What if they're right?
Since mid-2018 within GTA Online, prices for cars, weapons, and clothing have gradually skyrocketed as the rewards for bounties and jobs have stagnated. Rockstar released the Sultan Classic car for $1.2 million in its January's Diamond Casino Heist update, which is absolutely mind-boggling when you consider it’s the same Sultan that was worth $12,000 in 2013 when GTA 5 was released. (To be clear, these are all "fake" in-game dollars, but an economy is an economy, even if it exists solely within a digital world.)
Perhaps to help mitigate concerns like this, Rockstar will offer a one-time gift of $500,000 in-game to anyone that logs in during the month of May. Could that simply lead to economic inflation if every player suddenly gets this boost in cash?
The Gerald’s Last Play update released April 23 has teased that there are even more economic downturns ahead. Redditor u/James_Torelli posted a theory Tuesday that posits spiking GTAO inflation is foreshadowing a complete economic collapse that will make the game completely unsustainable for players, which will incentivize them to drop the game and play GTA 6 whenever it’s released.
“Rockstar will purposefully abandon GTA Online," they write. "The worst of this collapse will happen several weeks before the release of Grand Theft Auto 6. This is to sway anyone playing or looking to play GTA Online to the new GTA 6 Online. Rockstar wants to make as much money as possible exclusively on GTA 6 Online, and the only way for them to do this is by dismantling GTA Online's current economy, and starting fresh with a new economy in GTA 6 Online.”
It’s no secret that GTAO has been wildly lucrative for Rockstar: As of August 2019, the game had 33 million active players six years after its launch date, and two years ago it had already earned $6 billion (and that's in real dollars). Why would the company bring it all down in flames? Well, to make room for a bigger, badder version of GTA 6 Online that can (and probably will) make even more money.
Gamers now know for a fact that Rockstar is developing GTA 6, but there’s still some mystery as to when it’ll arrive. The unconfirmed but widely circulated “Project Americas” rumors suggest GTA 6 could be set in classic cities like Vice City or Liberty City and incorporate new locations inspired by South American cities like Rio de Janeiro. New cities might even be added over time as downloadable content packs, a similar expansion structure to MMOs like World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, or even Destiny 2.
GTA 6 could level-up the open-world criminal enterprise experience unlike any other game before it. But a new map and completely overhauled graphics on all-new next-generation consoles will almost certainly require GTA 5 Online to shut down. Don’t worry, though. This probably won’t happen overnight.
The Inverse Analysis — Rockstar just announced that it would stop supporting servers for GTA 4 Online in February, and that multiplayer mode only allows up to 32 players to freely roam across Liberty City, which is far less of a lift than maintaining servers that can have millions of concurrent players at any moment.
It’s possible that Rockstar wants to make GTA 5 Online a little bit harder for new players to get into as GTA 6 approaches so newcomers and veterans alike will transition to the franchise's next chapter. The slow economic decay of Los Santos might eventually introduce a GTA Online that was nothing more than a dream a few years ago.