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Grand Theft Auto VI didn’t need The Game Awards

This past week was one of the most crowded for video game news because of two events: The Game Awards 2023 and the Grand Theft Auto VI trailer. Initially, I was surprised the two weren’t one and the same. GTA 6’s reveal is the most significant game announcement of the year, after all, and Geoff Keighley always seems to be searching for big Elden Ring- or GTA 6-level moments for his show, even if he doesn’t always get those. After taking a step back and looking at how each performed independently of the other, I think both were better off staying separate.

Taking center stage

When it first teased the Grand Theft Auto VI trailer in November, it said the trailer would be released “in early December.” Like many others, I assumed that this meant it would show up at The Game Awards because that tends to be the case when game developers tease an announcement for that window. For example, Focus Entertainment also said a release date for Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2 would be confirmed “in early December,” and that ended up happening during The Game Awards.

Ultimately, Rockstar had the GTA 6 trailer slated to release on the morning of December 5, but ended up releasing it on the night of December 4 due to a leak. The game would not go on to make any marketing-related appearance at The Game Awards 2023 on December 7. Although GTA 6 skirted The Game Awards, was leaked, and got posted earlier than intended, it was still a groundbreaking reveal.

Grand Theft Auto VI Trailer 1

GTA 6 Trailer 1 garnered over 93 million views within 24 hours, according to data provided by YouTube Gaming. “Setting this new all-time record is a testament to the cultural impact of the series and demonstrates why YouTube is the leading destination for gaming content and pop culture,” head of YouTube Gaming Leo Olebe said in a press release about that accomplishment that was provided to Digital Trends. While obviously meant to promote YouTube Gaming, that statement stuck with me because it culturally explained why GTA 6 did not need The Game Awards.

No matter when or where the first GTA 6 trailer dropped, it would have been a big deal. Posted independently of any other gaming news, it became one of the most viewed YouTube videos hours of all time in the first 24 hours. It was the main thing everybody in the gaming space was talking about until The Game Awards, as it paid off years of hype and dominated a video platform on which the series has flourished. It would’ve benefited neither Rockstar Games nor The Game Awards to combine the two.

On Rockstar’s end, the trailer’s impact would have felt a bit blunted if it had appeared during the crowded show. Although events like Summer Game Fest and The Game Awards can be enjoyable for fans as they contain nonstop flurries of announcements, I think Geoff Keighley’s shows have gotten bloated in terms of the number of trailers and reveals shown. I saw the effect of this because my roommates watched the show live as I reported on it, but struggled to remember much other than Marvel’s Blade and OD afterward because of how nonstop the announcements were.

Abubakar Salim revealing a game at The Game Awards 2023.
The Game Awards

I do like how The Game Awards gives us a decent mix of indie, AA, and AAA announcements, but it’s tough to remember most of the games shown unless they had a great trailer, like Den of Wolves and Pony Island 2: Panda Circus, or a memorable onstage moment, like Tales of Kenzera: ZAU and OD. If GTA 6 were to have been at that show, it would have been the premier announcement there, but it also would have been fighting for attention with other AAA games.

It also would have taken the attention away from any announcements or awards that came after. I’ll admit I had a hard time getting invested in Jurassic Park: Survival because it immediately came after OD during the show, so I could only imagine how worse it could have been if something like Tales of Kenzera: ZAU had to follow up GTA 6. And that’s not even mentioning how underserved the awards portion of the show felt at The Game Awards 2023.

Woman at a rooftop pool party.
Rockstar Games

As a show already struggling to balance the demands of advertisers, fans, and award winners, I don’t think a groundbreaking moment like the reveal of GTA 6 would’ve been a good fit for The Game Awards 2023. Ultimately, this is a what-if scenario that didn’t come true; it’s a thought experiment that exposes the scale of GTA 6’s cultural relevancy and flaws with The Game Awards’ structure and pacing.

GTA 6’s trailer sits at well over 130 million views. The Game Awards 2023 still amassed millions of viewers during the live event, according to data from Streams Charts, as has the VOD of the event. It’s not like Keighley’s show is in danger of dying without the support of companies like Rockstar Games, nor did GTA 6 lose much attention by not being at The Game Awards. The awards show and GTA 6’s trailer will garner millions of views in the future, not crossing paths until the game itself shows up on the award circuit. This is just a reminder that every announcement you can think of or predict for an event like The Game Awards isn’t always as good of a fit as you may initially think.

GTA 6 launches for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S sometime in 2025.

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Tomas Franzese
Gaming Staff Writer
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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