GTA loading screen depicting two female characters
Rockstar Games

‘Grand Theft Auto 6’ New Details Revealed

A new report finally gives fans their first taste of news for the upcoming 'Grand Theft Auto VI.' What should players expect from this highly anticipated open-world title?
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Grand Theft Auto is one of the best-selling game franchises in history. The most recent entry, Grand Theft Auto V, was released almost a decade ago in 2013. It’s gone on to sell millions of copies, becoming the second-highest-selling game of all time. It’s been ported to numerous consoles, including the Xbox One, PS4, Xbox Series X, and PS5. Here’s everything you need to know about Grand Theft Auto 6.

GTA V was well-received on release and drew praise for its story, graphics, complex characters, and scathing takedown of American consumer culture. However, it also drew some complaints for its problematic depiction of gay and trans people, some of its culturally insensitive elements, and its somewhat shallow online mode. Rockstar Games addressed most of these issues in future updates, especially in its rollout of a robust series of expansions for the popular GTA Online client. 

However, the game’s success seems to have caused work on the inevitable sequel to stagnate. Before GTA V, the most recent mainline release, GTA IV, hit store shelves in 2008. That means the longest gap between mainline releases up to that point was five years–and Rockstar is on track to more than double that this time around. There are finally rumored details about the game making their way to the public, and they’ve got fans excited about the future.

What’s Next for GTA?

Rockstar has shared almost no information about the game in the lead-up to its release, including any details regarding its release date. However, a new report from Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier suggests Rockstar’s higher-ups expect the game to come out before March 2024–a date that developers apparently think is extremely optimistic.

How can Rockstar have so much work left on a sequel to a game that came out almost a decade ago? Apparently, things haven’t been very smooth behind the scenes with the developer. For one thing, the company started work on the sequel in 2014 but had its development resources split among numerous projects. The company has rolled out numerous updates for its GTA Online platform–and they’ve reaped the benefits from it. 

It’s been an extremely lucrative business model for Rockstar because they sell in-game currency for real money. Likewise, the company shipped another massive open-world title in 2018: Red Dead Redemption 2. The reports around the massive Western-style game revealed that Rockstar apparently had a problematic culture of crunch behind its various studios.

Crunch Culture

Rockstar was one of several companies that gaming outlets highlighted for a problematic culture of crunch. Bloomberg’s Schreier described the company’s culture as resembling a “frat house” that worked some employees into the ground while favoring managers and other higher-ups. This coincided with a focus on overworking, with some staffers being asked to work 100 hours per week on RDR 2 and its expansions. 

The company reportedly took responses to these reports very seriously. Many fans cried foul at these working conditions as more and more Rockstar devs came out with allegations against the company. Now, with more scrutiny on the game industry, Rockstar is reportedly making strides to clean up its act and make life easier for its workers. Notably, this is also part of the reason GTA VI is taking so long to come out–40-hour workweeks don’t lend themselves to rushing out massive open-world games. 

Speaking personally, I would rather play games made by happy developers who aren’t being overworked rather than consume media created under unkind working conditions. Additionally, Rockstar has reportedly started to respond to allegations that its games are politically and culturally insensitive by updating its older titles and selectively canceling planned expansions to keep from upsetting fans. 

Keeping With the Times

When Rockstar released the PS5 and Xbox Series X ports of GTA V it removed numerous insensitive jokes aimed at trans women. One random NPC model that could appear in some regions of the game was an extremely insensitively portrayed trans woman, and many in-game jokes were made at her expense. 

Many fans called out these depictions as harmful stereotypes that don’t reflect reality. Since the Grand Theft Auto series allows the player character to commit crimes in-game and harm any NPCs they see, some fans also worried that these depictions gave tacit approval to violence against trans women. By removing these NPCs from the game, Rockstar showed that it’s aware of these criticisms and wants to keep pace with the times.

Likewise, Schreier reports that Rockstar canceled a planned GTA Online expansion called “Cops and Crooks” in the aftermath of the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement. The “Cops and Crooks” mode would have allowed some players to take the role of law enforcement and others to play as robbers, but Rockstar feared that some players would find this mode distasteful in the aftermath of widespread reporting on police brutality throughout the summer of 2020. 

GTA VI Reports

Apparently, the next game in the series will be the first modern GTA title to feature a playable female protagonist in the main storyline. While players have been able to play as a woman in GTA Online, the player avatar in that mode doesn’t have any spoken dialogue. In essence, the female player avatar in GTA Online is just a reskin and doesn’t exactly amount to representation for female players. 

Likewise, players could choose a female avatar in the first two Grand Theft Auto titles. Notably, those games had a very different graphical style and art direction from later sequels. Gameplay is presented from a top-down perspective, somewhat removing the player from the action on the ground. As such, it would be difficult to tell which playable character you chose at the start of the game. Additionally, since the earlier entries had more rudimentary storylines, the playable characters had minimal spoken dialogue, and thus no discernible personality.

In GTA VI, Rockstar plans to have the single-player campaign center on a story based on a “Bonnie and Clyde-style” duo. The pair will both be player characters in the story mode, with the female playable character featuring full voice acting and a defined personality.

No More “Punching Down”

Rockstar also reportedly wants to pair this new playable character with a new storyline focused on satirizing powerful groups and leaving marginalized minorities alone. In prior games, Rockstar’s biting critiques often felt mean-spirited when aimed at minority groups, as they would essentially be lumped together with corrupt officials, deranged criminals, and heartless murderers. 

Now, Rockstar says it wants to avoid “punching down” at these groups and will hone its satire. Some fans quickly decried this direction, claiming that Rockstar is now catering to a “woke” crowd, but critics online swiftly came to the developer’s defense. Forbes contributor Paul Tassi notes that despite this change in tone, GTA has always been a series where “[…] [T]he entire concept of the world that exists in these games is that America is a corrupt, capitalist hellscape where the American Dream only exists if you lie, cheat and steal your way to the top.”

This is unlikely to change just because the next installment will choose to exclude jokes made at the expense of trans people. Instead, the game will feel more approachable to players who want to see a satire of modern American life, not a juvenile misanthropic worldview that erroneously insists that all people are equally worthy of mockery.

The Next One Will Still Feel Different

However, as Schreier notes, the next GTA will feel pretty different from its predecessors. While it will likely retain the contempt for authority and anarchic chaos of prior iterations, the transformation of Rockstar from a “boy’s club” into a “real company” will make the game feel distinct from what came before. While the Rockstar of the early 2010s was defined by drinking and brawling in the office and all-night crunch sessions, today’s Rockstar is more progressive, more compassionate, and friendlier toward its developers.

Employees from within the company say that morale inside Rockstar is higher than its ever been, but there are still some lingering questions about what the GTA series will look like under this new paradigm. Will the games still maintain the sense of depth and freedom that has made them one of the most beloved franchises in video game history? Will players still stick with the game for years after release if GTA VI strikes a different tone from its predecessors?

Whatever the case, it’s clear that workers within Rockstar are happier with their jobs now that they’re guaranteed mental health benefits and given more sensible working conditions. And, at the end of the day, video games aren’t important enough for anyone to ruin their lives working 100-hour weeks to make. Fans can wait a few more years for their next open-world crime simulator.