I got Grand Theft Auto V the week it came out on PlayStation 3. A friend and fellow fan of the series came over that Friday, and we played it almost nonstop through Sunday. We beat it, I blogged about it, and I moved on.
For me, GTA V feels like a distant memory—not just a relic of the PS4/Xbox One console generation that was eclipsed last week, but the generation before that. It came out first for PS3 and Xbox 360 in September 2013, seven years and seven mainline Assassin’s Creed games ago. But GTA V and its multiplayer component, Grand Theft Auto Online—which appeared on PS4 and Xbox One in November 2014 and on PC in April 2015—are still fresh in many millions of minds. It’s already arguably the second-bestselling game of all time (not counting multiple publishers’ versions of Tetris), trailing only the continuously updated Minecraft, which came out in full almost two years before GTA V and is available on many more platforms, including low-priced mobile editions. And by some metrics, Rockstar Games’ golden goose is more popular than ever.
For most older games, the industry’s changeover to a new crop of consoles spells obsolescence. But for gaming’s great multigenerational juggernaut, which will be rereleased on the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S next holiday season, the launch of new hardware just means more revenue to come. “It’s become The Game people buy when they get a new PS4 or Xbox One,” Zack Zwiezen, who covers GTA for Kotaku, says via direct message, adding, “All your friends and family have it and play it, so you should too. It’s a snowball effect, and with it coming to next gen, there’s no sign this snowball will stop soon.”
GTA V exceeded sales forecasts and set sales records straight out of the gate. Although the game was reportedly the most expensive ever made, its revenue immediately surpassed its budget. In its first three days, the game grossed $1 billion in retail sales, prompting Rockstar’s publisher Take-Two Interactive to trumpet the title as the fastest entertainment product ever to reach that round number. Guinness World Records certified that claim and declared GTA V the bestselling game in any 24-hour period, estimating that Take-Two moved more than 11 million copies (including mine) in its first day on sale. In six weeks, the publisher shipped more copies of GTA V than it ever did of the game’s 2008 predecessor, Grand Theft Auto IV. According to Take-Two’s November 5 earnings call, GTA V has now sold more than 135 million copies, which exceeds the totals for GTA IV, GTA: San Andreas, GTA: Vice City, and GTA III combined. Those games were big-time bestsellers too, but GTA makes them look like Ludendorff next to Los Santos.