Grand Theft Auto 6 hasn't been officially announced, but there is no doubt it's in development. Rockstar won't talk about it until months (or years) after the release of Red Dead Redemption 2 on October 26th, 2018. For context, GTA 5 was announced in November 2011, over 17 months after Red Dead Redemption was released in May 2010. However, there are no shortage of GTA 6 rumors, from the plausible (it's set across multiple US locations), to the fanciful (it's set in the future). In this article, we'll run the rule over the most notable leaks and speculation so far to hopefully build a more measured prediction of GTA 6’s setting, release date, structure and more, based on historical precedents. More tangibly, the recent gameplay demos of Red Dead Redemption 2 paint a clearer picture of Rockstar's vision for open worlds, which we'll outline below.
What can Red Dead Redemption 2 tell us about GTA 6?
The first thing to point out is that Red Dead Redemption 2 and GTA 6 are, obviously, distinct games with systems adapted to their core story and setting. However, they are both the product of Rockstar's studios and the company is keen to present Red Dead Redemption as a global development effort. Rockstar North (based in Edinburgh, UK) led GTA 5 development but RDR2 is being touted as a 'full court press' across Rockstar's 10 offices and studios. The thinking that underpins Red Dead Redemption 2 will inform GTA 6 with Rockstar promoting open development and idea sharing across studios.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is Rockstar's biggest game yet but the goal is to make it their most immersive open world with characters who exist independently of the player and with whom you can forge dynamic relationships. RDR2 has been in development 8 years with 6 years dedicated to its new AI system. If you approach civilians with your gun out, for example, they'll react differently to if you leave it holstered, as noted in the Telegraph's recent RDR2 preview:
"In Red Dead 2, people exist. They have work to do and schedules to stick to, regardless of whether you’re there to see it or not. But if you are there, they’ll react accordingly - so point a revolver at the guy innocently sweeping his porch and, depending on his demeanour, he could drop to his knees and beg for his life, or at the opposite end of the scale draw a six-shooter and retaliate."
GTA 6 pedestrian interactions will be richer than ever
A really neat touch in RDR2 is that you can interact with everyone – and not just by punching them like in GTA 5 or hanging around hoping to hear some dialogue. Rockstar have developed a new interaction system with a number of choices in the bottom right of the screen that change dynamically based on a number of factors like where you are, who you're talking to, your previous relationship with that character and more. These aren't cut-scenes: for example, you can walk around a campfire drinking and chatting to people as you roam. You can also Greet or Antagonise people, with results depending on their personality.
In the Telegraph's recent RDR2 demo, they looted a Fisherman's camp but were spotted by its owner. "I don't want any trouble, mister", the fisherman pleads, at which point you have multiple responses. You can shoot him, run, or verbally threaten him, with the latter option causing the fisherman to back down. You control every step of the conversation, and can even yell at the man's dog – or keep threatening and demand his money. In IGN's version of the same demo, they physically pushed the fisherman, causing him to run away.
The implications for GTA 6 are obvious and it seems incredulous to suggest that Rockstar would develop an open world that was *less* interactive than their previous game. Realism has long been Rockstar's goal and their games are a steady evolution to the creation of a truly immersive, intelligent, open world. “We know what other developers are doing in the open world space,” Rockstar North's co-studio head Rob Nelson told the Telegraph, “But the fact is, we don’t want to be better than anyone else. We want to be better than ourselves.”
Dynamic environments and hair growth - what else can GTA 6 learn from Red Dead Redemption 2?
RDR2 is full of cute touches that create the illusion of a persistent, interactive, world. For example, your horse's hoof prints will become puddles if it rains. If you lose your hat, you'll need to grab it back or buy a new one. It won't re-spawn. Your hair and facial hair grows over time and can be cut, but you'll need to wait until it grows back. In one RDR2 demo, journalists spotted a bunch of NPCs (non playable characters) pulling up the walls to a ranch, which the developers hinted might become a finished home later on. Imagine a GTA 6 with dynamic progression of time, where buildings are raised, and razed, according to your actions and those of the world's residents.
Listen below for an in-depth discussion about GTA 6 from the @GTAVoclock team, who accurately predicted large elements of GTA 5 back in 2012. The conversation from the 42m 42s mark about a 'deeper' vision for open worlds is especially relevant in light of Rockstar's recently confirmed plans for Red Dead Redemption 2.
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.
How the Fermi Problem might help us make more educated predictions
Truthfully, nobody outside Rockstar North and their cast-iron NDAs knows anything about GTA6, but using historical precedents and an estimation technique called the Fermi problem, we can establish a more credible outline. What’s the Fermi problem? The term was recently popularised in the book Superforecasting, prefaced by the question:
How many piano tuners are in Chicago?
Without google searching for the answer, it doesn’t sound like the sort of thing anyone would know by heart – but your approach to tackling the question, reveals a lot about the potential accuracy of the prediction.
How might the future of GTA look in virtual reality?
In short, it’s possible to ‘chunk’ the question into more estimable parts e.g. What’s my guess at the population of Chicago? On average how many people are in each house? How many houses might own pianos? How often do they need tuning? A logical mind might land upon a figure of 200-300 piano tuners (as outlined in the link above). The actual answer is 290.
So, while GTA 6 is unknown, it is not composed of unknowables. You can apply historical precedent, personal insight (into its creators), snippets of interviews, CV searches and an overlay of societal – and technology – trends, to form a clearer picture. Predicting GTA 6 isn't a pure 'Fermi Problem', in that it isn't a solely quantitive issue, but the structural approach is relevant.
When will the GTA 6 release date be?
Long story short: if Rockstar confirmed GTA 6 the day after Red Dead Redemption 2 came out (October 26, 2018 - put it in your diary), then based on historical delays between console GTA announcements and release, we’d be waiting around 22 months – so August 2020.
In reality, Rockstar are unlikely to confirm GTA 6 until very late 2018 / early 2019 to give RDR2 time to breathe… so a ‘Fall’ 2020 release sounds more probable. You can see the gap between announcement and release for previous GTA console games below (we’re ignoring the handheld versions).
It is, of course, entirely possible Rockstar might try to pull a ‘Cloverfield Paradox’ and minimise the window between announcement and release – but that runs contrary to everything we know about pre-release hype cycles and the drive for pre-orders. As physical stores continue to decline, however, a ‘surprise’ digital release remains a more viable, if absurdly bold, consideration.
Taking the concept further, if GTA 6 was part of a surprise launch in, say, April 2019, it would have been a 67 month gap between GTA 5 and GTA 6. The previous biggest gap was 47 months, between The Ballad of Gay Tony and GTA 5. If the launch date was Fall 2020, which feels more likely, that gap would be nearer 83 months between GTA 5 and GTA 6 i.e. almost seven years, which is longer than an average console generation.
Gaming analyst Michael Pachter, talking to Gaming Bolt, doesn’t think we’ll see an announcement before 2020, or release until 2021. He cites the eight year gap between Red Dead Redemption and Red Dead Redemption 2 as precedent.
Where will GTA 6 be set? Didn't the former Rockstar North President once talk about a GTA World?
There a number of wild rumours, which we will address in due course, but let’s start with some historical insight. So far, GTA games have been set in the following locations:
- Liberty City – GTA 3, GTA 4, Lost and Damned, The Ballad of Gay Tony
- Vice City – GTA Vice City
- San Andreas / Los Santos – GTA: San Andreas, GTA 5
If history was to repeat, Vice City or Liberty City feel like the most likely candidates for a return… but it’s possible the game will explore new locations, which feels likelier in light of expectations set by GTA Online i.e. the world won’t get smaller. Speaking to Rockstar’s Leslie Benzies in 2013, via the YouTube GTA show GTAVoclock, he stated that the ambition for GTA Online was “To grow this world until it’s the world. We’re just going to add on new things to it, new places all the time”.
Five years on, it’s clear that GTA Online hasn’t followed this path, with the recent Doomsday Heist proving one of the most significant updates in years, but only adding interior locations, missions and vehicles; not new states or countries. Leslie Benzies left Rockstar North officially in Jan 2016, but has been on sabbatical for most of the prior 17 months, so it’s fair to assume his influence was less critical from mid 2014 onwards.
However, it’s worth considering how much of what Benzies claimed in 2013 remains true: “The only limitation is the size of the disc and how much memory we’ve got. We could, if we wanted, simulate the entire world, different countries, whatever”. Rockstar might revisit familiar locations first, he claimed: “Whether we do that or not… but we’ve got a bunch of old stuff that we’re toying with using”. Vice City, Liberty City and Alderney are obvious candidates, but have yet to materialise.
Back in Dec 2012, Benzies had linked Vice City to the concept of a ‘GTA World’, in an interview with Digital Trends: “Of course at some point we would like to have one big world containing all our cities and let the player fly between them and revisit their favorite areas, and in that context reimagining Vice City would be very interesting.”
Click 'next page' as we assess the most popular GTA 6 rumors so far and piece together the most credible clues to form our best guess of what to expect from Grand Theft Auto 6