Take-Two Interactive, the publisher behind the massively popular Grand Theft Auto franchise, revealed in yesterday’s earnings call that fiscal year 2021 is a “light” year for new games, implying that a GTA 6 release isn’t on the cards for some time yet.
Touching on what he touts as the “strongest development pipeline” in Take-Two Interactive’s history, CEO Strauss Zelnick explained:
While fiscal 2021 will be a light year for new releases, we expect to deliver strong results due to the diversity and strength of our catalog and live service offerings.
Based on the subtext of Zelnick’s comment, we can safely expect Grand Theft Auto VI after March 2021 at the earliest. And, even then, this isn’t set in stone by any stretch of the imagination.
Take-Two’s comments appear to align with the ongoing debate about the state of GTA 6’s development, fueled by a report from Bloomberg News’ Jason Schreier last month.
The former Kotaku reporter noted in a piece exploring cultural changes at GTA-creator Rockstar Games that the developer’s next big project, widely understood to be GTA 6, is still in “early development.”
Soon after, known insider “Tez2” offered a wholly more positive prognosis – GTA 6 is 60% to 70% complete. Tez2 claimed that Schreier’s comments were likely a “mistake,” gifting eager fans renewed hope that GTA 6 isn’t too far off, although an imminent release or even announcement is unlikely.
Rockstar Mag’s ChrisLiberty93 also waded into the debate, expressing surprise at the “early development” comments that appeared to go against information gleaned from their own sources. According to these, Rockstar started pre-production of GTA 6 in 2014, suggesting that 60-70% completion was a reasonable estimate for the state of development.
Fans were left to decrypt conflicting reports with an even murkier picture of when to expect GTA 6.
While Zelnick’s comment will deaden the most optimistic predictions, the appetite for the next-entry in the franchise has reached a fever pitch with nearly seven years and counting since Grand Theft Auto V.
Even today, GTA 5 remains a crucial variable in GTA 6’s development. There’s no commercial imperative to expedite the release of a new entry in the franchise.
GTA 5 stands as the most profitable commercial entertainment product of all time – over 130 million copies sold, according to Take-Two, and over $6 billion in revenue.
Seven years on, GTA 5 continues to top sales charts, despite going free on the Epic Games Store last week. The online component, GTA Online, remains a steady cash cow for Rockstar.
As Zelnick notes:
The positive momentum for Grand Theft Auto Online continues with superlative performance in both players and net bookings.
Since the July launch of the Diamond Casino & Resort update, Grand Theft Auto Online achieved its best ever monthly active users in both July and August 2019 and then grew sequentially each month from December 2019 through March 2020.
This exceptional engagement helped to drive recurrent consumer spending growth of 87% during the fourth quarter and 40% for the full fiscal year, new records in both periods.
With gamers still spending so much time and money on GTA 5, why would Rockstar give them a reason to put it back on the shelf?
And in a weird way, it’s at least partially our fault. Not for loving Grand Theft Auto too little, but for loving it too much.
Of course, there may be other factors at play. The recent changes at Rockstar reported by Kotaku, the departure of co-founder Dan Houser, and the teething issues coughed up by the transition to the next-gen will have likely impacted GTA 6’s development.
All this paints a clear picture: fans will have to put dreams of living out their most perverse criminal antics in a new Rockstar-designed open-world playground on hold for even longer.