In a Bloomberg report on the changing culture at Rockstar and the future of Grand Theft Auto, there's a revealing line about how the developer is combating crunch by continually updating the game and "adding new missions and cities on a regular basis." How accurate this is remains to be seen, but confirms my suspicions that the next GTA will be very different from anything we've seen before. For a forward-thinking studio like Rockstar, a traditional single-player story with a finite set of missions and a clear beginning, middle, and end feels like a step backwards. I feel like Grand Theft Auto 6 is going to be much more alive.
You don't have to look far for evidence of this. GTA Online isn't just a preposterously lucrative money-spinner for Rockstar, but an active testbed for the future of the series. Recently it added Cayo Perico, a Caribbean island, to the game—an example of how GTA 6's world might expand over time. When Rockstar used GTA to reveal Dr. Dre's first new music in 6 years, it did so through GTA Online, adding a set of new missions revolving around returning protagonist Franklin Clinton. I'm convinced this is what the next game will be. Not a 'game' in the usual sense, but an evolving, possibly never-ending platform.
This is pure speculation, but I also think the lines between single and multiplayer are going to become blurred. There won't be a distinct separation between the story and the online components of the game like there currently is in GTA 5. They'll likely be a part of the same 'live' setting. I can even imagine starting a story mission, and the gangsters I have to kill or cops I have to escape from being controlled by real players. Cynically, Rockstar knows that multiplayer is where the money is—and the less time people spend away from it, the better. The transition between solo and online play will be more seamless than ever.
But what does this mean for people who have no interest in multiplayer? I like dipping in and out of GTA Online occasionally, usually when new content drops, but I'd much rather have a traditional Rockstar singleplayer experience. After raising the bar with GTA 4's superb Ballad of Gay Tony and Lost and Damned DLC, Rockstar suddenly gave up on singleplayer expansions. In GTA 5, GTA Online became its primary focus—presumably because it makes so much damn money. I get this from a business perspective, but as someone who'd rather play a singleplayer story, this was a disappointing new direction.
As I imagine this theoretical GTA 6, where single and multiplayer are combined or share the same space, it makes me wonder if more time and resources will be put into the online side of things. Could Red Dead Redemption 2 be the last example of a Rockstar game with a traditionally structured, expensively produced, self-contained story? I hope not, but I can imagine a future where the developer drifts away from this kind of experience. Making lavish, cinematic stories costs hundreds of millions of dollars—an investment that might seem less valuable as multiplayer continues to flood endless money into its coffers.
But I do love the idea that the 'end' of GTA 6 might not be the end at all. The return of an older, wiser Franklin in The Contract was a rare chance to catch up with a GTA protagonist long after their story had come to a close. An ever-evolving, open-ended GTA where new stories, and even entire locations, can be added at any time sounds pretty exciting. Of course, none of this might happen at all, but I can definitely sense major changes on the horizon for the series. I'm excited to see what form this will take, but cautiously, because I still want Rockstar to make the big, thrilling, cinematic singleplayer experiences I love it for.
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