Game Theory

GTA 6 could learn 1 crucial lesson from Nintendo's biggest game of 2020

What if GTA 6 ran in real-time like Animal Crossing: New Horizons?

What if Grand Theft Auto ran in real-time? Ever since the series went 3D, GTA games have run on a sped-up clock that progresses an hour every minute. This means days and weeks move at a very fast pace, and you never have to wait too long if you want to do something at a certain time of day.

Still, with how much the GTA series pushes immersion, an intriguing change for Grand Theft Auto VI would be to adopt a real-time clock. Despite the cartoonish nature of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, adopting a real-world clock has made gameplay that much more compelling and immersive.

If immersion is a major goal of GTA 6, then forcing players to carefully plan and pace out their day based on in-game goals is one way to kick that up a notch.

Consider how an in-game clock might impact activities like buying clothes or cars from certain shops or participating in nighttime street races. Having the game run in real-time would make these moments feel more carefully planned and earned.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons has shown how effective this kind of clock can be as players work around the game's schedule and plan out their actions over a series of days, weeks, and in some cases, even months.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons features events, activities, and even bugs and fish that only show up on certain days or at certain times.


The GTA series always focuses on criminals who plan out and execute major heists. It always requires doing the right things at the right times. Grand Theft Auto V in particular stepped up the immersion factor, adding some more laid-back activities that allowed players to kill time and role-play in Los Santos, especially in GTA Online.

Mixing a real-time element into all of that has the potential to really elevate the GTA 6 experience. Making players wait until a certain time of day for a mission, or having the timing affect the outcome and major story beats depending on the time of day make for interesting possibilities.

It'd really make you feel like a master criminal. It would also keep players returning to GTA and its story mode for a long time. Animal Crossing's sustained success happened in part due to the fact that players had to return to it every day to upkeep their island and progress in a satisfying way. Including those systems in GTA 6 would be an interesting mix-up that would change how the game is played.

There are a couple of downsides to this. As a faster-paced shooter, a real-time clock could feel a bit limiting if players are quickly able to rush through all available missions. GTA 5 would typically skip to the required time of day for missions, but this wouldn't be possible if the game was real-time.

The best way to solve this problem would be to change the structure of some missions depending on the time of day they are played at. A limited number of story missions could be locked into a certain time. Rockstar would also need enough side missions and activities for players to immerse themselves on the occasions that they need to wait.

While there would be some major hurdles to jump if this change were to happen, there's no denying that it would drastically change how it feels to play a GTA game. Even if this idea is a bit too ambitious for GTA 6's single-player, it would at least be a nice server setting in Grand Theft Auto Online for players that are looking for a more immersive role-playing experience.

GTA 6 is reportedly in development.

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