All signs point to a GTA sequel likely in the works, and the rumor mill spurred into action yet again through a series of alleged leaks this week on 4chan. Rockstar Games have proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that GTA is perhaps the most valuable and profitable brand in the history of not just gaming but in popular media as a whole.
GTA 5 continues to demolish any preconceived notions of a game aging and declining in popularity as the years pass on by. As is evidenced by the burgeoning growth of its Online counterpart and how it continues to appeal to new audiences annually.
While that is obviously an enviable position for any publisher, it also opens the room for complacency. Many a publisher has been known to sit on their laurels and perhaps take things a bit easier once a franchise reaches iconic status.
However, Rockstar Games' dedication to quality, regardless of time constraints and media scrutiny, has paid off hugely. Yet, there hasn't been a single new IP introduced since 2011's L.A. Noire.
Should Rockstar Games work on a new IP after GTA 6?
While granted, Rockstar Games doesn't have many games out since the turn of the decade. But the studios have been nothing less than phenomenal. With excellent titles such as Max Payne 3, Red Dead Redemption 2, and GTA 5, there is absolutely no question about the developers' abilities.
The publisher has been on a hot streak for most of their run since GTA III and has not had a poorly-received title in ages. Complacency is a concern that pops up frequently for Rockstar Games. Given the kind of profit GTA Online turns in annually, perhaps the question starts to loom larger year-after-year.
According to reports, December 2020 was the publisher's most profitable GTA Online period since its launch. The majority of the profits come through microtransactions in the game Shark Cards. A similar mechanic exists in Red Dead Online, another huge money-maker for Rockstar Games.
The trappings of Online multiplayer games
There has been enough debate and conversation around multiplayer games that are often referred to as "long-running" title, given their ever-evolving nature. Meaning, games like GTA Online or Fortnite continuously receive title updates, grow periodically, and evolve with new content.
This gives way for Rockstar Games to encourage more players to tune into either game, Red Dead or GTA, and make a killing on Shark Cards or Gold Bars (Red Dead Online). As a business model, this is the best position for any publisher or studio to be in as the pressure to deliver is far less than a full-fledged AAA game.
This allows developers to break down their efforts into smaller title updates as DLC instead of complete games. While that has resulted in increased profits and relevancy, it also injects a sense of frustration within the fanbase.
The frustration stems from the fact that GTA, as a franchise, has always been about the single-player experience. While players certainly appreciate Online for all its fantastic variety and over-the-top ridiculousness, a single-player experience forms the franchise's core.
A new IP is as valuable as a new GTA game.
A new IP for Rockstar Games would mean a fresh start and the opportunity to develop another cultural phenomenon. With 2010's Red Dead Redemption, fans immediately took to the game and heralded it as the publisher's finest work to date, given its emotional and impactful storytelling and fun gameplay.
That resulted in Red Dead Redemption turning into one of Rockstar'Games' most valuable and critically-acclaimed franchises. Similarly, as much as fans would love a GTA game, a new IP would be just as well-received.
While IP such as Agent were making the rounds of the internet during the PS3 generations, all murmurs quieted down. While fans often look to older franchises like Bully or even Manhunt, Rockstar Games has little to gain from going back to somewhat fledgling franchises again.
A new IP essentially represents a fresh start and is the life-blood of the games industry. Studios as capable as Rockstar Games set the benchmark for the rest of the industry to follow, and new IPs should always be prioritized.
Therefore, at the end of the day, once GTA 6 finally arrives, the publisher's efforts would be far more justified in a new IP rather than reviving old franchises or another sequel for Red Dead or GTA.