roughly 3 years to develop which is including the pre-production period of development.
Then came Red Dead Redemption 2, which was built for eighth-generation machines – and that took a total of 8 years to develop. Sure, a lot of that time was spent on tweaking the design philosophy to create a very laid-back and relaxing open-world experience – but I’m sure we all can understand that development costs increase with each new generation of machines.
As such, considering that the next Grand Theft Auto will come out for ninth generation machines namely the PS5 and Xbox Series X – it isn’t too surprising that the game is still some ways from release. With Rockstar trying to expand on the scale of the world and improve its granular attention to detail, there’s little doubt that GTA 6 is a long project that’s going to take a long time to complete.
But there’s also another side to the situation that needs to be addressed as well. You see, Rockstar isn’t exactly in a hurry to deliver the next game in the franchise since Grand Theft Auto 5 continues to rake in enormous amounts of cash on a consistent basis. New updates are constantly being added to its online component, and players can’t seem to get enough of it. Player counts are stable, and Rockstar is more than happy to milk it out as much as possible – and remasters of the game on both PS4/Xbox One and PS5/Xbox Series X back that sentiment.
As such, rushing to release Grand Theft Auto might even hurt Rockstar’s finances in a way. It doesn’t make sense to split your player base across two different games and fund their continuous development when you can milk the most cash from one game, and release the next game when the original starts to plummet in terms of player numbers and generated revenue. It’s looking very likely that Rockstar is following this very approach, and if that’s the case – Grand Theft Auto 6 might actually be held hostage by the success of Grand Theft Auto’s online component.
Either way, one thing is absolutely clear which is the fact that the wait for GTA 6 has been a long one and that it wouldn’t probably be ending anytime soon. We have to consider that Rockstar hasn’t started marketing the game, and a marketing cycle for such a big project itself will be at least a year long. As such, it seems very likely that we won’t be able to play through this highly-anticipated open world for at least the next couple of years which lines up with what we know about the company’s future plans. According to Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick, the company will see massive revenue growth in FY25 through the release of “several groundbreaking titles” which could very well include Grand Theft Auto 6 as well.
That said, the silver lining to it all is that development can happen at somewhat of a leisurely pace, and teams wouldn’t have to crunch so hard to meet tight release dates. With Red Dead Redemption 2, employees were reportedly forced to do 100-hour weeks to complete the game – and we hope that Grand Theft Auto 6’s development is more streamlined in that sense. Last year, it was reported that the studio has been making positive changes to create a more favorable environment for its employees – and we do hope that it continues right up until the finish line.
It’s always best to let a game sit in the oven as long as it needs to, as opposed to rushing to get it to market as soon as possible. Grand Theft Auto 6 might take a long time to come, but we hope that it’s worth the wait. There are obviously a ton of expectations that Rockstar will have to fulfill, and we are hoping that the elongated development period helps in yielding those results.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.