The trailer for what may be the most anticipated video game of all time is finally here — and not a moment too soon for the struggling gaming industry.
Rockstar Games, the company behind the 25-year-old series, released a first look at Grand Theft Auto VI on Monday evening.
The one-and-a-half-minute video confirms the 2025 return of one of the most successful video game franchises almost a decade after the last installment. The trailer features Lucia, the franchise’s first female protagonist. It teases a Bonnie and Clyde-style story set in Vice City, one of GTA’s classic locations based on Miami. The trailer teases heists, parties in an Everglades-like swamp and in-game social media that mirror’s real-world platforms like TikTok. By Tuesday morning, the trailer had been viewed more than 65 million times on YouTube.
But ahead of the GTA 6 trailer buzz, some in the video game industry lamented the year as a whole — noting that even excitement over such a large franchise game is not necessarily enough to keep spirits high. Despite a slew of critically acclaimed titles and successful film and television adaptations of games, 2023 was one of the most catastrophic years for layoffs in the gaming industry, experts said. Even Take-Two Interactive, of which Rockstar Games is a subsidiary, cut jobs in March.
“Having been in the industry as long as I have, I don’t remember there being a time like this,” said Brenda Romero, studio director of Romero Games, who compared the industry’s general present atmosphere to a funeral. “I don’t remember there being a time when there has been so much contraction.”
Studios like CD Projekt Red, Bungie, BioWare, Epic Games and Electronic Arts are just a few of the game developers to go through layoffs this year. The Los Angeles Times, which cited industry estimates, reported that 6,500 video game workers were laid off in 2023. Videogamelayoffs.com, an unofficial tracker, suggests the number could be even higher, given that some companies have yet to disclose the number of people they laid off.
“So we’re seeing this kind of, like, really banner year for releases and for attention from the media and critical acclaim,” said Carly Kocurek, a professor of digital humanities and media studies at the Illinois Institute of Technology. “At the same time, we’re seeing people who are the people that made those games kind of get thrown out on their tails over and over again.”
The industry boomed during the pandemic, when people were home and had time to play video games, according to Romero, who has been in the gaming space since 1981. But as people returned to the workplace and things like inflation tightened people’s wallets, they stopped spending as much on luxury goods, which includes video games.
In addition to reduced spending, Kelly Boudreau, an associate professor in interactive media theory and design at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, said some of the companies were already struggling when they released major titles, which meant that a financially successful game didn’t necessarily translate to job security for the studio’s staff.
“Critically acclaimed [games] may not be the big financial blockbusters, and that’s something to think about,” Boudreau said. “The other thing is there’s always a boom and a bust in any industry.”
Experts said it is hard to predict how this year’s layoffs could impact the industry in the long term. But Boudreau and others who spoke with NBC News suggest that this year’s “bust” of layoffs could lead to fewer standout games for a time. Major developers will likely only stick to existing properties, they predicted, meaning more remakes and sequels, and fewer new ideas.
The breadth between the layoffs and the number of high-quality games released this year could mean that fans are largely unaware of the turmoil the gaming industry is going through, Romero said.
Games like Baldur’s Gate 3, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Alan Wake 2 all released to rave reviews and fan acclaim. They are among the six nominees for “game of the year” at The Game Awards.
The industry also saw massive success with adaptations of games on the big screen, like HBO’s “The Last of Us,” which earned 24 Emmy nominations, and Universal Pictures’ “The Super Mario Bros Movie,” which made $1.36 billion worldwide. (NBC News and Universal Pictures are both owned by NBCUniversal).
“Especially when we’re looking at record-breaking sales for some of these titles, how is that not translating down to the workforce at all?” Kocurek, the Illinois Tech professor, said.
Romero said that she and others in the industry are rooting for GTA VI to succeed — hoping that its success could be a harbinger of positive change behind the scenes of the industry.
“I hope that GTA knocks it out of the park,” she said. “You know, if it knocks it out of the park, it means more jobs.”
GTA VI could generate bookings of $3.5 billion at launch and an annual average of $2 billion thereafter, according to a BofA Global Research estimate from 2022. It’s not only one of the more profitable games, but it has also been the most anticipated. And the longer the wait, the more frenzied the internet has become.
Dozens of YouTube channels devoted themselves to sussing out release dates. Reddit communities scoured previous games and developer Rockstar Games’ social media feeds for hints and clues about the upcoming game. A rogue gamer even stormed the stage at the Germany-based gaming convention Gamescom, ranting about GTA VI.
“Man that’s looks really freaking good,” wrote one user on X.
Others, while excited, said 2025 felt too far away.
“2025???? (This looks unreal though)” wrote another X user.
Some also pointed out how it was notable for the franchise to have its first female lead.
“GTA being in Vice City is sick,” wrote one X user. “Everything looks super sick. Also a woman led GTA has been a long time coming. Cool to see that come to fruition.”
In a statement from Rockstar Games, the studio called GTA VI its “biggest, most immersive” game in the series.
“Grand Theft Auto VI continues our efforts to push the limits of what’s possible in highly immersive, story-driven open-world experiences,” Sam Houser, founder of Rockstar Games, said in the statement. “We’re thrilled to be able to share this new vision with players everywhere.”
Like Romero, Kocurek said that the game’s release will be exciting to those who work in the industry, including those who didn’t have a hand in making it.
“It’s super exciting they’re making another title, and it’s fun even to look back at some of the older Grand Theft Autos,” Kocurek said. “Technology changes and expectations change and the platform’s change. But it’s a big deal and it’s also high stakes for everyone involved.”