There really isn’t much left for Rockstar to accomplish, in all honesty. They’re just a good ol’ fashioned success story. Grand Theft Auto is synonymous with many aspects of our culture, and its name has been used in all sorts of media: TV, films, the news, etc. It’s controversial nature has made the game a point of contention for two decades. But when Grand Theft Auto 5 is the most profitable entertainment product of all time, you’d have to think that Rockstar couldn’t give two steamy, elephant dumps about controversy if they tried. GTA V has probably made anywhere between $6-10 Billion, selling 120 million copies in the process…that’s insane. With the smash-hit success of GTA Online, it’s safe to assume that Rockstar won’t be deviating from this model anytime soon. The announcement of GTA V now coming to the PS5 is very bad news for Rockstar fans. Rockstar have traded their stellar reputation for money, and lots of it.
This will be three generational releases for the same game. By offering GTA Online money to current users now, it just baits consumers into continuing this journey onto the PS5, and buying it again. Which they will. This game is going to exceed, already has exceeded, all games and go down as THE top dog in the entertainment industry…and that’s sad in a way. Rockstar has so much more to offer than just one game.
GTA VI Seems A Million Miles Away…
I’ve read about a bazillion opinion, and rumour, pieces about GTA VI being very close to being revealed, I’ve also read about it being years off yet. To tell you the truth, the only people that can give you a definitive answer is Rockstar. Being tight-lipped is usually their MO, as was shown by their reluctance to discuss gaming’s biggest unsolved mystery – Agent – all these years. Lots of people love GTA V, but lots of them also want to bask in the next entry in this hugely successful world. I can’t quite believe it’s been 7 years since GTA V originally came out.
But as is the case, within a year or two, discussions begin on what to expect for the next iteration. The setting, the characters, the time period, etc. Rockstar have been known to take a lot more care with their most recent games, but they were still coming out with steady regularity. 7 years later, and we don’t know a single thing about GTA VI. How far along is it? Where is it set? Will we be controlling a pack of vicious honey badgers? Do Rockstar even want to make another one!? The only thing their PR teams needs to know, is GTA Online is where it’s at.
It’s now become impossible to ignore the The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim comparisons as GTA V is mirroring what Bethesda did, and taken it one step further. It’s no secret that Bethesda have drawn criticism for milking their precious cash-cow to the point of exhaustion. This cow is now so dry that even a mangy cracker, long past its cell-by date, would look like a juicy strawberry. Yet, GTA V is not only on the same road, but they’ve obviously stocked up on supplies as they’re staying on this road for a while. If GTA V ever comes to the Switch in anyway shape or form then we’re in trouble.
The beauty of vague ‘journalism’ is that for all I know, the game is currently 95% finished and will be announced next month as a launch game for the Playstation 5, Xbox Series X, and PC. Speculate to accumulate just provides more substance I guess, and keeps the dream alive if it happens.
For a more systematical breakdown of Rockstar’s recent ideological repositioning, we’ll analyse their production line chronologically. Including companies that they would take over, Rockstar would develop and/or publish a huge variety of different games during these years. With Rockstar officially forming towards the end of the millennium, and now having the support of Take-Two, they aimed to put themselves on the map.
- Wild Metal
- Austin Powers
- Midnight Club, Midnight Club II, Midnight Club 3, Midnight Club: Los Angeles
- Smuggler’s Run, Smuggler’s Run II
- GTA III, GTA: Vice City, GTA: San Andreas, GTA: Liberty City Stories, GTA: Vice City Stories, GTA IV, GTA IV: The Lost And The Damned, GTA IV: The Ballad Of Gay Tony, GTA: Chinatown Wars
- State of Emergency
- Max Payne, Max Payne 2
- Manhunt, Manhunt 2
- Read Dead Revolver,
- Read Dead Redemption, Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
- The Warriors
- Bully (Canis Canem Edit)
- Rockstar Presents Table Tennis – Yes, they even made a table tennis game
This essential 11-year period is what turned this subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive from another games company, into, arguably, THE games company. A constant string of releases – acquiring bright and upcoming studios along the way – saw Rockstar’s stock rise. I mean, just look at this list. It has racing games, third-person action games, platforming games, fighting games, and…a frigging table tennis game. There is no end to Rockstar’s creativity, and there’s no end to their vision. This period of time saw an unbelievable amount of unbelievable games. Genre-defining games. And an Austin Powers game or two. Even if Rockstar had solely focused their efforts on Grand Theft Auto, they’d still be a standard-bearer in the industry.
As we entered a new decade, you did wonder what games we’d see from everyone, particularly Rockstar. After firmly establishing their footing on the next-gen platform, with GTA IV and Red Dead Redemption, it would be interesting to see how many weird and wonderful games their plethora of world-class studios would create.
- L.A. Noire
- Max Payne 3
- GTA V, GTA Online
- L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files
- Red Dead Redemption 2
- Umpteen re-releases
This is the stark contrast between their last two decades of work. The first decade was about building a foundation, forging a legacy. The last nine years have obviously seen a humongous drop-off in terms of output, and shifted their philosophy towards “quality over quantity”. Although, I’d confidently argue that there was more than enough quality in the previous decade, did Rockstar really need to sacrifice their integrity for wealth? Were they not already making enough money? I guess it’s easy for me to ask that question, but not for shareholders. It’s not for me to say, but it is for me to speculate. Even before GTA V, they generally released one new game a year. L.A. Noire in 2011, Max Payne 3 in 2012, then GTA V in 2013. It be a further 4 years until they released a new game, an L.A Noire, VR spin-off of all things.
Rockstar currently have 9 separate studios located around the world, and they won’t be small ones either. Which is why I’m continually baffled by Rockstar’s perceived lack of output. Are you telling me that Rockstar Games have over 3,000 registered employees, and they’re incapable of working on more than one or two games at a time? It’s a real puzzler. I’m sure one day, someone will come out and reveal what Rockstar have been doing this whole time. I want to be clear, this not a manhunt (no pun intended), I think Rockstar have done as much for the industry as anyone, and I’m so thankful for that…
…But where are they? Do they all live in luxury mansions, sipping champagne, feeding off of the GTA Online revenue? We just want to know. Their secrecy is admirable, but it keeps long-term fans in the lurch. Where’s Bully 2? Where’s a new Midnight Club? Where’s L.A Noire 2? Where’s a new Austin Powers game forgodsake!
How Times Change…
In a rare 2011 interview, one of the founders of Rockstar – Dan Houser – sat down for a an interview and explained his mentality, and Rockstar’s approach to game development.
“Why has Rockstar been so successful? “We didn’t rely on testimonials in a business textbook to do what we’ve done,” he said. “I think we succeeded precisely because we didn’t concentrate on profit. The focus of my effort has been to make good games first and let the results come naturally after that. If we make the sort of games we want to play, then we believe people are going to buy them.”
Make good games and the money will follow. That’s a hell of a sentence, and how true that statement remains nine years later. They did. They made many fine games, but I’m sure you’re smart enough to know where I’m going with this. I can’t disagree with the man, however, they’re no longer making any games for people to play.
I truly think this is the end of the Rockstar of old, so comfortable in the new position that they’ve been able to create for themselves. Whilst I am so happy for them with how far they have obviously come, I’m also sad that they’ve phoned in their artistic perception of gaming in favour of a business-centric direction. Even if we do eventually get GTA VI sometime soon, then that’s still just the alternating life-cycle the company seems to have fallen into with GTA and RDR. Rockstar have traded their reputation for money, and it’s okay.