With GTA 6 not due until 2025, what will drive games in 2024?

With GTA 6 not due until 2025, what will drive games in 2024?

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There were hopes and expectations that Grand Theft Auto 6 would release in 2024.

The one-two punch of the next GTA and the anticipated launch of a new Nintendo console would have bolstered the global games market in 2024, and deliver a more positive year compared to 2022’s decline (at least compared to the COVID years) and 2023’s marginal growth.

But, as we learned yesterday, GTA 6 will not launch on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and S until 2025. Not that this has diminished expectations for how well Rockstar’s blockbuster will perform when it finally arrives, of course.

“Grand Theft Auto 6 will likely carry the expectation of being the biggest entertainment launch of all time when it is released,” Mat Piscatella, executive director and video games industry analyst at Circana (formerly NPD), tells GamesIndustry.biz. “The potential is certainly there, the only question is how high the ceiling is.”

Omdia’s senior principal analyst George Jijiashvili agrees, adding: “It’s clear that Rockstar Games is poised to meet the sky-high expectations set for this eagerly awaited sequel… With such anticipation and Rockstar’s track record, we expect GTA 6 to perform exceptionally well upon release in 2025, likely becoming one of the highest-selling games of the decade.”

“Even in the best-case scenario, they won’t be able to meaningfully boost the entire market [in the same way as Grand Theft Auto 6]”

George Jijiashvili, Omdia

Jijiashvili emphasises that the wait until 2025 will not have a negative impact on GTA 6’s sales. If anything, he expects the opposite.

“Thanks to the mid-gen console launches in 2024, and more current-gen consoles in the hands of gamers overall, Omdia forecasts an installed base of 142 million current-gen PlayStation and Xbox consoles by the end of 2025, up 26% over 2024.”

With 190 million units sold worldwide, one need only look at the performance of GTA 5 to know how well its long-awaited successor is likely to perform.

Looking at the UK market alone, GTA 5’s boxed sales of nearly nine million is significantly more than double the lifetime sales of any other physical release. The game also holds the record for the biggest week one sales, taking £94 million in just five days back in 2013 – the same as GTA 4 managed during its entire lifecycle.

The above figures come from GfK’s senior insight client director Dorian Bloch, who says: “Take-Two has a knack of maximising sales on current platforms and by the time GTA 6 rolls around, we’ll be looking at serious installs across PS5 and Xbox Series consoles. Plus a potential official console bundle at launch.

“I expect GTA 6 to easily beat the records set by GTA 5, with a mix of digital direct sales (data that I don’t have access to) and boxed. But even boxed sales will be dramatic and should beat any other boxed title released over the past few years.”

Bloch adds that the Vice City setting will help, since the original 2002 PS2 game is still the third biggest-selling SKU in the series, beaten only by the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of GTA 5.

The broader takeaway from GTA 6’s reveal, and specifically the launch window Rockstar is aiming for, is the potential impact on the rest of the games market. Few titles could directly affect the performance of the global industry by shifting from one year into another, but Grand Theft Auto is undeniably among them.

Jijiashvili confirms Omdia had expected GTA to arrive in 2024, and the reveal of its 2025 launch will “negatively impact console market revenues [forecast] for the next year.”

GTA 6 is expected to follow in its forebear’s footsteps and set new records for the industry

Others are less surprised, with Newzoo market analysts pointing to that $8 billion in net bookings that Take-Two forecast for fiscal 2025 earlier this year.

“[This] led many to think that GTA 6 would launch in fiscal 2025, [but] Take-Two’s fiscal 2025 starts in April 2024 and ends in March 2025, so there were already signals pointing to a release date in 2025.”

DFC Intelligence CEO David Cole adds: “Rockstar makes sure to take time to get [its games] right. That is why we are more confident it will be high quality than that it will release on time. I think some investors were disappointed but it is the right move to take the time to release a solid product.”

David Cole, DFC Intelligence

So without a new Grand Theft Auto to deliver millions of sales and market growth in 2024, what prospects does the industry have next year it can turn to instead? Obviously, the line-up is not fully known at this early stage – beyond the usual annual hits like Call of Duty and EA Sports FC, plus perhaps some of the announcements from tomorrow’s The Game Awards – but right now the release slate is, as Cole puts it, “fairly bare.”

“The largest publishers like EA, Activision, and Microsoft are focused more on annual updates to existing products,” he says. “This leaves some Japanese publishers and Ubisoft being some of the big ones for new products. We will see if Ubisoft can get its Prince of Persia and Star Wars titles out. Of course, we wouldn’t be too surprised to see big news from Nintendo around new products.”

Midia Research’s forecast and modelling analyst Perry Gresham adds: “It will be tough for 2024 to follow the spectacular release year that was 2023. We will still see some of the 2023 major titles selling through well in 2024 – such as Modern Warfare 3, EA Sports FC and so on – alongside some of the key new releases, such as Final Fantasy 7, Alone in the Dark, Stalker 2, and Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024.”

Bloch notes that many major franchise additions are currently listed as ‘2024 TBC’, making it harder to fully gauge how strong a line-up is in place next year. In addition to Call of Duty and EA Sports FC, he cites Star Wars Outlaws and potentially Dragon Age: Dreadwolf as promising releases, with hopes for a new Mario Kart and 3D Mario – and possibly Pokémon – if Switch 2 launches next year.

Piers Harding-Rolls, Ampere Analysis

Piers Harding-Rolls, research director for games at Ampere Analysis, notes that Grand Theft Auto will continue to contribute to industry revenues even without a new release.

“Let’s not forget that GTA Online continues on and there are regularly around 20 million monthly players of GTA 5/Online across PlayStation and Xbox consoles,” he says. “Also, while a share of console gamers might save their money until the launch of GTA 6, many will be happy to shift their spending onto other games coming in 2024 or onto their favourite live service title.

“There is no doubt that GTA 6 will be a hardware sales driver and a boost to full game sales, but I’m still positive about next year’s console market.”

Jijiashvili adds that the Nintendo console launch, plus potential mid-gen refreshes for PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series consoles, as well as “the likely return of Fortnite to mobile,” will all drive consumer spending.

“Even with the absence of GTA 6, we’ll likely continue to see promotional offers on PS5 hardware as Sony hopes to grow PS5 penetration in markets they are still behind gen-on-gen (namely, in Western Europe). [We expect] PS5 Pro expected in late 2024, and with it being the first full year of PS5 Slim sales, Sony will potentially have more room for discounting to drive sales and upgrades.”

That said, he acknowledges that at this moment in time there is a “a noticeable lack of big titles slated for 2024 with ‘guaranteed’ sales into tens of millions.”

“Everywhere from Build a Rocket Boy, [Game Science’s] Wukong Black Myth, and live service titles developed by Sony studios are our wild cards for 2024 – but we acknowledge that even in the best-case scenario, they won’t be able to meaningfully boost the entire market.”

In the absence of Grand Theft Auto, a new Nintendo console is expected to be the biggest sales driver of 2024

Newzoo games market analyst Rhys Elliot puts particular emphasis on the expected Switch 2, which he says will be a “a boon for 2024’s console revenues.”

“Players usually buy software to complement their new machines,” he says. “Nintendo consoles in particular typically launch strong with flagship franchises like Zelda and Mario to attract players to the platform early, and we expect the same from its next console.

“The potential for GTA 6 is certainly there, the only question is how high the ceiling is”

Mat Piscatella, Circana

“Nintendo has built up a lot of consumer goodwill across the Switch generation, and the Mario movie has solidified the power of Nintendo’s biggest IP. The Switch successor is on track to make quite the splash, and Nintendo seems serious about bridging the gap between console generations more than ever before.”

Harding-Rolls adds that if Switch 2 launches in 2024, it will “shape market performance towards the end of the year.” He adds: “The launch of GTA 6 is clearly a huge cultural moment, but a new Nintendo device coming to market takes it to the next level.”

However, some are concerned that even a new Nintendo launch might not be enough to lift 2024 above this year’s market performance, with Circana’s Piscatella noting that the next console would “need to do most of the heavy lifting to keep the console market at or near its current level.”

“Given the sheer number of big new releases we’ve seen in 2023, even with new Nintendo hardware getting the market to comp to 2023 may prove difficult. If we do not see new Nintendo hardware in 2024, we could be looking at double-digit percentage declines for the console market… followed by an even bigger double-digit percentage increase in 2025.

“We could be looking at quite the roller coaster in the console market over the next couple of years. The console market has seen these dips from time to time over its existence, but 2024 has the potential to be one of the bigger ones.”

Karol Severin, Midia Research

Midia’s senior games analyst and VP of data Karol Severin adds: “If we assume that GTA 6 was going to do at least as well as GTA 5 did, and that GTA 5 made somewhere in the region of over $2 billion in its first year, releasing in 2025 could send the global 2024 games purchase figures (not including in-game sales) into decline.

“However, it is important to caveat that the global games software revenue (games purchases, in-game spending, and advertising) will still grow albeit more slowly – less than the rate of inflation in any case.”

Midia is currently reviewing its 2024 forecast and is expected to release an update in the coming days.

Newzoo’s current forecasts are unaffected, although lead games analyst Tom Wijman explains that this is largely due to the fact the data firm doesn’t factor in games without an announced release date. In the absence of GTA 6, Newzoo expects live-service games, particularly the growing portfolios of Sony and Microsoft, to boost revenues in 2024.

“We can expect an influx of high-profile live-service content across 2024, 2025, and 2026,” Wijman says. “The console market risks oversaturation, in part due to these strategies. These risks negatively impact opportunities for single publishers and developers, but we still expect the overall market for console games to grow because of it. After all, the top live-service games monetise extremely well, and with increased competition comes more aggressive strategies from the top publishers.”

“GTA is such a phenomenon it will trigger people to buy new consoles. It might accelerate this generation’s growth and put the market on a path to peak earlier”

Tom Wijman, Newzoo

He also notes that the tail end of console generations tend to see a healthy slate of huge blockbusters released – and if it feels too early to be talking about the tail end of the current generation.

Wijman points out that 2026 will be six years after the launch of PS5 and Xbox Series X and S. This is the point at which Newzoo expects the install base, content, and subscription offerings to have theoretically peaked. But GTA 6 could change that.

“Once GTA 6 is released in 2025, that install base will undoubtedly get another boost as a new GTA release is such a phenomenon that it will trigger people to buy new consoles,” Wijman explains. “It might accelerate the growth of install base for this generation and put the market on a path to approach a peak a bit earlier, say, around the holidays 2025 rather than in 2026.”


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