Amidst a sea of sketchy Grand Theft Auto 6 rumors and alleged leaks, a report from Kotaku’s Jason Schreier published Wednesday provided some of the first credible tidbits of information about one of the most anticipated games in recent memory. These new details, however, were far from what diehard fans have been fantasizing about over the past year. Rockstar Games may be developing GTA 6 as something close to a "games-as-a-service" title. Even more interestingly, the company might be taking a page out of Square Enix's playbook in the way it is approaching Final Fantasy 7 Remake.
Not only did Schreier note that GTA 6 is “still a ways away,” but he also suggested that Rockstar Games will launch the game in multiple installments instead of one blockbuster release. That could make GTA 6 like an episodic crime series that gamers will either need to pay for piece-by-piece, or they'll have to purchase the whole thing up-front and wait for each segment of the story to be released.
This unorthodox launch strategy should help mitigate the crunch culture that had Rockstar employees working “100-hour weeks” during the tail-end of the game's development. This would also mean that Rockstar Games might take less time to release the initial game, but then the developers would treat it like something between a “games-as-a-service” title like Destiny 2 and an episodic sequence of games like Square Enix's FF7 Remake, which splits the original into what should be at least three separate entries.
"One plan that management has laid out for the next game, a new entry in the Grand Theft Auto series, is to start out with a moderately sized release (which, by Rockstar’s standards, would still be a large game),” Schreier tweeted Thursday. “That is then expanded with regular updates over time. This may help mitigate stress and crunch."
It’s tricky to predict exactly how this will look in practice, but it might take a similar approach to how MMRPGs like World of Warcraft roll out DLC expansions. Rockstar’s initial release of GTA 6 might limit players to wandering around a single city, but subsequent updates might let them travel to another metropolis or even a completely different country. That kind of release strategy fits nicely into the game’s infamous “Project Americas” leaks.
These unverified claims suggest that GTA 6 will have players travel to multiple cities across North and South America. Kotaku’s report didn’t mention these claims, but its globetrotting premise lends itself to this new release concept: We could see the initial release mainly focus on Vice City and then incorporate new locations based on places like Rio de Janeiro or Liberty City in post-launch game updates.
Rockstar is no stranger to the games-as-a-service model; GTA 5 Online has consistently received updates that have attracted more than 33 million active players as of August 2019. GTA 6 could be a natural expansion of this strategy that establishes a new standard for how video games are made into the 2020s and beyond.
The Inverse Analysis — In the future, piecemeal releases might be the best-case scenario for developers and gamers alike even though long-time GTA fans might find the thought of a “games-as-a-service” GTA 6 appalling at the moment.
Advancements in rendering and graphics technology have made open-world games more sprawling than ever, which puts a huge demand on the hardware and the development. All of this is means that games are becoming increasingly more stunning than ever before, but it can take developers years to fine-tune every blade of grass users might come across on their adventure, whether that's in Vice City or in Midgar.
Red Dead Redemption 2 reportedly took Rockstar eight years to develop and that title only had one massive map and a separate smaller map for one of the story’s main missions. Imagine the time it would take developers to deliver a GTA installment that spans multiple states and countries. It's no wonder why the first FF7 Remake focused only on one city in the game's sprawling world, but already it is abundantly clear that the focus on depth rather than breadth made for a much better game.
Opting for a FF7 Remake-style launch for GTA 6 will make it so gamers don’t have to wait a decade for the finished product and allow developers to effectively divide tasks so they aren’t subjected to grueling crunch schedules. If we all give Rockstar the time to do it's thing, the company could stand to redefine video gaming as we know it yet again.