Next Grand Theft Auto teased in Episodes from Liberty City?

Manual for retail edition of Lost and Damned, Ballad of Gay Tony expansions hints that the next GTA won't be set in Liberty City; information could arrive as early as March 2010.

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What we heard: An increasing number of gamers paging through the manual of the critically acclaimed Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City are noticing something eye-catching in its third-to-last page. It's a small mock ad (pictured) for the fictional film, Liberty City, It's Over, an apparent parody of the metropolis-focused short compilation movies Paris, J'taime and New York, I Love You.

In its center, the ad shows the cover art from Grand Theft Auto IV inside a torn-asunder heart--a sign some are taking to mean that the Ballad of Gay Tony is the last title of this GTA generation set in Liberty City. Then, below the title, are the words "Next Stop" above a rip in the poster--a phrase some are taking as a cue to the franchise's future direction.

Random joke or hint at GTA's future?
Random joke or hint at GTA's future?

Inside the rip is part of a blue-gray and yellow image that somewhat resembles the color palette of Los Santos, the Los Angeles facsimile in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It could also be that of Vice City, the Miami clone featured in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The fact that the poster also mentions the film is "coming in March" has some people wondering if that's the date when the next GTA will be announced.

Yes, the leap is pretty tenuous, and could just be another example of the random, wacky humor that is the GTA series' trademark. However, it has been shown that Rockstar loves to hide clues of its future plans in advance. One example is the Impossible Trinity achievement in Grand Theft Auto IV, where the protagonists of the two Xbox 360 expansions--Johnny Klebitz and Luis Lopez--meet the main game's protagonist, Niko Bellic.

Another reason the ad is getting so much attention is that Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter said he expects the next installment in the GTA series next year. In a note sent to investors in early September, he said he expects the next full GTA game to arrive by the 2010 holiday season. He also expects Episodes from Liberty City to sell between 1 and 1.5 million units domestically, a prediction that--if realized--shows that demand for GTA games is as strong as ever.

The official story: Rockstar did not respond to requests for comment.

Bogus or not bogus?: Too little to go on. However, there's no doubt Rockstar is making a new GTA. And with San Andreas and Vice City being two of the best-selling games of the decade, Rockstar founders Sam and Dan Houser would be foolish not to revisit those locales as they did Liberty City.

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