We all knew this day would come - we've known for a fact since earlier this year and felt is for much longer. Rockstar Games has put a definitive end date on the lifespan of Grand Theft Auto Online for the game's release platforms, meaning PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. An era will come to an end on the 16th of December, 2021.
Not quite a happy holiday gift, but it's not a surprise either. Rockstar previously confirmed that the servers on the oldest two platforms supporting GTA Online will go dark before the year is out back in the summer, and the game was semi-dead already. At this point, it almost feels like an act of mercy.
GTA Online stopped getting new content after Ill-Gotten Gains Part 2 on the Xbox 360 and PS3, which we reported at the time. It was also incidentally the last Online update that also added most of its content to the single player mode. After that release in 2015, these versions of the game only got support updates.
At this point the game had launched on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, and the developers did not want to be constrained by old hardware. Players were encouraged to continue their GTA Online career on newer platforms supporting on-going DLC with a transfer feature - unfortunately this feature was also widely used for hacks.
The next nail in the coffin of GTA Online's release versions was when said transfer feature was axed in 2017. Rockstar deemed the damage caused by hackers to outweigh the benefits, which we assume had diminished at that point - most players who intended to use it had already done so. While it stuck things out for years to come, it was clear that the servers' days were numbered.
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Lacking in new content or updates, with no way to bring progress over to newer platforms and hacking rife on the long-since cracked and practically lawless PS3 and Xbox 360 servers, GTA Online on these platforms was hardly in a healthy place. Players have migrated in great numbers to the newer versions, and between hackers and a lack of new content to spend on, we assume that revenue also dried up.
Even so, this is a bitter piece of news to share. Millions upon millions of fans began their virtual journeys through Los Santos and Blaine County on these platforms, now considered consoles of a bygone era. The foundations of a unrivalled success story were laid during those years - though one could say that GTA 5's story DLC was also killed during this era, so make it bitter-sweet?
In any case, if any of you still have a dusty old PS3 or Xbox 360 around the house and a copy of GTA 5's first version lying around that you used to play, maybe it's time to hook it all up for one last trip around town in a Hydra and one last hike up Mount Chiliad before it all goes dark for the last time.
Of course, the future of GTA Online has a lot more in store than just an ending - there are new beginnings in store as well. The game will get another new lease on life with major updates coming with the Expanded and Enhanced port next March, but an even bigger change impending is Online going standalone - this way the rest of the franchise will move on while it continues its apparently endless journey through popularity and success.
In the nearer future, it seems like we'll be getting a new Fixers DLC during the holiday season alongside the usual Festive Surprise event that pops up annually. These new bits of content will give players something fresh to focus on, instead of the shutdown on PS3 and Xbox 360.
You have until the 16th of December to enjoy GTA Online on those platforms.