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Grand Theft Auto is a huge series in terms of the scope of the vast open worlds players can explore and the multi-million dollar franchise it has become. Naturally, the fifth game in the series has been the biggest ever.
Most notably, perhaps, are the changes that have been made to the game since its initial release. The game is quite a different beast today, following two updated versions.
This means that there are currently three versions of the game across several different platforms, which makes it quite confusing for a beginner wanting to play it for the first time. More questions are thrown up for those wishing to get into GTA: Online. With so many different versions available, you’ll likely be wondering whether you can play with your friends who play on different systems. Or, perhaps, you’re wondering which version of the game you should buy in the first place.
I’ve owned several versions of the game and have put hundreds of hours into both the single-player and multiplayer modes over the last near decade. I’ve written this guide to help you better understand what you can expect from Rockstar’s open-world behemoth in 2022. I’ll primarily be covering the concepts of cross-play and how it relates to this game, and I’ll also dive into some other contextual elements to help you make sense of things.
Bottom Line Up Front
If you’re just here to find out whether GTA: Online has cross-play, the answer is, unfortunately, no. Rockstar does not currently support cross-play within GTA: Online, and there’s been no official stance on why or if it might come in the future. You can play with friends on the same branded platform, however: Xbox One can play with Series X/S, and PS4 can play with PS5.
If you’re interested to learn more, stick around for what’s below. I’ll be looking into the release history of the game and speculating on why cross-play isn’t available. I’ve also touched on a few games you might enjoy that do have cross-play features.
A Brief Release History
Before we start to discuss cross-play, it makes sense to go briefly go over the release history. Grand Theft Auto 5 and GTA: Online has been around so long that they spanned a full three video game generations.
The Original Releases: 2013
The first iteration of Grand Theft Auto 5 launched in September 2013 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It immediately gained critical acclaim for its complex, cleverly written story, blistering action, and unprecedentedly stunning open world. The game pushed the 6th generation consoles to their limits in every sense.
GTA: Online wouldn’t launch until two weeks after the base game and was fraught with freezes and bugs. For many, including myself, the game was unplayable — I recall continually getting stuck on the first cutscene and the entire thing freezing. Users were still experiencing problems after the first patch on October 5th, so a second major patch was released shortly after to finally clear things up. Players received an apologetic $500,000 of in-game currency, and after the patches, the game steadily began to flourish.
The Re-Releases: 2014
Re-releases of the game launched on November 2014 for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and a little later for PC in April 2015. The most notable feature in the new editions was a first-person mode: for the first time in a Grand Theft Auto game, players had the option to toggle between third and first-person cameras, vastly altering how the game looked, played, and felt.
Many other changes came under the umbrella of a huge graphical overhaul. The graphics were considerably updated to offer better lighting, shadows, ambient occlusion, enhanced reflections, and better rain and water effects. Models were also redesigned to be more detailed, and the game world became much denser in the sense of more NPCs, flora, fauna, and wildlife. The PC version was the most advanced, featuring 4K ready visuals at 60 FPS if your system could handle it.
GTA: Online saw concurrent changes. The hotly anticipated Heists feature was in full swing around this time. The experience was being regularly updated with new, free DLC packs full of fresh gear and missions to keep players invested.
The Expanded and Enhanced Versions: 2022
This year, we saw the release of what will likely be the final iteration of the game. A new version dubbed the “Expanded and Enhanced” version was announced in 2020 and released to the public in March for Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5.
This update was much smaller than that of the 2014 re-release, and it mostly functions to tap into the enhanced graphical capabilities of SONY and Microsoft’s new systems, enabling players to reap the previously PC-centric benefits of higher frame rates and optimal visuals. This version also introduced ray-tracing and HDR for the option of more graphical finesse.
What’s the Difference Between Cross-platform and Cross-play?
Now you know the history behind the different versions of the game, let’s look into cross-play. First, what is cross-play? And is it the same as cross-platform?
The terms cross-platform and cross-play are often used interchangeably, but there is a distinction, and in Grand Theft Auto 5’s case, that distinction is particularly important.
Cross-platform refers to the number of video game platforms on which a game has been released. In GTA 5’s case, the game has been released on an unusually large amount of systems because it is still relevant nearly a decade after release.
Cross-play, on the other hand, refers purely to the multiplayer aspects of a game. If a game has cross-play, it means you can play with any other player no matter what system they’re on; PlayStation can play with Xbox, and PC can play with consoles — any combination will work.
Does GTA: Online Have Cross-Play?
Unfortunately, cross-play is not currently supported on any version of GTA 5. If you’re familiar with the concept of cross-play, you’ll know that it’s more or less a standard feature these days, so the real question is: why doesn’t Rockstar’s flagship title have it?
Cross-Play Wasn’t Around Back Then
There’s no official statement from Rockstar as to why cross-play cannot exist, but I think it has to do with when the game was released. While there have been several re-releases since the original 2013 debut, cross-play simply wasn’t much of a concept back then. Not being privy to the ins and outs of game development, we can only speculate that it may be too complex to add in cross-play retrospectively.
Then there’s also the complexity of the game to consider in general. GTA: Online is a positively huge operation, and more so than other games, the different versions of the game are quite separate.
You’ve got PC players with the abilities for higher graphical fidelity than the other systems and no cap so far as how much they can push these features. The advantage here of higher frame rates and better draw distances could put console players at an unfair advantage.
Then there’s the difference between functional features such as aim assist and the discrepancies between the enhanced and non-enhanced versions of the game between Microsoft and Sony’s consoles. It likely could be done, but it’s thought that Rockstar doesn’t see it as a wise time investment.
There’s also the fact that many players don’t really want cross-play in the game. There have been issues in the past with hackers on the PC version, and the worry for console players is that if those players had access to the other servers, they would ruin the game.
It’s also been suggested that when GTA 5 was released in 2013, various legal agreements between Sony and Microsoft made cross-play impossible. I guess it was a different time, and the feature wasn’t incentivized as it is today. Rockstar’s other major multiplayer endeavor, Red Dead Online, doesn’t have cross-play either, so it seems the company doesn’t deem it important enough at the current time.
Minor Cross-Play Compatibility
Having said this, GTA: Online does embrace some cross-play functionality. Xbox One players can play with those on Xbox Series X/S, and PlayStation 4 players can play with friends on PlayStation 5. That’s something, I guess!
It’s a real shame GTA: Online doesn’t feature full cross-play. After all, it’s such a community-driven game.
Missions and heists are so much more fun with friends, and Rockstar encourages a more intimate multiplayer experience with the implementation of ‘crews’ and the Rockstar social club. We can only hope the hotly anticipated new entry will deliver on this front and allow everyone to play together.
Cross-Play Gaming Alternatives
While GTA: Online doesn’t feature cross-play, there are now a huge variety of big games that do. Here are some you might enjoy.
Call of Duty: Warzone
Call of Duty’s foray into the world of Battle Royal made a big splash when it launched in 2020, and it continues to be one of the most popular titles in the genre to this day. As with the majority of big Battle Royal titles, cross-play is baked into the fabric of Warzone: you can play with players across PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.
Rocket League was one of the original pioneers of cross-play features when it was released in 2015. For those unaware, the game is a frantic battle of Soccer with rocket-powered cars. It’s always a blast; players can play their friends on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac OS, Linux, and GeForce Now. You can read out the cross-play guide for Rocket League here.
Forza Horizon 5
Forza Horizon 5 set a new precedence for what an open-world racer could be, and it’s one of the only games to feature such a large open world as well as support cross-play. With the series being a Microsoft exclusive, you can play with friends across Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC on both the Steam and Microsoft Store versions.
For a game as popular as Among Us, cross-play is absolutely essential. The game rose to prominence on mobile devices during the COVID-19 lockdown, and around the same time, it also became incredibly popular on PC.
It’s now on many different platforms, including IOS, Android, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC, and cross-play is possible across all of them. Find our guide for cross-play on Among Us here!
I absolutely adored Titanfall 2, but one of my biggest gripes was that being on PC meant I couldn’t play with my friends on PlayStation. Apex Legends took that game’s awesome movement and gunplay into the Battle Royale arena and added cross-play — naturally, I can’t get enough of it. The game is avalable on PC, IOS, Android, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5, and Nintendo Switch.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Is Grand Theft Auto 5 available on Nintendo Switch?
Answer: Unfortunately, GTA 5 is not currently available on Nintendo Switch. As to whether that will change any time soon, it would seem unlikely. Rockstar has not officially commented on the situation. Still, given the fact that there have now been three versions of the game without any mention of a Switch port, it appears the company considers it too complex of a project.
While the graphical hardware of the Switch should be able to support the game, the community has speculated that the system’s storage space is the biggest issue.
Question: Is there a best system to play Grand Theft Auto 5 on?
Answer: As you can see, the game is available on a vast array of systems — perhaps more than any modern game, given its tenure! Undoubtedly, the best platform to buy the game for is the latest generation of systems: Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, or PC. Given that the servers have now been shut down for the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game, the same will happen eventually to the Xbox One and PS4 iterations. Therefore, getting the game on the latest systems is the best ‘future proofing’ plan.
Question: Will Grand Theft Auto 6 have cross-play?
Answer: With a brand new installment on the way, many wonder whether the new entry will embrace the modern paradigm of cross-play. We barely have any information on the game yet, so the company confirming whether the game will have cross-play will be a way off. Given that the feature is becoming a standard of multiplayer gaming going forward, I’d imagine Rockstar would try to implement it if they can. Currently, we’ll have to wait to see!
I hope this article has helped clear up any confusion surrounding GTA 5 and cross-play, and it has given you some insight into the game’s history. It’s a shame the game doesn’t support what is now a pretty standard feature in the industry — hopefully, we’ll see it implemented in Rockstar’s new games from now on!