Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – 2002 Screenshot: Rockstar Games
Last year, footage of the next Grand Theft Auto—assumed to be GTA 6—leaked online. While Rockstar quickly tried to erase the videos from the internet and plug the holes in the ship, it was impossible to completely contain such a massive, unprecedented leak. So fans around the world got a very good look at the future of Grand Theft Auto. And now myself and others find it hard to go back to the aging GTA Online.
Late on September 19, 2022, 90 short videos of early gameplay of what would later be confirmed by Rockstar as the next GTA entry leaked online via a hacker. The footage revealed a lot about the next game in the massively popular open-world franchise, including that the series would be returning to Vice City, Florida, a fan-favorite location last seen in GTA: Vice City Stories, the prequel to the beloved PS2 classic, GTA: Vice City. It also gave us a good look at the new protagonists of this next criminal adventure and some of the missions we might experience when GTA 6 is eventually released. Fans even began mapping out the game’s virtual world using the leaks.
Rockstar undoubtedly hates the leak and likely wishes it could rewind time and prevent it from ever happening at all, but it did end up revitalizing the playerbase. For the first time in a long time, there was excitement and energy in the GTA community, which after years of GTA Online updates and poorly received remasters was in a pretty bad place prior to the leak. Even an early, unfinished or unpolished leak of GTA 6 was better than radio silence and glitchy remasters. People were pumped and hyped about the future of Grand Theft Auto in a way I hadn’t seen in years.
But then, once the leaks were scrubbed from the web and it became clear Rockstar wasn’t going to release any official teaser or trailer to capitalize on the moment, all I and other GTA fans could do was go back to GTA Online. And that’s harder to do now that I’ve seen the future.
The latest big and free expansion to GTA Online, Los Santos Drug Wars, was released late last year at a really bad time for me to play and cover it for the site. So I just…didn’t play it. For the first time ever in the history of GTA Online, I skipped a new update completely. I’ve still not played it. At first, I blamed my skipping of the latest update on bad timing and a busy schedule due to holidays and end-of-the-year content. But now, weeks removed from all that, with more free time to play stuff, I’ve still not fired up the new update. And I think it’s time to admit to myself that my growing burnout around GTA Online was increased greatly by that small taste of what’s to come. That look at the future of GTA in Florida ruined me.
I could go back and drive around the same highways and streets of Los Santos I’ve been cruising around since 2013. I could fire up the game and check out the newest business and missions connected to it. I could, sure. The thing is, I don’t know if I want to. I mean, eventually, I will play more GTA Online. I sort of have to as it’s part of my job here at Kotaku. Yet, if it wasn’t part of my career there’s a real chance that I might just never play GTA Online again.
To be clear: It’s not because GTA Online is worse today than it was a decade ago—it’s actually much better to play in 2023 than in 2013—but because getting a glimpse of a fresh new world has killed my desire to boot up the same old Los Santos after a decade of GTA Online and GTA V. I mean, just having new songs on the radio will be amazing. I love Queen’s “Radio Ga-Ga” but you can only hear it so many times in 10 years before you’re ready for new tunes, too.
At this point, I’m hoping the wait for Grand Theft Auto 6 and its sunny beaches, palm trees, and new characters isn’t too much longer, because I’m ready to leave Los Santos behind for a tropical vacation to Vice City.