Massive game publisher Take-Two Interactive revealed that it will continue to update Grand Theft Auto Online well into the lifespan of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Sony previously announced during its next-generation games showcase on July 11 that GTA Online will be coming to PS5 as a free, three-month exclusive before it arrives on Xbox Series X sometime in the second half of 2021. Deconstructing how all of this might have major implications for GTA 6 hints at an exciting timeline for the game's release.
Take-Two provided more details on GTA Online's next-gen roadmap in its Monday night earnings call. Rockstar's holding company confirmed that it will continue to release regular updates to GTA 5's multiplayer mode, which further clouds the eventual release of GTA 6.
Here's the segment in Take-Two's earnings report that confirmed the company isn't done iterating on its 2013 release.
"For the Grand Theft Auto Online community, the journey will continue on next generation with more new updates, including additional content exclusive to the new consoles and PC. There will also be a new standalone version of Grand Theft Auto Online coming in the second half of calendar 2021, which will be available for free exclusively for PlayStation 5 players during the first three months."
It's no shock that Take-Two wants to keep GTA Online propped up on next-gen consoles. The company reported that the game was its most lucrative digitally-distributed product during its first fiscal quarter of 2021, which ended on July 30. Neither Take-Two nor Rockstar has ever reported an official player count, but it was estimated that GTA 5 Online had 33 million active players back in 2014. The GTA 5 base game has sold 130 million copies worldwide, so the number of player accounts could be much larger.
GTA 5's monumental success and its transition to next-gen consoles is a boon for Take-Two and Rockstar, but it might not bode well for gamers who are eagerly waiting for the announcement of GTA 6.
Why the GTA 6 release date probably won't be soon
Rockstar hasn't formally announced GTA 6, but there are two release date timeline estimates that have gained traction with fans online. And unfortunately, Take-Two's GTA Online announcements have cast some serious doubt on the most optimistic one.
A duo of established Rockstar leakers — Yan2295 and Tezfun2 — claimed back in April that GTA 6 is more than halfway complete. Around that same time, Bloomberg journalist Jason Schreier reported that the game is currently in "early development" and is still "years away." The former is beginning to seem much more likely.
It took Rockstar eight years to make Red Dead Redemption 2, so Schreier’s assessment based on reporting from inside sources makes it sound like GTA 6 might be six or seven years off, while everything the leakers have been saying suggests it could be two or three years away.
Now that Take-Two has announced that GTA Online updates will continue throughout the second half of 2021, Schreier's timeline sounds more reasonable. Rockstar would need to devote a portion of its developers' to continuously improving the multiplayer mode, which could slow GTA 6's progress.
However, this could be a sign of a completely unprecedented GTA 6 launch.
GTA 6 might launch alongside GTA Online
At this point, it seems possible that Take-Two might never actually abandon GTA Online at all and instead evolve it over time. The company probably wants to maintain the massive player-base it has amassed through the years, so it may simply add more digital content to the map (or maps) that the single-player GTA 6 campaign will come with.
This is nothing more than speculation at this point, but Schreier's reporting also suggests that Rockstar wants to change the way it releases its titles to reduce the crunch culture that had employees work “100-hour weeks” during the tail-end of Red Dead Redemption 2’s development. He reported that the company could begin releasing its games in multiple parts somewhat similar to Square Enix's Final Fantasy VII Remake, which split the game's original story into at least three separate releases.
Rockstar could release GTA 6 as a standalone single-player game that comes with an expansion to GTA Online, or they could be split entirely and evolve over time attach to but separate from the base games in a way that resembles Call of Duty: Warzone. In theory, it could also work a lot like MMORPG expansions to games like World of Warcraft, for instance, where players could still move around Los Santos from GTA 5 but have the option to fly to completely new areas.
That would fit the widely-circulated "Project Americas" GTA 6 leaks that claim the game will include some of the franchise's most iconic settings, like Liberty and Vice. Plus, it would let Rockstar continue to grow GTA Online's enormous player base.
GTA Online could very well become a permanent fixture in Rockstar's game lineup.
GTA 6 is reportedly in development.