GTA 6 Will Be Huge, But I Miss Rockstar’s Smaller-Scale Games
According to one news item this week, the next Grand Theft Auto may be out as soon as next year. “In Fiscal 2025, we expect to enter this new era by launching several groundbreaking titles that we believe will set new standards in our industry and enable us to achieve over $8bn in Net Bookings and over $1bn in Adjusted Unrestricted Operating Cash Flow.” Such were the words issued by a representative of Take-Two Interactive, in the company’s latest earnings report. Let them wash over you. $8bn in Net Bookings. $1bn in Adjusted Unrestricted Operating Cash Flow. There is nothing like a blast of fiscal poetry to get you invested; if only all the week’s news bore the crisp and rustling tones of the bankable.
Of course, there are other parts to which we might also pay attention: a new Grand Theft Auto, groundbreaking titles, new standards set. I am as thrilled as anyone to get my hands on another chapter of that crime saga, but I can’t help feeling a slight twinge of longing for the time when the developer was happy not to break ground but to richly cover it. Rockstar Games was practically peerless when it came to variety. How many other developers do you know that are able to deliver an open world (indeed, to forge the very concept, as we now know it), a third-person cover shooter, a 3D update on the classic scrolling beat ’em up, an exquisite stealth horror, and a portable music mixer – all while finding time for a deft, and cultishly adored, simulation of table tennis?
This is not to lament where the developers’ energies are directed and honed. Any game that features foliage so realistically rendered that you can almost feel it rubbing against the hero’s elbows, as you can in Red Dead Redemption II, is to be lauded. But I can’t be the only one who misses the epoch when Rockstar’s games were not always hulks, ten years in the hyping, but, rather, seemed to spring up, like surprise blooms, from fecund soil. The company’s output from 2003 to 2013 is as follows: Midnight Club II, Manhunt, Red Dead Revolver, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition, The Warriors, Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis, Bully, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, Manhunt 2, Grand Theft Auto IV (and its two expansion chapters), Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, Beaterator, Red Dead Redemption (and its zombified DLC), and Max Payne 3. Now consider its output from 2013 to now: Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption II. So much for unrestricted operating.
It would be remiss not to point out that this profusion of games fed back into Grand Theft Auto. The stealth of Manhunt snuck its way into San Andreas, and I spent an unreasonable length of time as Michael, in Grand Theft Auto V, ditching a life of crime altogether in favour of playing tennis. If it turns out that Grand Theft Auto VI is, indeed, set in Vice City (the series’ take on Miami, with its pale and powdery coasts), and happens to feature, say, surfing, then part of me will ponder the lost chance of a second wave of games. Could we have gotten “Rockstar Games Presents Surfing”?
The truth is, these games make too much money to warrant Rockstar’s numerous studios diffusing their focus. Only, that doesn’t seem to have stopped Electronic Arts. That juggernaut is hardly short of cash flow, on account of FIFA alone – or EA Sports FC, as we must now come to call it – yet we have also had a couple of single-player Star Wars adventures, a glistening remake of Dead Space, the delicious Need for Speed Unbound (which has your mind drifting back to that series’ nocturnal heyday), and Wild Hearts, a brightly hued spin on the Monster Hunter formula. Is it churlish, or greedy, to wish that Rockstar would devote a chunk of its time to, say, an in-house L.A. Noire sequel? Or a fresh term of Bully? Or, who knows, maybe the long-coveted Agent?
One potential remedy for this situation is Remedy. We know that remakes of the first two Max Payne games are on the way, built in the beautiful Northlight engine, which gave us Control. And Rockstar’s role not just as a developer but as a publisher of impeccable repute shouldn’t be underestimated. But those are remakes – doubtless lavishly carved, caked in shadowy tones, and strewn with all the proper shell casings, but they aren’t new. They don’t pack the kick of the unknown, as Rockstar used to offer us on a near-annual basis. I have little doubt that Grand Theft Auto VI will be vast and gripping. But I miss the days when we could look forward to something unknown, when we didn’t have to look forward for very long, and when one of the best development houses in the industry trafficked not just in net bookings but in surprise, and variety. Let’s hope that these “several groundbreaking titles” are less grand, but equally fixed on stealing our attention.
Saturday, May 20, 2023 @ 07:33 AM
These days, the smaller tiered games are often left up to the indie devs.
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hopefully, i'm wrong. hopefully, the key people that they have lost over the past few years haven't taken the heart of the game with them.
something new is needed. 5 was brilliant, but that was then and this now. fans want an epic with a different flavour. show us what you got, rockstar.
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