Grand Theft Auto V just came out, and as expected, there are rave reviews everywhere. It’s going to be nominated for Game of the Year at some outlets, and win at others, and many people are going to spending the next few weeks immersing themselves in the horrible yet hilarious world that is Los Santos, a fictional city not far off from horror of real world Los Angeles. I am not going to be one of those people.
It’s that I’m one of those “I’m too good for GTA and only play meaningful art game” types. I enjoyed Journey, but I also played every single one of previous 3D GTA games, usually buying them on day one. This is actually the first time that I haven’t gone out and gotten myself a copy of a game that I’m otherwise looking forward to playing.
The reason I’m not buying and playing GTA V is simple; I’m hedging my bets that a next-gen version is eventually going to come out.
Having played GTA faithfully since the original GTA III, I know more or less what I’m missing, but years of experience—and a job as a game journalist who plays a LOT of games—have tempered my “I GOTTA HAVE IT NOOOOW!” tendencies. It’s GTA, it’s an open world game. There will be heists, chases, satire and fantastic radio stations to listen to. But all of that is being played on current gen consoles that are currently bursting at the seams as Rockstar North pushes the Xbox 360 and PS3 as far as they can go. We’re starting to see this in many of the games at the end of the current generation; they’re pushing the hardware beyond their comfort levels. Final Fantasy XIV, for example, while a surprisingly playable game on the PS3, also lags badly in crowded or busy areas, a testament to the 512 MB of RAM, which was already contentious even at the start of the generation. This is a game that would clearly benefit from play on a PC or a PS4 where the much roomier 8 GB of RAM would keep performance smooth even during the most crowded fights.
The same goes for GTA V. Open world games are the ones that benefit the most from “more” of everything. More RAM, more processing speed, more computational power… all of these things contribute to allowing better graphics, smoother performance and even more detailed, sprawling environments. I’m not saying that Rockstar is going to release a PS4/Xbox One version of GTA V that’s so lovingly optimized it’ll blow away the current gen versions, but it’s a foregone conclusion that there is going to be an improvement in performance. Depending on how far along a next-gen version is released, there may also be bonuses to sweeten the deal, like the way the delayed release of Mass Effect 2 on the PS3 resulted in all the DLC being included as a bonus.
I’m sure I’m going to enjoy GTA V, but at this critical juncture in the transition to the next generation, I’d like to start cutting down on how many new current gen games I have in my collection. GTA V, being one of the biggest games of the year from a company that doesn’t release a horde of annual franchise games, is a title Rockstar knows is going to retain its value for years. They will want to make as much money from it as they can, and a relatively low cost way to do that is to take the existing game and port it other platforms. The PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are all natural avenues for this.
Obviously, I have no proof of this, but my business nose tells me the only reason we’re not hearing about next-gen versions of GTA V right now is that Rockstar is trying to minimize the number of people out there that think like I do. If it were known, for example, that a PS4/One version of GTA V was going to be available at launch for the new consoles, which is less than three months away now, quite a lot of people would hold off on buying the game, preferring to have a “high powered” version. Most people, of course, won’t do that. It’s GTA V, they’ve been waiting on this game for years, they don’t want to wait any longer. But for people with a bit more patience—or just an unwillingness to buy the same game more than once—waiting is a reasonable choice. And it’s one that I’m taking.