There are 6 key reasons we probably won’t see the next major ‘Grand Theft Auto’ game until at least 2020

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Rockstar Games

  • Sorry folks: You’re unlikely to see a new “Grand Theft Auto” game for at least a few more years.
  • One major reason for that is the fact “Grand Theft Auto 5” is still a major seller more than five years after launch.
  • When a sequel does arrive, it’s most likely to be on the next generation of gaming consoles.

Nearly five years after the launch of “Grand Theft Auto 5,” the game continues to quietly dominate. As of late 2018, it had sold over 100 million copies.

It’s the third-best-selling game of all time, just below “Tetris” and “Minecraft.” That’s because it keeps selling – “GTA 5” has been one of the 20 best-selling games in the US every month since it launched, barring a single month when it dropped to No. 21.

And the studio that made “GTA 5,” Rockstar Games, just released a new game: “Red Dead Redemption 2.”

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“Red Dead Redemption 2” is conceptually similar to the “GTA” series, in that it’s an open-world, third-person action game. Tonally, it’s very different.
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Rockstar Games

It’s for these reasons, broadly speaking, that we’re most likely still years away from the next entry in the “Grand Theft Auto” series.

But, as you might expect, it’s much more complicated than that.


1. “GTA 5” keeps selling.

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Rockstar Games/Take-Two Interactive

Games like “Grand Theft Auto 5” – third-person, story-driven, open-world action games – don’t usually enjoy sales performances like “GTA 5” has had. Most games in general don’t enjoy the type of sales performance of a title like “GTA 5.”

It is an anomaly, statistically speaking. “Its performance is just other worldly,” The NPD Group’s Mat Piscatella told Business Insider in an email last year. NPD tracks game sales data in the United States. “No other title comes anywhere near close,” he said.

Since “GTA 5” went on sale in September 2013, it has been one of the 20 best-selling games every month but one. “The only time it didn’t was October 2014 when it hit at #21,” Piscatella said.

Simply put: Why release a new “GTA” when the most recent one is still selling so well?

In fact, Rockstar Games reissued “GTA 5” in a “Premium Edition” earlier this year. It comes with additional content and a bunch of virtual money to use in “GTA Online” – the massively popular online component of “GTA 5.”


2. “GTA Online” is very popular.

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The latest expansion to “GTA Online” was called “After Hours,” and it included characters from “GTA” history.
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Rockstar Games/Take-Two Interactive

Speaking of, “GTA Online” is quite popular. It’s not clear exactly how popular it is, as Rockstar Games doesn’t release player numbers. When we asked last year, representatives declined to answer.

Here’s what we do know about how popular it is: Rockstar Games said in January 2018 that “GTA Online” had more players in December 2017 than it did at any previous time. Which is to say that more and more people were playing “GTA Online” over time.

It’s not surprising, either. With over 100 million copies sold, the game needs only 1% of buyers to be playing “GTA Online” for it to have a million players. And given Rockstar’s previous comments on player growth, we can assume that it’s probably much more than 1%.

We also know it’s popular enough that Rockstar keeps making major additions – and those additions aren’t cheap to make.

Part of what makes “GTA Online” so alluring is it takes the open world of the offline game and turns it into a multiplayer playground. You can take on heists with friends, or go racing around San Andreas, or become a business magnate.

Better still: It costs nothing to play other than the initial price of the game. There are virtual items and bonuses you can buy within “GTA Online,” but it’s otherwise an infinite extension of an already massive open-world game.


3. It doesn’t make sense to release a new “GTA” game anywhere near “Red Dead Redemption 2” because it could hurt sales of both.

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Rockstar Games

Games like “Grand Theft Auto 5” are rare.

Not just open-world, third-person action games – there are lots of those every year – but games with massive worlds brimming with possibility. Those games tend to be beloved. I’m talking about stuff like “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” or “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.” The kind of games where players spend hundreds of hours exploring, long after the main story has ended, just for the thrill of it.

These are also the games that sell huge, record-setting numbers. They break out of the “core” gaming audience and enter the mainstream. And they sell for years.

But there can be only so many of those games. They are the exceptions – even the most hardcore players don’t have time to focus on multiple massive open-world games.

In so many words: Putting out a second massive open-world game in “GTA 6” anywhere near the release of “Red Dead Redemption 2” would be a mistake.

It could limit both games, prompting people to choose one or the other, fall off of the first one to pick up the second, or simply skip the first for the second. If history is any indication, Rockstar intends to continue selling “Red Dead Redemption 2” long after its October 2018 launch.


4. Rockstar puts out games infrequently, historically speaking.

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Rockstar / Grand Theft Auto V

“Red Dead Redemption 2” is Rockstar’s first new game since “GTA 5,” which launched in September 2013. Before that, “Red Dead Redemption” launched in May 2010. And prior to that, “Grand Theft Auto IV” launched in April 2008.

Besides a publishing deal Rockstar made with an outside development studio (to publish 2011’s “L.A. Noire”), the company has a steady cadence of one major game launch every two to three years – sometimes it goes even longer, as in the five-year gap between “GTA 5” and “Red Dead Redemption 2.”

Given that history, it’s unlikely that Rockstar is suddenly changing the way it operates and releasing two major new games anywhere near each other.


5. Rockstar Games almost certainly isn’t capable of simultaneously developing “Red Dead Redemption 2,” “GTA Online,” and “GTA 6.”

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Rockstar / GTA V

Making gigantic games like “Red Dead Redemption” and “Grand Theft Auto” is extremely resource-intensive. It takes hundreds of people, hundreds of millions of dollars, and years of coordinated work to create these massive games. “GTA 5” reportedly employed more than 1,000 people in its creation.

Things get even more complicated when the concept of continual development gets introduced, as is the case with “GTA Online.” It’s a living game that requires maintenance, community support, and additional content generation – and that means a dedicated staff.

Given that Rockstar Games has been focused on creating “Red Dead Redemption 2” for the past several years and is continually working on “GTA Online,” it’s unlikely that it could also be in full production on a new “Grand Theft Auto” game.

To be clear, it is extremely likely that Rockstar is already working on “GTA 6” in some capacity. It’s even been mentioned by major Rockstar execs at least once in the past, though purely in a conceptual sense. But the work is almost sure to be preliminary at most, still years away from a finished product.


6. By the time a new “GTA” game is complete, new versions of the Xbox and the PlayStation are likely to be available.

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Sony

Just like “Grand Theft Auto 5,” both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 are nearing their fifth anniversaries – both consoles came out in fall 2013. Also like “GTA 5,” neither is going anywhere just yet.

According to the early rumors and reports, new Xbox and PlayStation consoles are in the works – but they probably won’t arrive until 2020 at the earliest. Neither Microsoft nor Sony is anywhere close to ready.

Given Rockstar’s history of launching a game every few years, and the impending launch of “Red Dead Redemption 2,” it looks as if Rockstar’s next “GTA” game is unlikely to arrive on the current generation of consoles.

Perhaps it’ll end up like “GTA 5,” which arrived on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 as the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 launched. It was one of the last major game launches on a console generation coming to an end, which then transitioned to a new generation even more successfully – “GTA 5” launched one year later on the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4.

Either way, we’re unlikely to see “Grand Theft Auto 6” anytime soon.