GTA 5 PC release: all the evidence so far
Hordes of postmen fill the street, armies of retail staff scurry through their fluorescent aisles, and the world's console-owning population have simultaneously phoned in a variety of minor ailments. Grand Theft Auto V has launched and, by all reports, it's A Big Deal. Unless you own a PC, that is, in which case, it's a Tuesday.
What hope do we have of joining GTA 5's triumvirate of crims and, more importantly, when? Rockstar's sandbox of car chases and petty violence began its life on PC, but without an official announcement, is it safe to assume that we'll ever have a chance to holiday in the latest Los Santos? Let's delve into the murky lake of internet rumour, and fish out any facts we can find.
A publisher can use its own roving bands of guerilla PRs to whip employees into a cowed silence. The same isn't true of external partners and retailers. All sorts of GTA 5 info has oozed from the retail counters, from an early look at the map, to copies of the game itself. That may lend credibility to a number of online retail listings for a PC release.
Amazon France kicked things off at the start of the year, by taking taking pre-orders for a boxed PC copy. Then, in May, German retailers sprang to action, with both Amazon Germany and GamesOnly posting their own speculative PC pre-orders. Interestingly, GamesOnly briefly posted early details of the console versions' special edition. They were right on the money.
Does that validate the listings? Not really. Sometimes it's less about responding to information, as it is about anticipating that information. Yes, retailers will often have forewarning of announcements, but that's not the only reason they'd promote an unannounced game. Right now, Amazon UK has a landing page for Grand Theft Auto 5 PC. It quietly exists on their website, collecting the email addresses of potential customers and soaking up lovely SEO points. The need to be in the best position if/when a PC version is announced skews how much we can extrapolate from their actions.
Here's the most recent piece of 'evidence'. A config file has appeared that, allegedly, was taken from a pirated copy of GTA 5's Xbox 360 version. The XML code makes reference to both PC and Orbis, the PS4's operating system. The full file is up on PasteBin, but here are the relevant PC mentions:
Config code found within the game? On the surface it seems like a solid lead, but it assumes that every line of every file is created from scratch. It seems more likely that this is a standard template, which would of course contain references to a PC build - along with any other platforms Rockstar might be internally experimenting on. Moreover, the presence of a PC build isn't in and of itself confirmation of a PC release. It's just an indicator that, as with most games, PCs were used as part of the game's development.
That's not to say this discovery is completely without merit. But, as above, there are too many possible caveats for it to be a firm indicator of Rockstar's release strategy.
Last month, Chris Evans, the senior director of investor relations at Nvidia, said the following during an earnings call:
"The PC market is evolving. As entry level laptops face pressure from tablets. Yet sales of specialty PCs like gaming systems and work stations continue to grow. The disparity reflects how consumers use these different classes of PCs. Many consumers look for PC as a general purpose device they can use for browsing, email, social media video. But much of this can be better served by a tablet. In contrast, gamers are preparing their systems for a strong roster of games coming this fall, including blockbuster franchises, such as Call of Duty: Ghosts, Grand Theft Auto V and Assassin’s Creed IV."
The need to prepare driver updates and tailor hardware profiles means that GPU manufacturers like Nvidia can forge strong relationships with developers. If GTA 5 is heading to PC, they'd likely know about it. And here we have a senior director directly linking the game's Autumn release with the need to 'prepare systems'. It seemed like solid intel.
Unfortunately, it wasn't. Nvidia's senior PR manager Bryan Del Rizzo later released a statement, clarifying what Evans said:
“Please note, during our Thursday’s earnings call, our investor relations team provided a list of important games that gamers are looking forward to on PC this fall, and included Grand Theft Auto V on that list. This statement was made with the intent of expressing enthusiasm for the games industry in general, and was not intended to represent specific knowledge possessed by NVIDIA. NVIDIA does not have information on any possible PC version release of Grand Theft Auto or its availability. We deeply regret the error.”
Even if you're the suspicious type, and assume the latter statement was the company covering its tracks, the timetable doesn't make sense. It's too close to today's console release, and too soon for the Rockstar marketing train to leave its station. At best, we can anticipate an announcement before the end of the year. But if the game is coming, it'll be 2014 at the earliest.
On the next page: promising leads, historical trends, and direct information from Rockstar. Why GTA 5 is almost certainly coming to PC.