5 reasons to doubt GTA 6

5 reasons to doubt GTA 6


 Restructuring within the company, censorship, employee departures - we argue what could prevent Rockstar from creating another great game


In February, Rockstar Games officially acknowledged that GTA 6 was in development. The company did not disclose the details, so players will have to live with speculation about one of the most anticipated games of our time for some time. Surely Grand Theft Auto 6, like the previous parts of the series, will blow up the media sphere, become a milestone in the gaming industry and break sales records. But will Rockstar be able to create an outstanding game this time too? There are several reasons to doubt.

I'm bad at driving in Far Cry 6
I'm bad at driving in Far Cry 6


Reason One: Departure of Key Employees

Dan Houser and Leslie Benzies at the BAFTA awards
Dan Houser and Leslie Benzies at the BAFTA awards

Rockstar Games has a huge pool of human resources. According to various sources, about 3,000 people worked on Red Dead Redemption 2, excluding actors. It is unlikely that the departure of a few employees can shake the company or disrupt production processes. But over the past few years, the team has lost personnel that are really difficult to replace.

For example, Leslie Benzies, producer, lead game designer, and head of development for GTA 3, GTA 4, and GTA 5, left the company. Benzies made key decisions on the development of the three-dimensional parts of Grand Theft Auto, largely defining the open-world design of the series and its gameplay foundations. In 2014, Benzies, along with the Houser brothers, was inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame for achievements in the gaming industry. For the wayward brothers, Houser Leslie Benzies was a lifesaver. He was not involved in the creation of Red Dead Redemption, but when the project was in serious development trouble in the late 2000s, Sam Houser wrote an e-mail to Benzies in desperation, begging for help to pull the western out of the swamp.

This letter subsequently surfaced in a lawsuit between Benzies and Rockstar Games. After the release of Grand Theft Auto 5 and GTA Online, Leslie Benzies was sent on sabbatical and then fired from the company. Rockstar explained that it was a violation of work discipline by an employee, but Benzies called this a lie and said that he was the victim of a cunning dismissal scheme. According to him, the Houser brothers simply did not want to pay him hefty royalties after the super-successful launch of GTA 5. Benzies filed a 71-page lawsuit against former employers for $ 150 million. The lawsuit, in part, noted that the Houser brothers were not able to complete large and complex games without the supervision and direction of Benzies. In 2019, the parties came to a certain confidential agreement and settled the conflict.

After the departure of Benzies, Rockstar Games released the excellent Red Dead Redemption 2. Sam and Dan Houser were executive producers and heads of development. Despite Benzies' claims that the brothers were unable to bring a major project to a release, they succeeded. True, the development was difficult and took a very long time. Sam Houser remained dissatisfied with the game for a long time, constantly getting rid of any elements and changing gameplay accents, which led to lengthy rework. Perhaps with the help of Benzies, the process of creating Red Dead Redemption 2 would have been more focused and smoother.

Grand Theft Auto 6 could be an even bigger challenge for Rockstar and Sam Houser. How he will manage to develop such an ambitious and anticipated game without the help of Benzies, who oversaw the franchise for many years, is not yet clear. According to insiders, the creation of the sixth part at one of the stages was restarted due to unsatisfactory results.

Benzies isn't the only notable loss. In 2015, CTO Adam Fowler left Rockstar. He has been with the company since 1994 and has seen the days of DMA Design, Lemmings, and 2D GTA. Fowler figured out how to implement an open, detailed world with many systems using streaming data in GTA 3. Subsequently, together with his protege Phil Hooker, he became the architect of the Rockstar RAGE internal engine, which the company has been successfully improving to this day. After Fowler left (he devoted himself to photography), Hooker became the head of technology at Rockstar. Red Dead Redemption 2 was his first game in this position, and the result was impressive. It is curious how he will cope with the challenges that Grand Theft Auto 6 is preparing.

Another major loss for Rockstar is Imran Sarwar. He started with the company during GTA: Vice City and went from mission designer to producer and design director. Sarvar has been involved in the creation of a huge number of game tasks for several parts of Grand Theft Auto. Together with Leslie Benzies, he was the lead designer of GTA 5 and one of the creators of the highly acclaimed GTA Online. Sarwar left Rockstar after the heavy development of Red Dead Redemption 2. In December 2019, Imran Sarwar joined Warner Media as Vice President of Game Design but quit a year and a half later.


And in 2020, rather unexpectedly, Rockstar co-founder, president, and lead writer Dan Houser announced his dismissal. Houser wrote the script for GTA 2, but his real talent was revealed in the three-dimensional parts of the series. He set a unique storytelling style in Rockstar games with all those charismatic anti-heroes, satire, poignant, almost Tarantino dialogue. Few people in the industry know-how to work with characters like Dan Houser. The new parts of GTA have always been intriguing, including the fact that it was interesting to find out who will become the main character this time. Tommy Vercetti, CJ, Niko Bellic, trinity from GTA 5 - now these are absolutely classic images familiar to every gamer.

The loss of Dan Houser to Rockstar could be irreparable. It is not known if Houser was involved in any way in the creation of GTA 6. Before his departure, he could well have prepared a solid scenario basis for the sixth part. Otherwise, Rockstar's staff writers Michael Unsworth and Rupert Humphreys will have to work hard to live up to Dan Houser's 20-year-old production and drama standard.

However, the scenario of Grand Theft Auto 6 may turn out to be bad not only because of the departure of Dan Houser.


Reason Two: The Rampant Cancellation Culture in the US

Reason Two: The Rampant Cancellation Culture in the US

Remorseless and witty satire is an integral part of Grand Theft Auto's identity. The series pokes fun at conservatives, liberals, capitalism, rights activists, celebrity stars, expatriates, rednecks, modern trends, and the American dream itself. The problem is that joking and laughing at something in the United States in recent years should be done with caution. It is not known who can be offended and what consequences this will turn into. Therefore, for example, a consistently profitable and popular Hollywood comedy is experiencing stagnation and crisis - the fear of offending someone outweighs the desire to make people laugh and make money.

How, in such conditions, to release a new topical GTA? A few years ago, Dan Houser lamented in an interview with GQ that the intense liberal progress and entrenched conservatism is very militant and angry, and the studio really does not quite understand what to do. Red Dead Redemption 2 had less of this problem because it's about a different era. But GTA is a distorted mirror of the modern world, and a script without the proper level of satire and humor can be simply toothless. There are already alarming signs: under pressure from a public organization, Rockstar removed the drag queen character from the GTA 5 remaster for PS5 and Xbox One X, who met near one of the clubs, as well as in-game advertising posters of a fictional toy with interchangeable genitals. These are the first sprouts of censorship that may entangle GTA 6.

Reason three: dependence on multiplayer

Reason three: dependence on multiplayer

It is known that not everyone at Rockstar was enthusiastic about the online mode of Grand Theft Auto 5. Even the Houser brothers were not particularly interested in multiplayer during development and paid little attention to it. Most likely, GTA Online was made at the request of the parent Take-Two Interactive, which wanted to monetize the long-term requests of a certain part of gamers who dreamed of an online GTA.

GTA Online was released a month after the fifth part. The launch was not smooth: the online mode experienced problems with connection, downloads, quality, and variety of content. Imran Sarwar admitted that it took the team time to figure out how to make GTA Online interesting. Once the major rough edges were ironed out, the online mode began to pay off at a record pace: by April 2016, Rockstar reported that it had earned $500 million from microtransactions in GTA Online alone. According to analysts, multiplayer brought in approximately 13.5 million dollars a week. Over the years, if the numbers have declined, then only slightly - the online version still generates huge amounts of revenue.

It is naive to believe that when developing GTA 6, multiplayer is on the sidelines. The success of GTA Online has changed Rockstar's thinking and its long-term strategy. The company faces the daunting task of laying the groundwork for a new online mode that will be played for the next ten years. To some extent, it may be more important for the developers and the publisher to create a high-quality multiplayer than a powerful single. But even if Rockstar strikes a balance between single-player and online, we run the risk of once again being left without story DLC, as was the case with GTA 5. Simply because Rockstar is easier and more profitable to churn out small updates for online than to make full-fledged add-ons to the main game.

Reason Four: Possible release on an outdated generation of consoles

Reason Four: Possible release on an outdated generation of consoles

Before the release of GTA 5, Dan Houser said in an interview with Japanese magazine Famitsu that all the best games usually come out at the end of a console's life cycle. So he reassured everyone who was worried that Rockstar had made technical compromises for the release on the outdated Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The developers really squeezed the maximum out of Sony and Microsoft's seventh-generation consoles. True, later the authors nevertheless admitted that it was tiring to make such a large-scale and attentive to detail game for old hardware.

GTA 5 was subsequently successfully re-released for modern systems, updating graphics and sales records, but no fundamental changes were made to the project. It's still essentially an Xbox 360 and PS3 game, albeit with a few graphical facelifts. What Rockstar is capable of with more powerful hardware, the company demonstrated only 5 years later in Red Dead Redemption 2.

What will GTA 6 look like if it is released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One can be roughly imagined by looking at the same Red Dead Redemption 2. It will be a project of a similar technological level, adjusted for the setting and scenery of Miami (few doubt that Rockstar is preparing return to Vice City). But after so many years of patiently waiting for Grand Theft Auto 6, I want more - I want to see the real next-gen! And it can only be provided by a release on PS5 and Xbox One X. The release of cross-gen versions will mean a compromise between the developers and the publisher for the sake of additional profit. In this case, the real next-gen from Rockstar will have to wait for many more years - before the release of the conditional Red Dead Redemption 3.

Reason five: reorganization of work processes

Reason five: reorganization of work processes

Shortly before the release of Red Dead Redemption 2, Dan Houser had the imprudence to say that at the finishing stage, the game had to work 100 hours a week. His words caused an uproar in the media and the gaming community. Rockstar has been accused of doing little more than forced labor, and Houser's comment that he only meant storytelling didn't fix the situation. Investigative journalism and anonymous confessions from Rockstar employees have revealed that crunches have indeed long been a part of the company's work culture.

It was not possible to cover up this story. Top managers of Rockstar had to draw conclusions and try to improve professional conditions for hundreds of employees in all its divisions. A string of senior management layoffs followed work schedules were streamlined, internal training sessions and anonymous surveys began, and mandatory overtime was banned. A gradual reorganization of workflows has also begun, aimed at ensuring that future Rockstar projects are planned out in detail and experience fewer changes along the way to release. According to insiders, Grand Theft Auto 6 is already being created according to new working standards. Allegedly, one of Rockstar's goals is to avoid crunches by creating a project of medium-scale compared to previous games and then updating it, increasing the size of the map and the amount of content.

Crunch has a high price - because of them, personal life suffers, as well as the mental and physical health of developers. But for now, unfortunately, it's hard to imagine that games like Red Dead Redemption 2 or Grand Theft Auto 6 can actually be made in a reasonable amount of time in the standard operating mode. We hope Rockstar still manages to strike a balance between a healthy work culture and the incredible level of quality that we have become accustomed to.

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