It was bound to happen sooner or later, but is still a surprise nonetheless - Rockstar Games has announced that Grand Theft Auto Online will be shutting down on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. As the developers gear up for the launch of the next-gen ports of the game and continued DLC releases on newer platforms, support for the oldest console generation is being cut.
The end of GTA Online's life cycle on the console generation it launched on will come on the 16th of December, 2021 - one hell of a Christmas present, right?
Leading up to the December end date, Shark Card sales will be ceased on these platforms on the 15th of September. The multiplayer mode of GTA 5 hasn't been getting the newest content updates on the launch consoles since September 2015, but players have been able to continue enjoying that version of Online on PS3 and Xbox 360 nonetheless.
Even so, we all knew this day would come, and it's been a long time coming - after DLC stopped being released on the older consoles in 2015, character transfers which allowed players to carry progress over to newer versions of the game were halted in early 2017. In essence, GTA Online on these consoles has been on life support ever since.
In November this year, new dedicated ports of GTA 5 and Online will be launching on the Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5, with sweeping upgrades both visually and in terms of gameplay mechanics and content compared to the Xbox One and PS4 "Enhanced Edition" that's currently available on the current-gen via backwards compatibility. With the beginning of this new era in GTA Online's history, it only makes sense that the oldest version is being shut down.
While GTA Online laid the foundations of its record breaking success on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, these initial versions have since been eclipsed by the Enhanced Edition and PC ports in every aspect. The seventh generation consoles had woefully compromised security leading to rampant hacking and cheating, and the old hardware simply wasn't powerful enough to allow Rockstar to realize their ambitions.
Not only did hardware limitations restrict developers in adding more, better content, but also kept the game from being the visual stunner it launched to be in 2013. With groundbreaking graphics at release, GTA 5 and Online manage to prevent becoming visually dated thanks to the release of the Enhanced Edition, and future proofed themselves with the PC port where it remains the best looking version of the game.
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The stronger hardware offered by the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One let the developers turn ambitious ideas for GTA Online content into reality, but support on the older consoles had to be cut lest they remain restricted by them. Later, it was clear that the security vulnerabilities on these platforms were leaking over to the newer versions via character transfers, thus the developers had to halt those too.
Rockstar Games has clarified that this will in no way affect access to or progress in GTA 5 story mode, though stat tracking via the Rockstar Games website will cease - nontheless, you'll be able to play the single player mode with Trevor, Franklin and Michael even after GTA Online shuts down on Xbox 360 and PS3.
Alongside the shuttering of Online on these platforms, Rockstar Games is also ceasing website stat tracking for L.A. Noire and Max Payne 3 on Xbox 360 and PS3, as well as online multiplayer and leaderboards for the latter.
We suspect the majority of fans have already upgraded and continued their GTA Online journeys on newer consoles or PC - playing Online on Xbox 360 and PS3 certainly wasn't ideal these past few years due to rampant hacking and cheating. Epic Games even had a free giveaway of GTA 5 and Online for PC via their games store not too long ago, and numerous sales would have given fans a chance to pick the game up on the cheap.
With the release of the next-gen port part of the reasoning why Online is being shut down on the old consoles, we're reminded that inevitably the same fate awaits the Enhanced Editions; with the new opportunities offered by the hardware of the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, it is only a matter of time before the previous generation of consoles will prove to be too restrictive. That said, this eventuality is still years away, and players don't need to worry about scrambling to upgrade right off the bat. We're curious to see how GTA Online going standalone in November will affect the life cycle of the multiplayer mode on current platforms.
How many of you are still burning rubber on the streets of Los Santos on Xbox 360 and PS3?