Kotaku released a report of Rockstar Games in 2018 a few days before Red Dead Redemption 2‘s release. It detailed grueling work conditions and a “frat-boy” culture that appeared to grind its employees and contractors to dust. A new Bloomberg report from the same reporter has checked back in with the developer and explained how Rockstar has taken steps in the four years since to improve itself. It even contained morsels of information about Grand Theft Auto VI, saying it will star a female protagonist.
The article stated that she will be of Latin background and one of the two main characters, both of whom will be bank robbers inspired by Bonnie and Clyde. It also backs up another report stating it will take place in or around Vice City, Grand Theft Auto‘s fictionalized version of Miami. The game will also have more interior environments when compared to past entries, too. Grand Theft Auto VI has no solid release window, but the sources that were interviewed for the article think the game is still about two years away. Said developers were skeptical of industry analyst speculation that anticipates it releasing anywhere from April 2023 through March 2024.
Having a different kind of protagonist is just one step Rockstar is taking to modernize its games. The studio also removed the transphobic jokes from previous versions of Grand Theft Auto V for the recently released current-gen upgrades and also canceled a cops and robbers mode for Grand Theft Auto Online after police murdered George Floyd in 2020. Senior executives within Rockstar were apparently concerned with how such a mode would be interpreted. GTAVI will also not punch down on marginalized groups, something the previous GTA titles have been guilty of.
The changes are also happening outside of the games, too. One source claimed it was less of a “boys’ club” and more of a “real company” as multiple measures have been taken to curb previous bad habits. Scheduling changes, limiting overtime, hiring contractors, narrowing the gender pay gap, and getting rid of “abusive” or “difficult” managers seem to be some of the bigger changes that have had a profound effect on the team. Some sources also claimed morale is higher than it has ever been and that Rockstar had done more to address its environment than other developers like Activision Blizzard, Riot Games, and Ubisoft, all of which have come under fire for similarly harmful practices.
Rockstar also donated to Black Lives Matter charities in the wake of the 2020 protests, gave cloth masks to its workers, expanded its mental health and leave benefits, surprised some members with bonuses, sent out care packages, and implemented “flexitime” that gives employees the chance to cash in extra hours worked for more hours off. Management has even promised that “excessive overtime” won’t be required for GTAVI and those interviewed said there was “little pressure to get a new game out the door.” However, it remains to be seen if that will be the case in the future. Rockstar also hired more producers to keep better schedules, and while the interviewees said it was mostly positive, having to go through different people can mean some tasks take a little longer.
GTAVI has reportedly been downsized to make the employees’ lives a little easier, as well. The open-world game was originally slated to have big portions of North and South America, but was scaled back to a “fictional version of Miami and its surrounding areas.” But it will still be a pretty sizable game, according to the report. And keeping with previous rumors, Rockstar will also be adding new cities and missions to the title over time, which should also lessen the amount of crunch needed right before it ships.