Grand Theft Auto 6 didn’t get a PC release date along with its trailer. Historical precedent isn’t promising either, since Red Dead Redemption 2’s port took 13 months to make the jump, while GTA 5 took a whopping 19.
At the time of writing, though, GTA 5 is number 10 on the top sellers list of Steam. Part of that’s due to GTA 6 hype, sure, but this is Grand Theft Auto we’re talking about. I’m willing to bet it’s sold like hotcakes on all platforms. Despite that, the PC has received the middle child treatment from Rockstar Games, with GTA Online lagging behind in terms of key updates and some major issues with RDR2’s port on release.
Mike York, who was an animator at Rockstar Games between 2012 and 2017 working on both GTA 5 and RDR2, has an inkling to why that is. “One of the main reasons why a PC port will take so long to come out after a console release is because the developers want to make [the game] as best as possible,” York explains on his YouTube Channel, York Reacts.
So it’s about quality, then? Kinda. It’s also about money. “They wanna prioritise what sells. Most of the time (especially in the past) PlayStation was the big seller … so, what the developer would do is focus all their energy on making sure the PlayStation port and the PlayStation game worked really good.”
York mentions that when he was working on GTA 5, they were focused on the PS3 and the Xbox 360 at the time, “we were mainly pushing the PS3 to the limits … the PC version is kind of the version that’s in the background … it’s not quite polished, it’s just kinda feeding the other games and making them work.”
York goes on to describe how Rockstar in particular has historically focused on the console version and worked backwards, which is a bitter pill to swallow—even if it’s true. As for the long wait times? York says devs will use the port as an opportunity to push the hardware further. “They’re gonna optimise it for the best PC parts that are available today.”
Expanding the scope of a game for better hardware does make sense. GTA 5 for example released in 2013, about eight years after the Xbox 360 and seven years after the PS3. If you’ve been PC gaming for any amount of time, you know how quickly hardware gets outdated. But the idea that studios optimise their games for the best parts available doesn’t exactly track. Your median player isn’t going to have the best hardware. Top-of-the-line stuff is goddamn expensive.
“It’s different architecture and components, they have to accommodate for all these different things that can happen,” York points out—which is true. With consoles, devs can design their games based on a specific set of hardware. That doesn’t necessarily stop console games having optimisation issues, but it does narrow down the margin of error. “They need to test the game more on PC … there’s a lot of things that can go wrong when you release that PC port.”
York goes on to say that “it’s hard to do that as a developer, because the team isn’t big enough”—which, hold up. This is Rockstar we’re talking about, right?
I do want to be fair here and say that developers themselves don’t get to choose the size of their teams or the budget allocated to them. York (and Rockstar’s current devs) might want more resources to make a PC port, but they are paid a salary by a company to do a job. From York’s perspective, this is absolutely true.
But Rockstar had over 1,000 people working on GTA 5, and nearly 2,000 on Red Dead Redemption 2. Take-Two Interactive (which owns Rockstar Games) had a 2023 net revenue of $5.35 billion, and I feel obligated to remind you that a billion is a thousand million. I don’t have a head for business, so I’m sure the reality is more complicated—but I’d be willing to bet that Take-Two has the money to fund a PC port if it really wanted to.
Ultimately, York can only explain why a PC port isn’t happening from a developer’s point of view, so I appreciate his perspective is limited. But Rockstar Games isn’t some fledgling indie company, and smaller teams than Rockstar have released games to every platform right away.
I wager it’s the same as it ever was—money and prestige. The studio is big enough and the game is big enough that it knows people can wait a year, and it’ll still make bank on the PC version.