Rockstar Games dropped the trailer for Grand Theft Auto VI, the forthcoming latest installment in the popular video game franchise, on Monday—more than a decade since the release of Grand Theft Auto V.
The unrated 90-second video, which was released a day before it was scheduled after a leak on X (Twitter), confirms many details that players have been speculating about for years—and appears to be nothing short of a wild ride.
A sparsely-worded press release from gamemaker Rockstar announced: “Grand Theft Auto VI heads to the state of Leonida, home to the neon-soaked streets of Vice City,” the Miami-inspired setting for the fourth main entry of the franchise known for its over-the-top depictions of sex, drugs, shootings, and gangs.
Grand Theft Auto VI, which is due to be released in 2025, seems poised for success, especially after its predecessor became the third-best-selling video game in history after Minecraft and Tetris.
But it also comes amid heightened political polarization and increasing cultural scrutiny in America. Bloomberg games journalist Jason Schreier reported in 2022 that Rockstar has deliberately taken on a more politically-sensitive tack in recent years, a shift that worried some players about a potential change in tone dampening the Grand Theft Auto experience.
Sam Houser, founder of Rockstar Games, nonetheless appears hopeful. “We’re thrilled to be able to share this new vision with players everywhere,” he said in a statement.
Here’s a breakdown of what to know about the franchise’s enduring legacy and its next installment.
What is Grand Theft Auto?
The Grand Theft Auto franchise, named after the criminal offense, is a series of open-world, action-adventure games developed by what is now known as Rockstar North, a game development studio based in Scotland that was acquired by the U.S.-based Rockstar Games in 1999. Grand Theft Auto’s gameplay has evolved over the years from a top-down shooting and driving spree into an immersive, cinematically-styled gaming experience.
As opposed to level-structured games, open-world games like Grand Theft Auto allow players to choose their own missions non-linearly. In Grand Theft Auto, the protagonist is often on the run from police, taking cars and shooting other characters across locales. The games are also situated in cities inspired by real U.S. places: Vice City is based on Miami, Fla., while Liberty City references New York.
As early as its first release in 1997, Grand Theft Auto has become a source of moral paranoia for politicians and the public, with a common critique being that the games promote violence. The game is also notorious for its negative depiction and treatment of women. Some view the franchise as satire that pokes fun at U.S. tropes.
Michael Kasumovic, an associate professor from the University of New South Wales Sydney who has written about Grand Theft Auto, says the title is “a wonderful example of an open-world game where people can experiment and experience and interact with one another.” As for its potential for harm, Kasumovic qualifies that in-game violence in Grand Theft Auto has been found not to necessarily translate in real life, even among children: “I think what it does allow a lot of kids and younger kids to do in these games is to explore, try things that they cannot do in the real world, and to see those consequences.”
How valuable is Grand Theft Auto?
Rockstar Games’ parent company, Take-Two Interactive Software, said the entire franchise has sold 410 million copies to date. (Tetris, for reference, has sold over 520 million game units worldwide.) According to Take-Two, the latest entry into the franchise, Grand Theft Auto V, reached $1 billion in retail sales “faster than any entertainment release in history.”
Why has there been such a long wait for GTA VI?
It was only in February 2022 that Rockstar confirmed the follow-up game to Grand Theft Auto V. “With every new project we embark on, our goal is always to significantly move beyond what we have previously delivered—and we are pleased to confirm that active development for the next entry in the Grand Theft Auto series is well underway,” the company said then.
Speaking to Sky News Australia, Bloomberg’s Schreier cites several reasons for the long wait: the wide scope of the in-game world would take more time and manpower to develop, previous games in the franchise continue to sell well, and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed production across the entire gaming industry.
What are players expecting from Grand Theft Auto VI?
For the first time, the game will feature a playable female protagonist. Earlier reports say the game will introduce a duo a la bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde, with the female lead being a Latina.
From the trailer, it appears that the story involves Lucia, who starts off in prison. She pairs off with a yet-to-be-named male character in her quests.
Grand Theft Auto VI also comes with the latest state-of-the art graphics, in line with games that have veered towards more cinematic styles like The Last of Us II and God of War: Ragnarok. Houser, in his statement, says “Grand Theft Auto VI continues our efforts to push the limits of what’s possible in highly immersive, story-driven open-world experiences.”
Why did the trailer come out earlier than expected?
Rockstar announced that a trailer for the hotly anticipated game would come out at 9 a.m. ET on Dec. 5. However, a leaked version was shared on X the day before. The leaked video was quickly taken down, and Rockstar uploaded its own trailer on YouTube.
With such a high level of anticipation from fans, the new installment of Grand Theft Auto has been prone to leaks. One earlier leak displayed early in-game footage, which forced Rockstar to admit that it had a “network intrusion.”
When is Grand Theft Auto VI going to be released?
Take-Two says Grand Theft Auto VI is coming to the next-generation consoles, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, in 2025. No specific date has been given yet.
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