So, what is Rockstars new City Stories game?

Earlier today, Rockstar’s parent company--Take Two--filed for the trademark ‘City Stories’ in relation to its video games interests. The news comes via CVG, who sensibly speculate that this could lead to another handheld GTA spin-off, following the likes of Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories onto portable. That’s very possible, although there is evidence to suggest it’s something different entirely…

First let’s deal with the arguments for a new handheld game. Both Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories appeared on PSP, and they are both brand new adventures set within two of the series’ most loved cities. A third game--set in Los Santos--would make sense from a historical point of view. Plus, let’s not forget that Take Two’s recent financial report mentioned that a new Rockstar game will appear before April 2015. Whether or not that’s a City Stories game is unclear.

But what console would it appear on? The fact that Rockstar squeezed GTA 5 onto PS3 and 360 is a technical marvel in itself, so compromises would have to be made to get an equivalent game running on Vita--the most powerful of current handheld consoles. I’m sure it’s technically possible (it’s tough, but not impossible), but does it make sense from a business perspective? After all, Sony’s machine isn’t selling well in Europe or North America, the regions that buy the most GTA games. Personally, I think the time and money it’d take to create Los Santos Stories for Vita probably outweighs the profit that would come from it. In the financial report I mentioned earlier, Take Two said that it expects the new game to ‘generate significant earnings’, and that’s just not a phrase anyone associates with Vita.

That leaves 3DS and mobile. Nintendo’s handheld really isn’t designed to handle a traditional GTA experience, but it could run another Chinatown Wars-style game. 3DS is selling well all over the world too, so it’s a safer financial bet, but at the same time it doesn’t have a reputation as a place for M-rated games. Is the 3DS audience really demanding a GTA game? Probably not. So, again, it’s possible but unlikely.

Mobile is actually a reasonable shout. Rockstar just ported GTA Vice City onto tablets (it’s really good, by the way), and there’s a huge, hungry bunch of people just waiting for more GTA goodness. Again, though, you have to wonder whether the tech is powerful enough to deliver a game that doesn’t compromise too heavily on the stuff that makes GTA great. The great joy of GTA 5 is the massive, varied world, and that simply wouldn’t be the same if it was shrunk to fit mobile.

Hmm. Many other people are speculating that the ‘City Stories’ trademark could refer to a collection of previous GTA games for handheld, but the timing seems very odd to me. Surely if Rockstar was going to bring Liberty and Vice to Vita it would have done so before now. We’ve already had home-console versions of these games on PS3 so recycling them again seems… unlikely. Of course, the biggest anti-climax from a core gamer’s perspective (me) is that this City Stories trademark is for iOS rereleases of Vice and Liberty.

Other possibilities? It could well refer to DLC for GTA 5, which is likely to arrive before the end of the year. It’d break naming convention for sure (previous DLC has offered more playful, inventive titles in keeping with the GTA universe) but it seems just as likely as a new handheld offering. Or it could just be a trademark filing that isn’t attached to any project. Boring, but it does happen.

So, in conclusion--gah, it could be anything. My money is on a slice of DLC, because it feels like the adventures of Michael, Trevor, and Franklyn are complete. A new ‘story’ would be just the thing to get us jumping back, wallet-first, into Los Santos.

Andy Hartup