More than 90 videos and images of Grand Theft Auto VI, the long-awaited follow-up to 2013’s Grand Theft Auto V, one of the best-selling video games of all time – leaked online over the weekend, in one of the biggest confidential data breaches in gaming history.
The footage was posted to the GTAForums website by a user going by the name teapotuberhacker, who claimed to have accessed it by hacking Rockstar’s internal company Slack feed and gaining access to their servers.
The original post has since been taken down, but not before the images and video proliferated across social media. Rockstar Games’ parent company, Take-Two Interactive, has been issuing takedowns to remove the footage from YouTube and Twitter.
The hacker has also threatened to leak the source code for Grand Theft Auto V and the in-development version of Grand Theft Auto VI, inviting Rockstar Games to negotiate a deal.
Rockstar Games and Take-Two have yet to comment on the leak, but sources close to Rockstar have indicated to the Guardian and Bloomberg that it is genuine, and represents an early-in-development build of the game that is already a year old.
The footage shows animation tests, level layouts and gameplay tests, including some fully voiced conversations between characters. The footage shows a female protagonist in a fictionalised modern-day Miami, Vice City, also the setting of 2002’s Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
The videos clearly show an in-progress version of the game, with debug commands and other technical information overlaid. Rockstar confirmed that GTA 6 was in “active development” earlier this year, though early work on the game probably began in 2014.
Leaks are damaging to video game developers not just because of the confidential information that they represent, but because a leak can adversely affect a game’s perception before release. It is usual for in-development builds to look rough until the final months of development, and they are rarely representative of the finished game – something that uninformed viewers often don’t understand. Developers who spend years of their lives making big-budget games are demoralised by leaks that do not show the quality of work that they strive for in the complete product.
Prominent developers across the games industry have spoken out in sympathy with the people working at Rockstar Games over the weekend.
Neil Druckmann, of Naughty Dog, whose 2020 game The Last of Us Part II was leaked in its entirety prior to release, tweeted: “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.”
Grand Theft Auto V has sold 170m copies in the nine years since its release, making it one of the most successful entertainment products ever released. Along with its online multiplayer mode, GTA Online, it is estimated to have generated in excess of $900m for Take Two in 2020 alone. Grand Theft Auto VI is expected to break records when it is released – though Rockstar has indicated that it is still several years away.