GTA V, Five Years Later

Today marks the five year anniversary of the original release of Grand Theft Auto V. It had the biggest launch in entertainment history. GTA V has gone to become one of the most successful games of all time, and its multiplayer mode, GTA Online, has a huge fan base and continues to be updated. After five years, a lot has happened. Let’s take a look back at half a decade of GTA V.

The Launch of GTA V

GTA V midnight launch in Sydney (Screenshot: ChampChong/YouTube)

Grand Theft Auto V had years of hype, trailers, screenshots and delays. But on September 17th, 2013, it was finally released for Xbox 360 and PS3.

On a personal note, GTA V was the last time I ever stood in line at a midnight release, before digital games and Amazon ended that late night tradition. I’ll never forget that massive crowd gathered around a table of tired Gamestop employees as everybody waited for the clock to strike midnight.

With a budget of $US266 million, GTA V is still considered one of the most expensive games ever made, but it became profitable almost instantly. It went on to make $US800 ($1,117) million in its first 24 hours on sale.

That is more money than Ant-Man and The Wasp has earned since it was released back in July. It made a billion dollars in 72 hours, the only entertainment product to make that much that fast. It also broke multiple sales records, including best selling video game in 24 hours.

Unfortunately for PC players, GTA V wasn’t released on their platform of choice until March 2015. It ended up having a very successful launch on PC too, estimated to be the best selling game on Steam in 2015.

GTA Online’s Rough Start

Many folks might not even remember this, but GTA Online didn’t launch until two weeks after GTA V Rockstar has given a few reasons for the delay: It helped the team focus their development resources, it allowed players to relax with single-player and not feel rushed to jump into GTA Online, and it helped players get more comfortable with the gameplay and mechanics of GTA V. But even with a two week delay, GTA Online’s launch was rocky.

Rockstar warned players that GTA Online would have a rough start, but the warning didn’t make the first few weeks of GTA Online any better.

Players were unable to log in, when they finally did they couldn’t complete the first mission, instead getting stuck at a lobby. Servers were unstable. Characters would get deleted. Progress wouldn’t save. The situation was so bad that Rockstar turned off the ability to buy shark cards during the disastrous launch.

Eventually Rockstar got GTA Online working and over the next few months began updating the game with new and free content. Since that, GTA Online has changed and improved a lot: In the last five years the game has received numerous free updates, new modes, balance changes, and more. But at launch it felt empty and aimless; I remember thinking at the time that I didn’t expect to be playing GTA Online for much longer.

Five years later, millions of other players—myself included—are still jumping into GTA Online every day. In fact, GTA Online is more popular in 2018 than ever before.

Easter Eggs and Cut Content

Once GTA V was in the hands of fans around the world, players quickly began finding easter eggs and secrets. And there were a lot to find: Ghosts, UFOs, sad dogs, Bigfoot, references to older GTA games, and more could all be found in the massive world of GTA V

But some players wanted more, especially a jetpack. On the top of Mount Chiliad players found grafiti that seemed to reference the jetpack, a popular vehicle from GTA San Andreas. For years after the release players searched everywhere in GTA V, looking desperately for the jetpack. Elaborate theories and rumours were created. An entire subreddit was dedicated to the jetpack and the mystery of Mount Chiliad.

While players found new easter eggs during the jetpack hunt, sadly, they never found the jetpack. Eventually Rockstar added a jetpack into GTA Online, but for many it wasn’t how they wanted to unlock that mythical vehicle.

GTA fans also began digging into the game to find hidden and cut content. They would end up finding cut missions, unused clothes, evidence that horses were in the game at one point, a removed heist, and old versions of Los Santos.

PC Mods and Cheating

Only a few days after GTA V was released on PC fans were already modding it. Over the months and years since it was released, players have created hundreds of mods.

They added a gun that could shoot hundreds of cars a minute, made Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy do some NSFW dancing, unlocked the ability for players to become an animal, let you live out your superhero fantasies, and even turned wind turbines into deadly weapons of mass destruction.

GTA V PC players also began using mods to improve the game’s visuals. While it was already a gorgeous and highly detailed game, mods helped make it look even better. Some of these mods made GTA V look nearly like reality. Other modders were more focused on making GTA V more gory and violent. And some modders even added an LGBT parade.

But in 2017 the future of GTA V single-player modding was almost destroyed. Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of Rockstar Games, began shutting down popular modding tools like OpenIV. These tools allow players to mess around with GTA V in different ways, like added new weapons or skins.

The reason for the shutdown was because Take-Two Interactive was trying to remove cheating software and hacking tools. OpenIV could potentially be used to cheat and hack in GTA Online, even though the tool was designed for use in single-player. The community exploded, and a few weeks later Rockstar and Take-Two relented and OpenIV was saved.

But other more nefarious hacking software, much of which players had to pay to use, was shut down for good. Rockstar forced the developers of these tools to give all their profits to charity too.

A Large Community and All Their Hijinks

Screenshot: NoClip

The large open sandbox of GTA V and GTA Online allowed players the freedom to do nearly anything they wanted. You could grab a moped and start doing incredible stunts or try to stop the unstoppable train. Sometimes the GTA V community would become obsessed with something; a great example of this was the way thousands of players tried to blow up a dam in GTA V.

The dam is unbreakable, but that didn’t stop fans and YouTubers from doing everything they could to flood Los Santos.

Talented GTA fans used the in-game tools to create videos and machinima. A fan used GTA V to create a nature documentary. Another group of fans used the game to recreate the intense tanker truck chase from Mad Max: Fury Road.

Some photography-loving players even began taking gorgeous photos inside GTA V. These fans created communities all about photography in GTA Online. A less artistic, but still fascinating subcommunity has been all the biker gangs that popped up in GTA Online. These gangs would create their own recruitment videos and start gang wars with other biker groups.

On the complete opposite end of violent biker gangs, some players used GTA V and GTA Online to roleplay as police officers.

On console and PC, these players take on different roles, sometimes playing a cop or other times playing a criminal. Discord servers and forums were used to keep track of storylines and past events. One GTA V, a police roleplayer became an overnight sensation on Twitch.

GTA Online has also brought people together in the real world. NoClip did a wonderful documentary about the Hillbilly Agenda, a GTA crew that has become one giant family. The crew meets up every year and have a BBQ and party. The leader of the crew, KnoxNerd, even flies across the country to meet members of the crew.

The End of An Era

Later this year Rockstar games will release Red Dead Redemption II. This is the first major release from Rockstar since they launched GTA V back in 2013. For half a decade now GTA V has been Rockstar’s “newest and latest” game. But that era is coming to a close in October, and I assume GTA Online will see fewer “big” updates moving forward as a new game takes over Rockstar’s attention. Many fans of GTA V will trade in their powerful planes and supercars for horses and revolvers.

GTA V won’t be forgotten. The game is still selling incredibly well, with over 90 million copies sold.

It has made over $US6 billion dollars, or more than the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. It remains one of the best-selling games every year and has a huge community around it. And while I’m excited for Red Dead Redemption II, I’m not sure it will be able to truly match the success of GTA V.


Comments

    And I still don't own it.

      great story, care to elaborate?

      Is this like "I don't own a TV"?

        No it was more "I can't believe it's been out 5 years and I still haven't bought it yet". It's one of those games that's been on my radar since it launched on PC but my never ending backlog always forces me to ignore it when Steam sales come around.

    New game may not be able to match the success of the biggest entertainment product in human history.

    Gee you're really going out on a limb there....

      Are you referring to the 'new game might not match it' part or the 'biggest entertainment product in history' part? Because for the latter, it made over $1 billion in sales in its first three days of release, and more than $6 billion as of early 2018. The biggest film opening weekend (worldwide market) was Avengers: Infinity War with $640 million and Avatar tops the total revenue chart at $2.7 billion. GTA5 dwarfs both.

        Yeah just the 'new game might not match GTA's success' part. Seems like a pointlessly safe prediction to me given how successful GTA is.

          I think they burned good will with the no single player updates thing and the money-grabbing multiplayer style. It wouldn't surprise me if sales were down on 6 relative to 5. But it's all speculation of course.

    I remember the day Grand Theft Auto V first came out. One of the rare R18+ games in Australia that was facing a tremendous amount of controversy.

    I wasn't interested in GTAV, but after seeing all the positive reviews and hearing that my friends were gonna buy the game, I decided on a whim to get it to.

    Rock up to EB Games after work, there's a massive line, and I am the only person in the queue who is not there with their mother.

    Never realised it was the biggest entertainment product in history - incredible. I really enjoyed the campaign and while online mode wasn’t my thing it’s great that it has lasted so long. The multiple character angle was definitely something new for me, and I think it worked well (went a long way to make a clean break from GTAIV which I found a bit meh). When they first announced the multiple characters I was really hoping for a female and/or cop character (Rosie Perez from Pineapple Express would have been perfect). Maybe next time!

      I used to love switching to Trevor, and wondering what crazy location or incident he'd be involved in. Some of those were doozies.

      And yeah, it was the sheer success of the online portion that led to why they never did an expansion for the single player. There was just too much money in it for them that they couldn't commit the resources to the single player side of it. I was disappointed, but respected them for that.

    Sounding like a broken record, but, it's a real shame they tossed out single player DLC.

    Five years later, still waiting on the promised single player additional content...

    I've tried to play on both PS4 and PC and I just can't get into it. Once I get to the hillbilly character in the story I'm just out. So aggressively unlikable. Literally stomps someone to death in the first cutscene and then makes a joke how part of his brain is still on his boot. That's just not funny. It's not even stupid. It's worse somehow.

    I really prefer just cruising around the city listening to the radio than actually playing the game. It's an amazing technical achievement.

      Fair enough. That was tough, but the actual torture scene was tougher to me, because it wasn't a cutscene where i had no control... it actually forced you to control the torture that was happening.

      Not everyones cup of tea.

    Given RDR 2 will signal the end of an era with GTA V, Rockstar should give the old girl a proper send off with a huge new single player DLC campaign that continues the story of the three protagonists.

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