On Sunday, September 18, a massive and unprecedented leak hit one of the most anticipated games of the decade. Dozens of video files related to Grand Theft Auto 6 began appearing on fan forum GTAForums, giving the world a first — extremely unintended — look at Rockstar’s next AAA game.
The leak has caused a massive fallout, kickstarting a discussion about leaks within the video game industry and how they affect every level of game development. While the story of the GTA 6 leaks will continue, here’s everything you need to know about the saga so far.
We’ll update this story with new developments.
GTA 6 Confirmed, But Never Shown
Rockstar officially announced the next Grand Theft Auto game on February 4, 2022, in a press release. “[W]e are pleased to confirm that active development for the next entry in the Grand Theft Auto series is well underway,” Rockstar wrote earlier this year. “We look forward to sharing more as soon as we are ready, so please stay tuned to the Rockstar Newswire for official details.”
Before the announcement, Rockstar mainly discussed the ongoing success of Grand Theft Auto 5 and GTA Online, both of which were receiving next-gen updates. While undoubtedly still popular, continuing to hype a decade-old game was wearing thin for some fans and the announcement of the next GTA game felt long overdue.
However, with the announcement coming from a press release with no additional materials, it seemed that GTA 6 was still early in development. Rockstar parent company Take-Two Interactive and its CEO Strauss Zelnick followed up by saying more of GTA 6 would be shared on “Rockstar’s schedule.”
This did not happen.
The Leaks Begin: ‘Here are 90 Footage/clips From GTA 6’
GTAForums is one of the most popular online discussion boards to talk about all things Grand Theft Auto. On September 18, it became an unexpected home to leaked assets from the still-in-development Grand Theft Auto 6. The leaks quickly spread to other social media sites like Twitter and YouTube.
Various clips, with unfinished assets, showed off several elements of the game in development including parts of the world, gunplay, and NPC AI. The clips also seemingly confirmed some rumors about GTA 6 that were already spreading online, such as the existence of male and female protagonists.
The leak was from a user named “teapotuberhacker” who also claimed to be the same person who hacked the ride-hailing app Uber earlier this month.
“Here are 90 footage/clips from GTA 6,” they wrote. The hacker also shared what looks to be various GTA 6 assets, and code from the game.
The Takedowns Begin
Later that same day, leaked videos on multiple platforms were removed at the request of Take-Two Interactive. As reported by VGC, takedown requests appeared to come from individuals with Rockstar email addresses, all but confirming that the leaks were legitimate.
The next day, both GTAForums and the GTA 6 subreddit removed threads featuring the leaked content. Messages on both sites explained that they were complying with requests from Take-Two to remove any and all copyrighted material. The original GTAForums thread was later reinstated, albeit locked for new comments, and with all links to stolen material removed.
Rockstar Officially Confirms the Hack
In a surprising move, Rockstar confirmed the veracity of the hack, which until then was still being touted by some as a very elaborate hoax.
“We recently suffered a network intrusion in which an unauthorized third party illegally accessed and downloaded confidential information from our systems, including early development footage for the next Grand Theft Auto.”
A Message from Rockstar Games pic.twitter.com/T4Wztu8RW8
— Rockstar Games (@RockstarGames) September 19, 2022
Rockstar also reassured fans that despite the extensive leaks the studio did not anticipate any disruption or “long-term effect on the development” of its ongoing projects. Work on the next Grand Theft Auto game would also “continue as planned.”
The FBI Are Involved
Given the extensive nature of the hacks and also that the reported victims aren’t one but two major companies, the FBI has gotten involved in an investigation over the hacks.
Uber released a blog that revealed it was working with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the recent data breaches, and mentioned that their hacker was suspected to be involved in the Rockstar hack too. Uber revealed that it believes the hacker or hackers to be associated with a group known as Lapsus$ which has carried out similar attacks on companies like Nvidia, Microsoft, and Samsung.
“We believe this attacker (or attackers) are affiliated with a hacking group called Lapsus$, which has been increasingly active over the last year or so.” Uber cites similar techniques used by the hacking group on major tech companies as reasons for their suspicion.
“There are also reports over the weekend that this same actor breached video game maker Rockstar Games,” Uber writes. “We are in close coordination with the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice on this matter and will continue to support their efforts.”
The Fallout of the GTA 6 Leaks
While we’re only a few days removed from the leaks, the episode has generated much discussion within the video game industry.
One such discussion is the harm of sharing such early footage of a game, and how that might affect the perception of the final product. While the next Grand Theft Auto game is still early in development, popular understanding of game development is still lacking and this could have negative consequences on the game’s final version.
“My thoughts are with the team at [Rockstar Games],” wrote Xbox’s Sarah Bond. “It can be disheartening to have a project you’ve worked hard on to delight fans revealed and critiqued before it’s ready.”
To my fellow devs out there affected by the latest leak, know that while it feels overwhelming right now, it’ll pass. One day we’ll be playing your game, appreciating your craft, and the leaks will be relegated to a footnote on a Wikipedia page. Keep pushing. Keep making art. ♥️
— Neil Druckmann (@Neil_Druckmann) September 18, 2022
Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier noted the possible effects the leak might have on employees, and how it might “limit work-from-home flexibility.”
As far as the early footage is concerned, there’s been pushback against any early judgment on a work still in progress.
“Anyone judging the leaked footage of [GTA 6] like an idiot clearly hasn’t worked in game development,” writes game developer Cliff Bleszinski. “The amount of hours/people/dollars that goes into these games [equals] insane.”
One way game developers have begun to combat and educate what an in-development version of a game looks like is to share footage from their games early in the development cycle. Developers from Insomniac, Remedy, and more shared early footage of games like Control, Spider-Man, and more to illustrate what early game development looks like, even for AAA projects.
Since graphics are the first thing finished in a video game, and CONTROL won multiple awards for excellence in graphics, here is footage from the beginning of development 🙂
— Paul Ehreth 🔻 (@bacon_sanwich) September 20, 2022
The caveat here is that the leaked GTA 6 footage looks pretty good considering how early game the game is in development. And some developers are broadening the scope of how early a game can be shown such as EA Motive which has been sharing very early looks at the upcoming Dead Space remake, while heavily emphasizing that everything they’re sharing is still quite early.
But if more gamers gain deeper insight and context into game development, even for AAA games, then perhaps there’s at least one benefit from this episode.
We won’t know the full effects of the leak on the development of Grand Theft Auto 6 or Rockstar Games for some time. While any possible consequences might not reveal themselves for years, this will still go down as one of the biggest leaks in video game history, and possibly the entertainment industry as a whole.
Matt T.M. Kim is IGN’s News Editor. You can reach him @lawoftd.