Grand Theft Auto 6: Release Date, Platforms, 'Leaked' Map, Rumours and Fact Check
|Grand Theft Auto 6: Release Date, Platforms, 'Leaked' Map and Everything to Know GTA 6|
Everything you need to know about Grand Theft Auto 6 (GTA 6) right here for your delectation — let's get down to it.
Grand Theft Auto 6 - Release Date
Starting with possible release dates, it's worth giving you a bit of background. While GTA 5 released in 2013, Rockstar couldn't immediately turn its full attention to developing a sequel. It apparently did start work on GTA 6 in 2014, but meanwhile had the small matter of Red Dead Redemption 2 to make, let alone the PC, PS4 and Xbox One versions of GTA 5, and the PC and Google Stadia versions of Red Dead Redemption 2.
All of those take work, but are now out of the way. That's the logic applied to a recent leak, purportedly from a playtester who's been in contact with GTA 6 during development. That source, which remains uncorroborated, suggests that Rockstar is aiming for a 2021 release date.
Now that we're into 2021, we're not hugely confident about that, though - that would mean Rockstar announcing and releasing the game within a year, which isn't too common, and we've heard nothing official yet.
Nonetheless, recent rumours suggest that a 2021 teaser announcement could be close, thanks to some strange artwork teases posted by the developer and a "private" video found lurking on its YouTube channel. Still, we think it's most likely that the game will be fully released in 2022, taking Rockstar's trademark delays into account.
That all said, another kernel of information can apply here, in the form of Rockstar North's 2020 claims for UK Tax Relief. There's a bit of controversy rumbling over whether you can really call the likes of GTA and Red Dead Redemption 2 "culturally British", as the tax scheme requires, but nonetheless Rockstar's accounting shows a steady flow of tax relief in recent years.
As pointed out by Tax Watch, this is suggestive of continuous development, and some are using it as an indication that GTA 6 is underway. That's a bit of a stretch, since the tax claim is entirely generic and doesn't mention any franchises, but still - we know they're up to something!
Now, there's another option here - 2K, which publishes the Grand Theft Auto series, recently updated its fiscal plans to allow for a much-increased spend on marketing in 2023, some time off for now. In fact, it expects to spend double what it has planned for 2021 and 2022. That's fuelled speculation that it expects to be marketing the next GTA game in 2023, and will be spending big bucks on it.
We also had even more fuel poured onto the fire by a report from Jason Schreier over at Kotaku, looking as he had before at the work culture at Rockstar, which is famously demanding. The report mentions that according to his sources the next Grand Theft Auto is indeed in the works, but remained at an early stage of development.
Recently, eager fans also spotted that Rockstar had added a new blog post to its news section that isn't currently live - post 62005. They're hopeful that this means some sort of announcement post is being built at that address. For our money that's insanely optimistic, but at this stage you can't blame anyone for getting their hopes up!
Finally, it's been spotted that Rockstar is in a hiring phase for game testers, something often associated with the final stages of a game's development. While this could point toward GTA 6 being at an advanced stage, it could of course also be simply required for other projects Rockstar has cooking, like GTA 5's next-gen version.
All this adds up to the same picture, roughly - the next GTA is definitely on the way, but you shouldn't get your hopes raised too high that it'll appear soon.
Grand Theft Auto 6 - Theory About 'Leaked' Map
As an example of where Grand Theft Auto fans are right now, the community is currently reevaluating a supposed leak of GTA 6's map going back to 2016, with a new theory arising about its relation to Rio de Janeiro.
In 2018 several images were shared showing multiple islands spread out in a large body of water. Only one of these images showed a detail portion of the map, including a section said to be Vice City. The rest of the map looked like it was made in MS Paint. Two years later, a separate image was leaked showing one of these MS Paint islands in similar detail to the initial image's depiction of Vice City. The veracity of these images have remained a topic of speculation since.
The latest example of the Grand Theft Auto community's evolving discourse on these supposedly leaked images dropped in Reddit's GTA 6 subreddit this past week. The user, Boastful_Clown, takes a look at the newer image from 2020 showing an updated and detail image of an island. This user claims that they believe this island is meant to depict Grand Theft Auto's version of Rio de Janeiro, pointing out certain key locations on the image and comparing them to a real map of the Brazilian city.
More specifically, the Redditor starts with a circle of a location that could be Grand Theft Auto 6's take on Rio de Janeiro's famous Christ the Redeemer statue of Jesus that overlooks the city. Other points of comparison include Rio de Janeiro's inland lagoon, its Cagarras islands archipelago, and the Santos Dumont airport. The Redditor claims that the existence of these visible landmarks in the leaked Grand Theft Auto 6 image implies that Rockstar is making a city based on Rio de Janeiro.
The biggest issue with the Redditor's claims remains the possibility that these images were all faked. Perhaps the artist that created the fake images used Rio de Janeiro as inspiration for their leak. Or perhaps it's all a wasted effort entirely, the GTA 6 images are faked, and there's no actual connection to Rio de Janerio.
Grand Theft Auto fans can't help but question, "What if it's real?" however. It's possible that the images are authentic and that GTA 6 will take place on a large body of water with separate islands for Liberty City and a new area based on Rio de Janerio. Fans will just have to wait for Rockstar to officially announce Grand Theft Auto 6, but when and where that will be remains the biggest mystery of all.
*Facts Check: Grand Theft Auto 6 is reported to currently be in development.
Grand Theft Auto 6 - Platforms
Probably the other key detail contained in that first big leak around GTA 6 concerned the platforms it's likely to release on. Obviously, GTA 5 came out toward the tail end of a console generation, releasing on the PS3 and Xbox 360, then being re-released with better performance and graphics on the next set of consoles.
Apparently, that pattern won't be repeated with GTA 6, though. The leak suggests that the game will be exclusive to the Playstation 5 and Microsoft's Xbox Series X and S.
Given that those consoles will likely have been out for at least a year upon release, that's entirely credible.
However, given that Red Dead Redemption 2 took a lot less time to come to PC players than GTA 5 did years ago, it would be slightly surprising if GTA 6 doesn't also make its way to PC within a year of release.
GTA 6 Gameplay
Waiting for details on a new GTA game generally involves one major area of speculation - where will it be set? While characters and storylines are just as subject to interesting details, there's something about GTA's setting that feels like the most pivotal choice Rockstar has to make. Whether it's Liberty City, Los Santos or another metropolitan area, the playground in which players will run riot is a big question mark hanging over the game.
At the moment this is where speculation is focused, with GTA Online players at one point becoming convinced that GTA 6 will take place in Vice City, GTA 3's much-loved, neon-soaked alternative version of Miami. The reasoning behind this? GTA Online's racing DLC, Open Wheels, has a race circuit that looks suspiciously like the outline of a map that would include Miami, as well as a chunk of Mexico. The outline does look fairly clear, as you can see in the image below, but obviously Rockstar is keeping its own counsel at this stage.
This idea had a little bit more detail added to it by an alleged leak, which purportedly came via the friend of a disgruntled ex-Rockstar employee. If the information is to be believed, the game will be set in Florida, and have a map bigger than GTA 5 and Red Dead Redemption 2 combined, covering three cities including Vice City. Players will apparently be able to control four different protagonists, expanding on GTA 5's three main characters.
The latest intel comes from a Reddit poster who's collated various leaked images together to create a concept of what the map might look like. It's expansive and features a huge ocean - such an empty space that we're pretty sceptical that it'll end up being real, unless Rockstar is taking the series in a very new, nautical direction.
Now fresh rumours have circulated that this roster will include a female playable character for the first time in the series, something that's long overdue in our minds. The info comes courtesy of Tom Henderson, a longtime leaker who's made accurate claims in the past.
There have also been suggestions elsewhere that Liberty City (from GTA III), San Andreas (from GTA: San Andreas, natch), and the Midwest could feature, or maybe even all of the above for different sections.
Regardless, expect the game to push the boundaries of what the new hardware from Sony and Microsoft is capable of. There's no guarantee that the game world will be bigger and more detailed than the map from GTA 5, but that's certainly how things seem to be trending.
GTA 6 Story
The main story of each GTA game so far has involved criminality, as a rule, but the exact flavour is always up for change. A crucial bit of information when it comes to GTA 6's narrative is that Rockstar's co-founder, Dan Houser, left the studio in March 2020.
That means that one of the studio's key tastemakers and writers has departed, someone who, together with his brother Sam, has shaped the franchise's tone from the very beginning.
Now, on the one hand, given the likely timing of the game there's a good chance that Dan Houser was able to have solid input and impact on the script and story before his departure. On the other, if he was on his way out it's very possible that he wasn't nearly so involved. That means we could be in for a change of voice for GTA 6.
What has Rockstar said about GTA 6 on the record?
Rockstar North’s former President teased the next series entry back in 2013 in a four-part interview with Develop magazine, which got the online rumour mill started:
“We don’t know what GTA 6 will be, but we’ve got some ideas,” said Benzies in the interview. “We’ve got about 45 years’ worth of ideas we want to do. We’ll pick the right ones. It comes from the idea first. Where it is going to be set is the first question. That then defines the missions; you’re doing different things in LA than in New York or Miami. The map and story get worked up together, and the story is a basic flow of how it works out so you can layer the mission in."
Of course, Benzies didn’t give much away about what form GTA 6 will take and recently left Rockstar North in fairly acrimonious circumstances. However, it’s unlikely that Rockstar will rip up the GTA series’ tried-and-tested development process, where building a world comes first with characters and structures layered on top. GTA 5 was created by 1000+ developers based across studios worldwide, so it’d be a brave move to change the template. In fact, it’s probable the location is already set: we spoke to a software provider at E3 2015, speaking under discretion, who suggested work on GTA 6 was already well underway.
Will GTA 6 be exclusive to the PS5 and Xbox Series X? Potentially, but it'll definitely be a next-gen title
With the lifecycle of both the PS4 and Xbox One basically coming to an end, it's looking more and more likely that GTA 6 will be a next-gen release. It may well do a bit of a GTA 5 and release on PS4 and Xbox One at the same time as the new consoles, but all the focus should be on optimising for whatever hardware beasts Sony and Microsoft pull out of the bag.
GTA 6 rumours: Which are the most credible so far?
A futuristic storylineGTA Online's The Doomsday Heist featured flying cars, but was a fantastical leap tonally from the single-player story.
There was a rumour / fan fantasy that GTA 6’s storyline will be more sci-fi than other games in the series, with one of the game’s mechanics allowing time travel, according to a report by Christian Today. Yes, there have been strange sub-quests in GTA games before, but none quite as unrealistic as time travelling.
This rumour comes via a report from ChristianToday, which doesn’t name its source, but it suggests that teleportation will be possible “within a split-second”. Specific time periods aren’t mentioned, but it might be that you’re rewinding time to previous moments in the hero’s storyline.
Could it happen? A story told across time periods? Maybe. Time travel? Highly doubtful. GTA has traditionally opted for a more grounded take on supernatural phenomena, at least until the edge-of-reality GTA Online update The Doomsday Heist, which featured flying cars and orbital lasers. Otherwise, the series has been more circumspect: GTA: San Andreas’ jetpack was retrieved from the game’s version of Area 51, and accessible only very late in the game. GTAV’s – slightly daft – UFO easter eggs are curios outside the core story.
Every game in the series is consistent within its time period, with realism key to the game’s storyline. It’s worth noting that teleportation already is in GTA 5 – of a kind – but using a mechanic consistent with its story. The decision to use three playable characters was, in part, a way to allows players to fast-travel across its huge map, without resorting to mysticism or wormholes, Rockstar told YouTube show GTAVoclock.
A game set across the entire USA
There are fan theories that GTA 6 is going to feature a map that encompasses all 52 of the North American states, rather than one single city. You can read more at gta6grandtheftauto.com but that URL is probably your biggest indication as to how soundly this rumour has been sourced.
If – if – the game was set across all 52 states, teleportation could come in handy for your protagonist, so you could be whizz across state lines, rather than zipping between time periods. Fans and bloggers claimed GTA 6 may use similar mechanics to that of Ubisoft’s driving game, The Crew, which spanned the whole country by placing key cities side by side.
Could it happen? It sounds entirely plausible that the scale of the game will increase, perhaps with known locations like Los Santos, Liberty City and Vice City… or to encompass more states, or global cities. It’s more likely that the player would fast-travel by plane (like at the end of GTA San Andreas in the Saint Mark’s Bistro mission), or by swapping between characters as in GTA 5, a convenient way to shortcut the player between locations without compromising realism.
A return to London
Reports of a London setting for GTA 6 originated via Rockstar Games, putting the next game potentially right on the doorstep of its own studio. Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser said the following back in September 2013 in an interview with Polygon:
“At the moment, it feels like GTA’s DNA is contemporary-ish, American-ish, English-speaking-ish, because that’s what it has been… but that doesn’t necessarily limit it to those, that’s just what we’ve done so far.”
This led many to speculate that GTA may be seeking outside inspiration, or even returning to the UK. However, Houser also said that GTA wouldn’t return to London in an interview with The Guardian that very same month:
"I think for us, my gut feeling is, GTA London was cool for the time, but games were more limited then," said Houser. "These days I think we would love to set a game in the UK, set in London, whatever, but I don't know if it would be a GTA game. I think there are plenty of great stories we could tell about the UK, great environments to showcase, great gameplay mechanics that could have a UK bent to them – I just don't think it would be a GTA necessarily."
Could it happen? Potentially; not only is London home to Rockstar’s publishing office, but it’s also an area that the studio has visited before with the appropriately named Grand Theft Auto: London, 1869. While Houser might have doubted London’s viability back in 2013, a number of cultural, political and world events might have placed it back on the radar, including Brexit, radical terrorism, high finance (and the global spotlight on rising inequality), Russian non-domiciles and ‘fake news’ / a world run by algorithms (with links to UK-based firms like Cambridge Analytica). However, given the size of GTA’s US audience, it feels like a potentially alienating move, and we’d speculate that London would only appear as part of a wider global collection of cities.
According to a source speaking to TechRadar back in March 2016, Rockstar visited the Japanese capital as a reference trip for a game entitled GTA: Tokyo several years ago. Apparently the idea for the game was eventually pulled, but before that the studio met up with locals, took a ton of pictures and wanted to get a good feel for the city before embarking on that particular gaming journey.
The source stated that Rockstar was "serious" about a game with a Japanese setting, and even went as far as to trademark the names GTA: Toyko, GTA: Bogota and also, mysteriously, GTA: Sin City back in 2003. That was around the time of GTA 3 and Vice City, but the road system was seen as a problem and was just one of the reasons why the idea was eventually abandoned.
Could it happen? If GTA was to move away from the US, it would be a big deal for the series, and not just because Rockstar has set up a number of series staples, like brands, restaurants and fake car manufacturers, that would all have to be redesigned for a Far Eastern setting. You have to admit though, it would look awesome.
How Rockstar design maps and what that might mean for GTA 6
Aaron Garbut, art director, revealed Rockstar North's approach to world building, during an interview with Develop in 2013: "“We do a lot of Googling and StreetView scoping,” he says. “And some of us – Sam, Dan, Les and I [Sam Houser, Dan Houser, Leslie Benzies] – tend to meet up in the places we are being inspired by and drive around those places and have random chats.
“After that we have six to eight people on the design for around nine months to a year. At that point we have a pretty solid blocked in map. We treat the cities like a sculpture and make sure that perspectives down streets look right. And we also make sure that it has the areas we need – both in terms of missions and as a city."A side-by-side comparison of all the major GTA maps by GTAForums member KeWiS.
What does all this mean for GTA 6? Garbut talks about how the team spent 'up to four years' in a virtual place, with reference to the creation of GTA 5. Los Santos was the largest game world in the series so far, and you can see all the previous GTA maps compared here. If GTA 6 is trying to replicate all 52 US states, or even a series of cities / regions of comparable size to Los Santos… that sounds like a lot of preparation work, provided Rockstar are working in the same way. Rockstar North are currently recruiting an Environmental Terrain Artist 'to create next-generation worlds for exciting upcoming projects', which could be any game, but the ambiguity is deliberate.
We estimated a potential 83 month gap (about 7 years) between GTA 5 and GTA 6, and that would tally with a world double the size of Los Santos… although this a crude approximation and the time could have been spent in all manner of other ways. For example, what if GTA 6 wasn't about scale… but depth? GTA 4 was a smaller, richer, game than GTA: San Andreas, for example; as Rockstar took advantage of the leap from PS2 to PS3. Advances in AI, conversation, destructible environments, interiors (Rockstar North are recruiting an Interior Artist), time and weather cycles would be much more exciting than raw scale… but that's another conversation.
GTA 6 VR – What are the chances?
LA Noire on HTC Vive was a tantalising, if more measured, glimpse of how GTA might feel in virtual reality.
According to rumours circulating in online forums citing sources in the know (without *sigh* actually citing them), GTA 6 will arrive with full support for virtual reality. No, that’s not just a few missions to play in VR, but rather the entire game, a la Resident Evil 7.
Could it happen? Virtual reality hasn’t quite taken off in the way that everyone expected and – technical challenges aside – it feels like a gigantic financial gamble, to aim for such a limited user base. In August 2017, Take Two CEO Strauss Zelnick expressed scepticism around VR, claiming AR was a much more viable alternative in the long term. "The concerns I raised regarding VR are not applicable to AR," Zelnick said. "In order to have an AR experience, you don’t necessarily have to wear glasses or a headset. You’re not burdened by being a in particular location, and the discomfort factor doesn’t exist, necessarily".
However, it’s hard not to see L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files for HTC Vive as a form of test case, and we openly wondered what it might mean for GTA when we previewed Rockstar’s crime noir in late 2017. Best case, GTA 6 might – might – follow the same line as the VR version of L.A. Noire, which offers players seven of the game’s missions rebuilt especially for VR. However, ignoring VR entirely, or opting for AR sounds more likely.
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