(Bloomberg) -- Rockstar Games Inc. unveiled the first trailer for Grand Theft Auto VI a day early, after the video was leaked online.

The video features car crashes, alligators and scantily-dressed men and women cavorting around a fictional version of Miami, all to the sound of Tom Petty’s thumping song Love Is a Long Road. It introduces a protagonist duo of a modern-age Bonnie and Clyde, with a heavy dose of social media and online streaming potentially part of the gameplay.

GTA VI will be released in 2025 for PlayStation and Xbox systems, according to a statement from Rockstar’s parent company Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. Previous entries in the series have been available on PC and other platforms, though those may potentially come later. 

Here’s a look back at the title’s history and why it’s among the most hotly anticipated events on the video-game industry’s calendar.

What’s the big deal about GTA VI?

Grand Theft Auto VI will be the next major release in a series of action video games initiated in 1997, where the player takes on the role of an antihero avoiding police and driving and shooting across a simulacrum of a real-world city. It was one of the earliest and best attempts at creating what’s become known as an open-world game, where players can choose their own path and missions through the game.

Over the years, GTA games have grown into a wider cultural phenomenon reaching beyond gaming, as its distinctive style earned loyal players and fans from across the entertainment industry. It’s also evoked fierce criticism from politicians and parent groups that think it glorifies violence. The series has sold more than 410 million copies, Take-Two said.

Why did the trailer come out a day early?

Rockstar planned to release the video at 9 a.m. New York time on Dec. 5, but a leaked version appeared on the social media site X the day before, posted by someone promoting Bitcoin. That version was taken down, and the studio put the video out early on its own YouTube channel.

What do we know about GTA VI’s content?

Rockstar said the game “heads to the state of Leonida, home to the neon-soaked streets of Vice City and beyond.” Previous entries in the series have involved running around recognizable recreations of cities like Los Angeles and New York, with 2002’s GTA: Vice City focusing on Miami, in a reference to the Miami Vice series. 

People familiar with Rockstar’s plans said early designs for the latest game had called for the inclusion of territories based on large swathes of North and South America. But the company curtailed those ambitions and cut the main map down to a fictionalized version of Miami and its surrounding areas. The game will feature two protagonists, a man and a woman, all elements that were confirmed by the new trailer.

Who are the main characters in GTA VI?

The trailer opens with a young woman, Lucia, dressed in orange overalls with “inmate” printed on the back saying it was “bad luck, I guess” that she was there. She and an as-yet-unnamed male character look set to play through the GTA VI adventure together, with the trailer video concluding on them pledging to trust one another.

Can we expect improved graphics, visualizations and gameplay in GTA 6?

Rockstar promises to make this “the biggest, most immersive evolution of the Grand Theft Auto series yet” and the first trailer for the game doesn’t disappoint. It adopts a lush and colorful palette, with the best graphics this franchise has yet offered — which isn’t hard given the long gap since its most recent release. The inclusion of social media streaming as at least a peripheral part of gameplay could make for interesting new challenges in the game.

A number of clues to the new game were gleaned from an extensive leak of videos and screenshots posted to the web by a hacker in September 2022. People familiar with the game’s development said the cache showed pre-release footage of the game and Rockstar moved quickly to scrub the images from the internet. Gaming site Games Radar reported that the leak pointed to a modern-day Vice City setting, fresh gameplay mechanics and improved AI.

When will GTA VI be released?

The trailer ends with a caption saying the new game is coming in 2025, ending speculation that had been going on for years.

In 2022, industry analysts expected GTA VI would be out sometime in Take-Two’s 2024 fiscal year, which runs from April 2023 through March 2024, but even then developers were skeptical. Video games are notorious for release delays enforced by hitches in development, as highlighted by the ambitious Cyberpunk 2077’s tortured path to release.

The gameplay footage leaked last year was rough and riddled with bugs, with Rockstar promising to introduce the game to players properly “when it is ready.” Rockstar doesn’t appear in desperate need to rush out the game: its GTA Online service hosted more users in June this year than in any other June outside of the pandemic, Take-Two said in August.

What’s been the reaction to the new trailer so far?

Fan comments online are piling up, and in multiple languages. Much of the reaction is positive. “I literally got goosebumps watching this,” wrote one fan. “Finally after 10 years! It was an honor to be there to witness the launch of this incredible masterpiece.”

Rockstar’s video on YouTube accumulated more than 4 million likes in the first two hours after it was published. 

How valuable is GTA VI to Rockstar?

GTA VI’s predecessor, 2013’s Grand Theft Auto V, was the fastest entertainment release in history to reach $1 billion in retail sales and the best-selling game in the US over the past decade, according to Take-Two. Rockstar has built a growing GTA Online multiplayer platform and community, which it is increasingly monetizing with a paid GTA+ subscription offering, launched in March 2022.

The release of GTA VI is expected to drive similar, if not larger, retail sales at its outset and to catalyze growth in revenue from online services and in-game content.

How different can we expect GTA VI to be from its predecessors?

The franchise’s first two entries featured a distinctive top-down view before it transitioned to 3D graphics with Grand Theft Auto III. In subsequent iterations, Rockstar has invested in developing a more cinematic style, bringing in the voices of celebrities and ramping up the filmlike qualities of its narratives. With competition in this genre of Hollywood-like games rising significantly over the past decade — as highlighted by Sony Group Corp.’s The Last of Us Part II — players will expect Rockstar and Take-Two to elevate their own standards and those for the industry.

“Grand Theft Auto VI continues our efforts to push the limits of what’s possible in highly immersive, story-driven open-world experiences,” said Rockstar founder Sam Houser in the statement alongside the trailer.

Budgets for top-tier titles like GTA and TLOU 2 now habitually stray into nine figures, and given the long-term earning potential indicated by GTA V, Rockstar is likely to invest everything it can in ensuring GTA VI achieves similar success.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.