Why is there such a hype around 'Grand Theft Auto VI'? 2
This is the skyline of Vice City in 'Grand Theft Auto VI'. Image: Rockstar Games

Why is there such a hype around 'Grand Theft Auto VI'?

The trailer for "Grand Theft Auto VI" has already broken records, even though the game only comes out in 2025. What is so fascinating about the series?
Kristina Reymann-Schneider, Deutsche Welle | Dec 09 2023

More than a year before its actual release, "Grand Theft Auto VI" ("GTA VI") already holds a Guinness World Record. A 90-second trailer for the video game was viewed more than 90 million times within 24 hours.

That trailer was followed by countless reaction videos on YouTube, showing how much gamers worldwide are looking forward to the new title developed by Rockstar Games.

Previously, the simple announcement of the trailer was liked by 6.7 million people on Instagram.

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Setting new benchmarks

But those who know the game, understand the hype. 

With each new release, "Grand Theft Auto" has established new standards for video games. According to Rockstar Games, the five "GTA" titles have been sold around 410 million copies to date, with the last part of the series, "GTA V" alone having sold 190 million.

In terms of content, the games are a satirical mirror of US society, with all its clichés and madness. It parodies how the American Dream can lead to excesses in a country with so many people obsessed with guns and in their belief in God or aliens.

In terms of gaming, the "GTA" series is somewhat difficult to classify because the games blend different genres. Shooters, racing games, simulations and action games are all rolled into one and tell bizarre stories in a lively game world.

Fans of the game are ready for an adventure-filled drive through Vice City in 'Grand Theft Auto VI'
Fans of the game are ready for an adventure-filled drive through Vice City in 'Grand Theft Auto VI'. Image: Rockstar Games

A trailblazer in open-world games

Above all, they allow players to freely decide how they want to spend their time in the game. This was quite unusual, especially at the beginning of the series in 1997.

In the first "Grand Theft Auto," players controlled the protagonist and the cars from a 2D bird's-eye view. Missions could be received from telephone booths (yes, so old school!). But it was also possible to simply steal a car, listen to the radio — there were seven different radio stations in the first part — drive through the city, chase the cops or take over a taxi and and ferry passengers safely from one place to another within a specified time.

The basic formula — an open, coherent and atmospheric game world, varied missions and numerous sideline activities — has always remained the same. But meanwhile, new technical possibilities have allowed the "GTA" universe to evolve, expanding the number of side jobs and leisure activities available in the gangster epics. These elements are not relevant to the story at all but add depth to the gaming world.

For example, in "GTA: Vice City," players can deliver pizzas to increase the credit on their account; in "GTA: San Andreas," there's the option to spend time training at the gym or to pop into a casino to play Blackjack. "GTA V" allowed players to spend time on a golf course, play tennis, do yoga, go skydiving, take part in a triathlon or in an illegal street race, among others.

Today, graphically opulent games in which players can explore an open world in the third-person perspective are nothing unusual. But that wasn't the case in 2001, when "GTA III" was released.

The title is considered a milestone in video game history, on a technical and visual level, as well as in terms of players' freedom.

Though computer game graphics have since evolved incredibly, the visuals in 'GTA III' were a revelation in 2001
Though computer game graphics have since evolved incredibly, the visuals in 'GTA III' were a revelation in 2001. Image: Rockstar Games

It also launched a legendary trilogy in the "GTA" series: "GTA III" takes place in the early noughties in Liberty City, a fictional city whose real model is New York.

"GTA: Vice City," the fourth entry in the series, transports players to Vice City, a dazzling digital version of Miami in the 1980s.

That was followed by "GTA: San Andreas," which is set in the early 1990s in the fictional state of San Andreas, based on California. The atmosphere of the different locations and eras is captured beautifully. The fashion, the cars, the pop culture references and the many radio stations all contribute to this.


Satire inspired by true life

"GTA" games have repeatedly come under criticism for their high level of violence, explicit scenes, misogynistic content, vulgar language and racist clichés.

One needs to keep in mind, the improper behavior of the protagonists is a satirical portrayal of a bunch of criminals in shady environments, who are in such a hurry when they're driving that they'll run over passers-by. And, when in doubt, they'll prefer to fire a few bullets or use a chainsaw or flamethrower before talking to rival gang members or the police.

Explosions and 'Grand Theft Auto' go hand in hand
Explosions and 'Grand Theft Auto' go hand in hand. Image: Swen Pförtner/dpa/picture alliance 

The long wait for 'GTA VI'

Still, many fans of the series were desperate for a completely new adventure. Rockstar Games heard them and in February 2022, it announced for the first time that a new part was coming.

But some six months later, a hacker leaked dozens of videos showing scenes from the upcoming "GTA" game and reportedly threatened to publish the source code.

Even though the game scenes were from an early development stage, fans were disappointed. It was a disaster for the development team, who immediately had to justify why the graphics were so bad, and the surprise effect was ruined.

So certain aspects that were already known have now been confirmed with the release of the trailer. The setting of "GTA VI" is once again Vice City, an over-the-top version of Miami. Once again, the story takes place in the present. The protagonist Lucia and her boyfriend are a gangster couple, a modern version of Bonnie and Clyde, who make the streets unsafe. And as crazy as the characters in the trailer may seem, they are actually inspired by reality.

After the release of the trailer, the hype around the game seems to have grown even more. Video game fans are expecting nothing less than a masterpiece from "GTA VI."

But they'll have to wait a while. The game will initially be released exclusively for gaming consoles Playstation 5 and Xbox Series S and X in 2025.

This article was originally written in German.