The vast majority of AAA multiplatform games that come out see simultaneous PC releases alongside their console versions, to the extent that asking whether that will be the case is pretty much pointless. But funnily enough, though that’s definitely the case with the vast majority of multiplatform studios, it most certainly isn’t with probably the biggest one of them all. Rockstar Games obviously has a massive audience on PC, and has enjoyed incredible success on the platform over the years, but whether or not a new Rockstar title will launch day one on PC is a question that invariably ends up getting asked by the masses- and the answer is almost always no.
And yes, it’s a question that we’re asking once again. Grand Theft Auto 6 is finally looking like an actual game that we might get to play perhaps in the next couple of years, not just the idea of one that we’ve been hoping to hear more about for an interminably long time. In early December, Rockstar will unveil the first official trailer for the long-awaited next mainline entry in its flagship series, and though there’s naturally no shortage of questions that we have about the game already, whether or not it will be available on PC at release is one of the more prominent ones. And again, it’s hard to arrive at a clear and obvious answer.
If we are going purely by Rockstar’s track record and assuming that the studio’s history will inform its future actions, it might be safe to assume that, at launch, Grand Theft Auto 6 will be available only on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S (given the fact that it’s probably not coming before late 2024 or sometime in 2025, it’s likely not going to be cross-gen- though that’s a different discussion). Over the last fifteen years, you could count on one hand (or hell, even half a hand) the number of Rockstar titles that have released simultaneously for PC. Actually, you’d just need one finger- Max Payne 3 is the only one (sort of- it released for PC two weeks after consoles).
Other than that- Grand Theft Auto 4 didn’t come to PC until several months after its console release. Grand Theft Auto 5 had an even longer gap of about a year and a half. Red Dead Redemption 2 came to the platform a year after its PS4 and Xbox One launch. Even something like L.A. Noire came to PC half a year after it launched for consoles. And hell, the original Red Dead Redemption has still never launched for PC. Clearly, then, making its games available to PC audiences right out the gate isn’t something that Rockstar generally prioritizes too much, which means it’s easy to understand why someone would be skeptical about the possibility of GTA 6 breaking that trend.
Then again, you can’t really ignore the context of the stupendous success Grand Theft Auto 5 has found on PC. Since its release on the platform in 2015, the open world title has consistently been one of the most widely played games on Steam, to the point where it’s still routinely seeing concurrent player counts of over 100,000 players every day, eight years later. Rockstar has consistently sold an inordinate amount of GTA copies to PC players, and more importantly for the company’s bottom-line, a significant chunk of the game’s microtransactions-driven revenue has also come from the platform. Is that something that Rockstar will want for GTA 6 right from day one, regardless of how it’s historically approached PC?
Honestly, a lot of it might depend on how Rockstar handles Grand Theft Auto 6’s online component. For instance, is the company going to take the approach it did with Red Dead Redemption 2, and release GTA 6 as a single player-only game at first, before adding its online component later on? It’s certainly possible, given that that’s the model that both Red Dead 2 and GTA 5 followed. And if GTA 6 does indeed release without an online component at first, we wouldn’t be surprised if it does indeed end up being a console exclusive at launch. Rockstar has, after all, leveraged the double dip strategy to great effect in the past, so who’s to say that that still isn’t the plan with its next release?
Then again, maybe comparing GTA 6 to Red Dead 2 and GTA 5 in this particular situation is ill-advised, because neither of those games were following up on the kind of mind-boggling commercial success that GTA 6 will be. Given the massive amount of money GTA Online is all but guaranteed to bring in for Rockstar right from day one, perhaps it releasing as a single player-only title isn’t entirely likely, even if it is possible. If a full-fledged online experience will be part of GTA 6 on the day it releases, Rockstar would likely view the PC audience and all of the revenue it generates as significant enough to warrant a simultaneous release.
Of course, we also have to consider the possibility that the transition from GTA 5’s online component to the one in GTA 6 won’t be an instantaneous one. After all, the former has a massive, dedicated, and ridiculously engaged player base, one that it has maintained for nearly a decade at this point. Completely dropping support for a game that has shipped 190 million units to date to focus entirely on a game that has just released might not be the best business decision, and it’s entirely possible that Rockstar will instead choose to keep GTA 5 around for a while, at least until its successor has sold enough to start approaching its level of engagement and consistent, guaranteed commercial success.
And what exactly would a scenario like that mean for a PC release? Would Rockstar want to ensure that Grand Theft Auto 6 is available on as many platforms as possible so it can quickly accumulate a substantial player base? Or would GTA 5 sticking around mean that the company would feel comfortable taking its time in building up GTA 6’s online component and bringing the game to additional platforms? Given its track record where PC is concerned, the latter would probably be more likely.
If you are a PC-first player, the Grand Theft Auto 6 situation has a pretty good chance of being even more torturous for you than it has been for the world at large, because it’s not inconceivable that, even after the game is out, you’re going to have to wait a while longer before you can play it on your platform of choice. Obviously, we’re hoping that Rockstar will break tradition and surprise us by putting the game on all available platforms on day one itself, but the majority of signs do seem to be pointing to that not being the case. Thankfully, with Grand Theft Auto 6 set to be officially unveiled soon, we won’t have to wait too long to get a definitive answer one way or another.