Development of the highly anticipated Grand Theft Auto 6 is well underway, but Rockstar Games finds itself in a tricky position when it comes to differentiating the sequel from its predecessor. GTA Online continues to thrive, Rockstar will have to be mindful when getting players to check out GTA 6. The company risks cannibalizing itself with its own game if GTA 6 is too similar to GTA Online. Surely, Rockstar has a strategy in mind, but what does its plan look like? Perhaps Grand Theft Auto 6 will work alongside GTA Online rather than against it, offering the best of both worlds while catering to two audiences.
GTA Online is thriving
GTA Online’s success is impressive, especially when considering its audience has grown 49 percent since 2020’s first quarter. On PS4 and Xbox One, the game’s player base grew by 40 percent in the second quarter of 2022 and generates around $1 billion per year, according to Sportskeeda. With around 2.7 million players per month, it has amassed a dedicated audience that only continues to grow.
All of this is to say that Rockstar shouldn’t abandon GTA Online any time soon, even in favor of a brand new game. Will GTA 6 have online components? It’s easy to see why Rockstar would lean in this direction. After all, why not mimic the formula that has made the company billions of dollars?
But maybe the company can have its cake and eat it, too, if GTA 6 is a strictly single-player experience.
How to avoid eating itself
The two games could exist side-by-side, with GTA 6 leaning into offline stories, while GTA Online continues to cater to the multiplayer crowd. Perhaps GTA Online will be included with each copy of GTA 6, just like it did with GTA V in 2013.
We’d love it if GTA 6 featured a compelling narrative with frequent story expansions not unlike GTA IV’s “The Lost and the Damned” and “The Ballad of Gay Tony” DLCs. This would make the case to give it a try, while also encouraging players to keep coming back periodically, without totally stealing GTA Online’s thunder.
GTA 6 could tell stories that will hopefully prove Rockstar has changed with the times, giving players something to enjoy without being connected to the internet. While GTA Online is great and appeals to a massive audience, focusing on single-player could make it easier for Rockstar to double down on the narrative side of things.
Maybe Rockstar already has plans like these in the works. It’s clear the next game will serve as a major shift for the company, as it’ll reportedly feature a Latina woman as the lead role, with more of an emphasis on mindfulness towards marginalized groups.
And with reports that it’ll take place in an area based on Miami, which will no doubt help it stand apart from GTA Online’s Los Santos, the game is already shaping up to be something different from its predecessors.
“The Rockstar Games team is determined to once again set creative benchmarks for the series, our industry, and for all entertainment, just as the label has done with every one of their frontline releases,” Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick said during the August 2022 earnings report.
The company surely knows what it’s doing. But even though GTA V and GTA Online have done so well, a sequel isn’t a guaranteed hit. Things are different now than in 2013, and the company will need to create something that stands apart from its predecessors in GTA 6.