We’d argue that, if there’s one series that has consistently pushed each consecutive console to its absolute limits, it’s Grand Theft Auto.
We may scoff at how basic something like GTA 2 seems, looking back now. At the time, however – and particularly on the first-generation PlayStation hardware – an open-world game like that, whose setting was also so detailed, was simply revolutionary.
The PlayStation 2 was obviously a big technological step forwards, but still, the leap that was made by GTA III, Vice City and then San Andreas is simply staggering when you think about it. The perspective was brought down to eye-level third-person, the graphics were fully three dimensional, and the worlds – particularly that of San Andreas (the scale of which still boggles the mind today) – were not just enormous, but also packed with things to see, do and collect.
Of course, all of those initial entries had a similarly cartoonish aesthetic to them; they weren’t supposed to be realistic. That all changed with GTA IV, the series’ first entry on the PlayStation 3. The collective GTA fan-base absolutely freaked out when the first teaser for the game was released, and we were given our first glimpse of a New York (“Liberty City”), that actually looked like New York.
The leap forward that GTA IV made, in terms of delivering fantastic graphics alongside the now-traditional massive and detailed open world – is arguably the most impressive that the series has made.
The fifth and most recent entry in the series was actually also released on PlayStation 3, to begin with. Perhaps we forget that now, because – largely thanks to the dominance of its online features – it has become such a mainstay for PS4 gamers. It’s no exaggeration to say that GTA V pushed the PS3 to its absolute limits. The ambition that Rockstar showed, in modeling such a ginormous section of California, in such detail, with such brilliant graphics, was definitely admirable.
For our money, however, it was a bit too much for the poor old PS3. The game was still hugely enjoyable, of course, but you often encountered significant slowdown as the system fought to render Rockstar’s entire, ridiculous creation. When the PS4 was released, and a new edition of GTA V followed a few months later, the game had definitely found its true home. The graphics absolutely popped, and the game ran as smooth as silk. It became the game it always should have been.
When we think about GTA V, this clearly isn’t photorealistic, and this is because most of the resources are used in other areas, such as the huge map. However, a PlayStation 5 would open far more options to game developers, allowing them to do things that aren’t currently possible. Thinking ahead, you might ask the question: which city will GTA VI be based around? Only time will tell.
Accordingly, we’re trapped in a bit of a conundrum when it comes to GTA VI. The game hasn’t been announced yet, of course, but with the frankly ludicrous amount of success that Rockstar have had with GTA V (it’s reportedly sold as many as 80 million copies!), it’s inevitable that we’ll have a sequel.
With Rockstar’s pedigree, you can basically guarantee that the game will be great. We’d argue, however, that they may have learnt their lesson from releasing GTA V at the end of the PS3 generation, instead of simply waiting for the PS4. They’re perhaps the most ambitious developers in the industry, and – after the scale we already saw in GTA V – we can’t imagine how big they’re looking to go in GTA VI. They may well need an entirely new, more powerful console to realize this vision.
It’s also worth noting that Rockstar definitely like to take their time on things. Their excellent Red Dead series is clear evidence of that. However successful and critically-acclaimed it’s been, there have still only been 3 entries in the series… and that’s including Red Dead Redemption 2, which isn’t even out until 2018!
Add all these facts together: the GTA games pushing consoles to their limits, mostly thanks to the sheer scale of Rockstar’s worlds; the ambition of the Rockstar team; the fact that GTA V is still so financially successful, so there’s no monetary rush to make another one; the arguably mistaken decision to release GTA V on the PS3, instead of waiting for the PS4 release; and the patience Rockstar usually takes between releases.
Add those facts together, and you can already see why we think it’s a strong possibility that Rockstar will wait until the next PlayStation generation before they release GTA VI.
Oh yes, and there’s one more wrinkle too.
It’s hard to believe, but the PS4 has already been out for nearly 4 years. The PS3 lasted 7 years in total so, if we’re looking at a similar timeframe here, we might be looking at a PS5 in 3 years: right in time for 2020.
Right now, of course, the PS4 still seems like cutting-edge technology; Horizon: Zero Dawn, for example, is arguably the best-looking game ever made. Travel back in time a few years, however, and you’d probably have said the same about the PS3. Go back further, and it’d be the same with the PS2. Now, those games look positively ancient. Who’s to say the same won’t be true of the PS4, once the PS5 is released?
We’re likely already halfway through the current console generation. Rockstar know this; they’re perhaps the smartest developers in the industry. They’re working on Red Dead Redemption 2 anyway right now, and GTA V is still a big earner, to they’re both busy and making lots of money.
We’d say it’s highly unlikely that Rockstar will rush out a new GTA to hit the end of the PS4 generation, and that’s why we’re confident in asserting that GTA IV will likely by utilizing the untold power of a PS5, and we’re looking at a release date of some point in 2020.