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Lucia and Jason robbing a store with their weapons drawn in GTA 6.
Screenshot by Dot Esports

GTA 5 leaving Game Pass this month with GTA 6 on the horizon

It's not the first time the game has left, either.

2023 ended with a GTA 6 trailer that broke the internet, but now 2024 is beginning with GTA 5 leaving Xbox Game Pass in January.

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A tweet from Game Pass Tracker on Jan. 2 indicated that GTA 5 has just two short weeks left on Game Pass, and will be leaving alongside a few other games come Jan. 15. Rockstar’s “latest” (it’s been over a decade) entry in the GTA series was actually added to Game Pass in July 2023, meaning it was available on Microsoft’s game service for only six months. Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that GTA 5 has had a brief fling with Game Pass. In fact, it isn’t even the second time.

Promotional artwork of Michael, Franklin and Trevor from GTA V
Farewell (again). Image via Rockstar Games

The game did a six month stint on Game Pass back in the beginning of 2020 before being pulled in May of that year. It returned in April of 2021, and left in August. 2022 was on off year in the on and off relationship between GTA 5 and Game Pass, and this January 2024 exit marks three total times that the game has been added and then removed after six months. What’s that saying about coincidences and patterns again?

Most of the time, there isn’t any way to know with certainty the reason behind a game’s departure from Game Pass. The first few times GTA 5 left, fans were theorizing that Rockstar was using Game Pass as a demo to bolster sales. We have no way of knowing whether or not that is indeed the reason, but it does seem more likely that Rockstar is behind the departures than Microsoft. I can’t see any reason that Microsoft wouldn’t want GTA 5 on Game Pass, and it’s much easier to rationalize why Rockstar might not want their games out there for free.

That rationalization is especially easy given the reception and massive hype surround the GTA 6 trailer that Rockstar dropped in December after it was leaked online. It’s a tale as old as time: A new game in a popular series gets a release date, and player count for the last addition surges. What better way to get yourself hyped for a new game than by playing the hell out of an old one? Most likely, Rockstar foresaw that GTA 5‘s popularity would boom (not that it ever really hasn’t boomed) in 2024 following the trailer release, and wanted to make sure they were being compensated for that boom. In a lot of cases, this is something I would frown upon, but I’m sort of giving Rockstar the pass with regard to the $15 price tag for GTA 5 on Steam. I’ll probably be among the millions replaying GTA 5 this year, and that price point sits well with me given the hundreds of hours that can easily be dumped into the game.

It’s a good thing that GTA 5 has so much content too, as the sixth game isn’t coming until 2025. Hopefully, that will be a Spring release and not a Fall or Winter one—if it’s the latter, then we basically have two more years of waiting.

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Pierce Bunch
Freelance writer and jack-of-all-games.