At the start of this new gaming generation, Rockstar still remains as one of the most, if not the most revered game studio in the world. And it’s easy to see why. Its games are consistently great across the board, with excellent gameplay, stories and characters which satisfy and even exceed fan expectations. Rockstar’s blockbuster titles also receive blockbuster levels of success, with GTA 5 being the most profitable entertainment product ever. Red Dead Redemption 2 was also phenomenal, with a 97 Metacritic score highlighting its utter brilliance.
What’s incredible is that I could have replaced ‘Rockstar’ with ‘CD Projekt Red’ and ‘GTA‘ with ‘The Witcher,’ and that paragraph would have rung true three weeks ago besides some specifics.
This reputation that CDPR built for years has (almost) entirely been quashed following the release of Cyberpunk 2077. From being one of gaming’s most respected figures to a lying, mischievous, and disappointing studio in a matter of weeks. A rather remarkable amount of mistakes made by leadership from CDPR has unfortunately tarnished the work of hundreds of talented employees. There is a high-quality game in there, but it’s been buried underneath mountains of controversy. Cyberpunk and GTA can certainly learn a lot from each other, both in terms of marketing and community management.
Nonetheless, Cyberpunk’s launch has proved how quickly a company like Rockstar could also see its own reputation destroyed if it’s not careful. Here are 3 things that Rockstar can do to ensure that the eventual launch of GTA 6 is a successful one.
1. Advertise Accurately
Graphically, the final release of Cyberpunk 2077 actually looks better than the copious E3 demos and trailers. For that, CDPR deserves its plaudits, as, on a top of the line PC, it’s one of the best looking games in recent memory. However, it’s the actual design of the game which was falsely represented.
We were all sold the promise of an immersive RPG where you could truly role-play and shape the experience to your own. Unfortunately, its first stunning gameplay reveal now rings hollow.
If anything, Cyberpunk is more akin to Grand Theft Auto than an immersive sim like Deus Ex. Its mission and open-world design are more linear, like Rockstar titles, than the open-ended landscape that we were promised. This is fine, but the audience wants the truth.
Rockstar must be careful to avoid doing this when GTA 6 marketing begins to roll out. The modern audience and media are far more adept at picking up on misleading material than ever before. The gameplay demos for Red Dead Redemption 2 were thankfully very faithful to how the game actually worked, and false advertising for short-term hype is not worth the long term reputation loss.
2. Don’t Bother With Last-Get Hardware
Rockstar may be tempted to release GTA 6 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. After all, the install base for both platforms combined exceeds the hundreds of millions. But if it looks over its shoulder at Cyberpunk’s disastrous last-gen release, I think Rockstar will change its mind.
The game simply cannot function on 7-year-old hardware. In fact, it is so bad that PlayStation removed the game entirely from the PlayStation Store. CDPR are also offering refunds for digital and physical copies. It makes you wonder why the game was even released on those platforms at all
Obviously, the answer is monetary. The game has still had stunning sales despite the controversy and unplayable nature of last-gen systems.
With an estimated release of 2022-2023, I simply can’t see how Rockstar could get GTA 6 to run functionally at all on consoles that were released so long ago. I also fear that this would limit the game’s potential on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
With the announcement that GTA 5 and GTA Online receiving next-gen updates sometime in 2021, it appears that Rockstar will use the online vertical as its mainstay for the last generation. If its next title does end up releasing on PS4 and Xbox One, let’s hope the characters don’t look like indistinguishable blobs like Cyberpunk 2077.
3. Evolve the Genre
Just to clarify, I actually really enjoy playing Cyberpunk on PS5. It has a high-quality story and strong first-person open-world gameplay. However, many of its disappointments with fans lie in the fact that it isn’t quite the evolution we expected.
This is where Rockstar can really stamp its claim as the best game developer in the world. With Red Dead Redemption 2, Rockstar toyed with a new karma system, NPC interactions and multiple endings. I loved the fact that every NPC reacted in a realistic way to my actions, and it’s an aspect that can truly evolve the comparatively simplistic GTA V.
I hope that Rockstar not only iterate on the Grand Theft Auto franchise in a fun way but also exceed what we think is possible in an open-world game. For me, ultra-smart NPC’s and explorable indoor environments are the two changes I’d love to see the most. It’s what makes going back to GTA 5 after playing RDR2 really make the game feel old. The open-world is just too basic, and the main mission design for GTA 6 would be far stronger if it allowed for more freedom.
GTA VI will likely be a great game. But it needs to be more than great. It needs to be a groundbreaking shift that the genre so desperately craves.