This week, Rockstar provided the first official look at Grand Theft Auto 6, a little earlier than expected. After the eagerly awaited open-world game’s first trailer leaked online, Rockstar released the sun-drenched Vice City-set tease on YouTube minutes later. At time of writing, the morning after Rockstar’s video went up, it had already amassed more than 74 million views, with millions more across reposts and reaction videos.
It doesn’t take a psychic to predict that GTA 6’s launch is likely to be the biggest in history. Not just for a video game, but for any entertainment product. Grand Theft Auto 5 still holds that honor, with $1 billion in sales in its first three days. Red Dead Redemption 2 achieved a similar distinction back in 2018, raking in $725 million in sales in its first three days, a record opening weekend (GTA 5 launched on a Tuesday).
Rockstar’s latest is anticipated in a way that no game in history ever has been, and the sales are going to reflect that. When it launches in 2025, it will be the first new game in the series in 12 years and, with the current generation’s $70 price tag for triple-A games, it will easily outsell Red Dead Redemption 2. As big as Red Dead Redemption 2 was, that’s Rockstar’s B franchise. And with over a decade of hype since the last game, GTA 6 will likely surpass GTA 5’s $1 billion opening, too.
But what about after that initial sales period? Grand Theft Auto 5 has stuck around for three console generations, becoming one of the best-selling titles of the PS3/Xbox 360 era, and the PS4/Xbox One era after that, and the PS5/Xbox Series X|S era after that. Is it possible to repeat a success that sustained? Is there any chance that Grand Theft Auto 6 has a tail as long as GTA 5?
It might seem like a foregone conclusion. The Grand Theft Auto games have always been huge and development cycles aren’t getting any shorter. GTA 5’s long-term success was only able to happen because Rockstar didn’t release a new GTA game for over a decade. Vice City didn’t sell like that because it didn’t need to; San Andreas was there the next year.
Other open-world crime games have come along during that time (including one developed by Rockstar) but none managed to capture the zeitgeist in the same way. But, if we look at Red Dead Redemption 2 — which sold incredibly well, but quickly fizzled out as a service game — it shows us that the long-term dominance of GTA 5 isn’t a no-brainer. It resulted from specific decisions.
Specifically, it resulted from Rockstar abandoning its previous business model and adopting a new one. While GTA 4 got two single-player expansion packs, GTA 5 was an early adopter of the game-as-a-service model. Instead of getting new single-player story content, it receivedot consistent multiplayer updates for Grand Theft Auto Online that continue to this day. When Rockstar launched Red Dead Redemption 2 in 2018, the plan was for its other series to have the same service component. But Rockstar stopped supporting it within a few years, likely due to the realization that giving it the attention it needed would cannibalize its very successful service. Not to mention that a Wild West setting is far more difficult to build on believably than the modern day.
If GTA 6 is up to the same standard of quality as Rockstar’s two most recent releases — and even if you don’t like GTA 5 or RDR2, they’re undeniably impressive, huge, highly detailed games — that’s half the battle. Even without the live service elements, these games are worth returning to over and over, to uncover all the secrets hiding in their nooks and crannies.
The real question is how Rockstar will handle Grand Theft Auto Online. It seems safe to assume that GTA 6 will have an online component, but will it play nice with Grand Theft Auto 5’s established service? Will GTA 6’s online mode be entirely separate, or will it cross over or combine with GTA 5’s? Could Rockstar reverse engineer a service like Assassin’s Creed Infinity, the planned hub that will function as a live service connecting multiple future Assassin’s Creed experiences? Or, will Rockstar stop supporting the GTA 5 version of Online as it prioritizes GTA 6?
We don’t have answers to those questions yet. Whatever they end up being, they won’t prevent GTA 6 from launching to unprecedented sales. But, they could very well prevent it from being a decade-plus phenomenon in the way GTA 5 was. Only time will tell.
NEXT: GTA 6 Is Giving Me The Bonnie And Clyde Game I’ve Always Wanted