October 1, 2022

On Sunday, September 18, an unprecedented massive leak hit one of the most anticipated games of the decade. Dozens of video files related to Grand Theft Auto 6 have begun to appear on fan forum GTAForums, giving the world its first – and very unintentional – look at Rockstar’s next AAA game.

The leak caused huge repercussions, sparking a debate about leaks within the video game industry and how they affect every level of game development. While the story of GTA 6 will continue, here’s everything you need to know about the saga so far.

We will update this story with new developments.

GTA 6 confirmed but never shown

Rockstar has officially announced the next Grand Theft Auto game 4. February 2022 in a press release. “[W]We 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’re ready, so please stay tuned to the Rockstar Newswire for official details.”

Prior to the announcement, Rockstar mostly talked about the ongoing success of Grand Theft Auto 5 and GTA Online, both of which were receiving next-gen updates. While it’s undoubtedly still popular, the follow-up hype of the decade-old game has worn thin for some fans and the announcement of the next GTA game seems long overdue.

However, with the announcement coming from a press release with no additional material, GTA 6 seemed to still be in the early stages of development. Rockstar parent company Take-Two Interactive and its CEO Strauss Zelnick subsequently said that more GTA 6 would be distributed on “Rockstar’s schedule”.

This did not happen.

The leak begins: ‘Here are 90 footage/clips from GTA 6’

GTAForums is one of the most popular online forums for discussing all things Grand Theft Auto. On September 18th, it became the unexpected home for leaked assets from the still-in-development Grand Theft Auto 6. The leak quickly spread to other social media sites such as Twitter and YouTube.

Various clips, with unfinished footage, showed several elements of the game in development, including parts of the world, weapon gameplay, and NPC AI. The footage also seemingly confirmed some GTA 6 rumors that were already circulating online, such as the existence of male and female protagonists.

The leak came from a user named “teapotuberhacker” who also claimed to be the same person who hacked the ride-hailing app Uber earlier this month.

“This is 90 footage/clips from GTA 6,” they wrote. The hacker also shared what appears to be various GTA 6 assets and game code.

The takedowns begin

Later that day, the leaked videos on multiple platforms were removed at the request of Take-Two Interactive. As reported VGCthe takedown requests appeared to come from individuals with Rockstar email addresses, all but confirming that the leak was legitimate.

The following day, both GTAForums and the GTA 6 subreddit removed threads containing the leaked content. Messages on both sites explained that they were complying with Take-Two’s request to remove any copyrighted material. The original GTAForums thread was later reinstated, albeit locked to new comments, and with all links to the stolen material removed.

Rockstar officially confirms the hack

In a surprising move, Rockstar confirmed the authenticity of the hack, which until then was still hailed by some as a very elaborate scam.

“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.”

Rockstar also assured fans that despite the extensive leaks, the studio did not anticipate any disruption or “long-term development effect” on its ongoing projects. Work on the next Grand Theft Auto game would also “continue as planned.”

The FBI is involved

Given the extensive nature of the hack, and the fact that the reported victims were not one but two large companies, the FBI became involved in the hacking investigation.

Uber posted a blog that revealed it was working with the FBI and the US Department of Justice to investigate the recent data breaches and mentioned that their hacker was also suspected of being involved in the Rockstar hack. Uber has revealed that it believes the hacker or hackers are linked to a group known as Lapsus$ which has carried out similar attacks against companies such as Nvidia, Microsoft and Samsung.

“We believe that this attacker (or attackers) are associated with a hacking group called Lapsus$, which has been increasingly active over the past year.” Uber cites similar techniques the hacking group has used at major tech companies as reasons for its suspicion.

“There are also reports over the weekend that this same actor has been hacked by video game maker Rockstar Games,” Uber writes. “We are in close coordination with the FBI and the US Department of Justice on this matter and will continue to support their efforts.”

Fallout of the GTA 6 Leaks

Although we’re only days away from the leak, this episode has sparked a lot of discussion in the video game industry.

One such discussion is the harm of sharing such early footage of the game and how it may affect the perception of the final product. Although the next Grand Theft Auto game is still in the early stages of development, popular understanding of game development is still lacking and this could have negative consequences on the final version of the game.

“My thoughts are with the team at [Rockstar Games],” wrote Xbox Sarah Bond. “It can be disheartening to discover and criticize a project you’ve worked hard to delight fans with before it’s ready.”

Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier noticed the possible effects that a leak could have on employees and how it could “limit the flexibility of working from home.”

As for the early footage, there was a reluctance to make any early judgment on the work-in-progress.

“Anyone who condemns the leaked footage [GTA 6] like an idiot he obviously didn’t work in game development,” writes the game developer Cliff Bleszinski. “The amount of hours/people/dollars that goes into these games [equals] crazy.”

One of the ways that game developers have begun to grapple with and educate themselves on what an in-development version of a game looks like is by sharing footage from their games early in the development cycle. Developers from Insomniac, Remedy and more have shared early footage of games like Control, Spider-Man and more to illustrate what early game development looks like, even for AAA projects.

The caveat is that the leaked footage of GTA 6 looks pretty good considering how early the game is in development. And some developers are expanding the scope of how early the game can be shown, such as EA Motive who shared very early glimpses of the upcoming Dead Space remake, while strongly stressing that everything they share is still pretty early.

But if more players gain deeper insight and context into game development, even for AAA games, then there may be at least one takeaway 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 the full ramifications may not be revealed for years, this will still go down as one of the biggest leaks in video game history, and perhaps the entertainment industry as a whole.

Matt TM Kim is IGN’s News Editor. You can have it @lawoftd.

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