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GTA Online is a 'persistent online world,' launches Oct. 1

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Grand Theft Auto 5 publisher Rockstar Games hadn't said anything about Grand Theft Auto Online until now, except for providing a brief clip of multiplayer footage at the end of the game's most recent trailer, but the company revealed the first details about Grand Theft Auto Online with a new trailer today.

Grand Theft Auto Online will be available on Oct. 1, a couple of weeks after Grand Theft Auto 5 comes out, and access to it will be free to owners of the game. According to Rockstar, it is a persistent online world that will "continue to expand and evolve after its launch." Rockstar will update GTA Online with its own content, but it will also allow for user-created content such as races and deathmatches that players can share with others. The mode will support as many as 16 players.

Players will have the ability to customize their character, as in the online component of Red Dead Redemption, and rank up by doing things like buying customized cars, purchasing property and going on missions by themselves or with friends. And as in Red Dead Redemption, users will also be able to partake in unstructured play, messing around in the open world of Los Santos. That world supports the same variety of experiences that the Grand Theft Auto 5 campaign does, whether by land, air or sea.

GTA Online supports user-created deathmatches and races

Missions include cooperative heists and burglaries, as well as more traditional choices like team deathmatch. Players can also opt for less violent pursuits, like a round of golf. Completing jobs will earn players money and reputation, which will allow them to rise in the GTA Online ranks and acquire property. The missions include cutscenes in which players will be introduced to new characters; there's no word yet on whether the campaign's three protagonists — Michael, Franklin and Trevor — will appear in GTA Online.

It's unclear at this point if GTA Online will be a standalone game, or if players will have to buy Grand Theft Auto 5 in order to play it. We've reached out to Rockstar for more information, and will update this article with any details we receive.

Grand Theft Auto 4, which launched in April 2008, was the first entry in the open-world franchise with an online multiplayer component. Up to 16 people (32 in the Windows PC version) could play in a variety of modes, including standard fare such as team deathmatch racing and more crime-focused options like contract kills and car theft.

Grand Theft Auto 5 will be released Sept. 17 on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. For details on its single-player campaign, check out our preview from May and see the most recent screenshots here.

undertake co-op heists and robberies

Update: When GTA Online launches on Oct. 1, Grand Theft Auto 5 players will access it through the character switching wheel in the game's bottom right corner, reports CVG. The fourth part of the wheel will be filled in with a user's multiplayer avatar. And according to Leslie Benzies, president of developer Rockstar North, the studio is purposefully delaying the GTA Online launch by two weeks.

"We want to give people an opportunity to actually get their heads around what's happened, because even single-player is a big advancement from the old games," said Benzies to CVG. "There's a lot of new things to learn."

Players may be required to enter a code of some kind in order to access GTA Online, and there may be a "tiny download" as well. Benzies also explained that the world of GTA Online is set "slightly before" the events of the Grand Theft Auto 5 campaign, so the single-player and multiplayer components will share characters who will introduce players to GTA Online. However, GTA Online's statistical progression will remain separate from the campaign.

GTA Online will offer a "passive" mode for players who want to get acquainted with the game without being killed as soon as they spawn into Los Santos — in the passive mode, they won't be able to shoot each other. That's a big deal in the standard GTA Online mode, because once a player is killed, their money falls onto the ground and others can simply pick it up. So it's important to visit the bank on a regular basis and deposit your new earnings.

deposit your earnings regularly, lest they get stolen

Update 2: "We don't have any plans to sell GTA Online separately," a Rockstar Games representative told Polygon over email. The rep also clarified that GTA Online will not require "a code, online pass, or anything like that.

"When [Grand Theft Auto 5] launches there will be a countdown clock in the fourth slice of the character selection wheel. The countdown will expire on Oct. 1, unlocking GTA Online via a title update."