Sep 18, 2022 - Technology

Grand Theft Auto VI footage leaks, hacker threatens to spill more

Photo Illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Ninety videos of in-development footage of Rockstar Games’ secretive next Grand Theft Auto game were leaked online Sunday morning in one of the most shocking data breaches in gaming history.

Why it matters: The footage confirmed reported details about Rockstar’s next game but, more gravely, appeared to be part of a plan by the leaker to extract money from the game maker.

  • The sprawling Grand Theft Auto series is one of the biggest franchises in gaming history, and its fans have been eager for information after an unusually long gap since its last installment, 2013’s GTA V.
  • Rockstar said in February that the development of the next GTA was “well underway” but has offered no details about it. The game isn’t expected to be released for at least two more years.

Details: A person calling themselves Teapotuberhacker posted a link to the leaked footage on the GTA Forums in the early hours of Sunday, saying in a later message that they grabbed the footage via Rockstar’s employee Slack.

  • Most of the footage is undated, but some clips indicate they’re from development builds made in 2021.
  • Clips show character animation tests, as figures run, slide and take cover in grayed-out rooms. Others show in-progress gameplay scenes filled with unfinished art and overlaid with text chronicling what the program running the game is doing in that scene.
  • The clips seemingly confirm details previously reported by Bloomberg (and corroborated by Axios): that the game is set in the series’ Miami-like Vice City and that its protagonists include a woman in a first for modern GTA games. Clips in the test build feature a seemingly playable woman named Lucia, who is seen sticking up a crowded fast food restaurant, and a man named Jason.
  • Rockstar’s signature attention to detail is also evident, with some clips showing the driver’s seat in a car reclining and being shifted forward and back.

Rockstar Games has not confirmed the leak, but YouTube has removed some clips, citing copyright claims by GTA publisher Take-Two Interactive.

  • Bloomberg has reported the leak is real, citing Rockstar sources. An Axios source familiar with Rockstar corroborated that as well.

What they’re saying: “I am looking to negotiate a deal,” the apparent leaker wrote online on Sunday morning on the unofficial GTA Forums.

  • Several hours prior, they had posted a link to 90 videos from the unreleased next GTA and said they had access to a “test build” for GTA VI and source code for that game and its blockbuster predecessor GTA V.
  • “It is possible I could leak more data soon,” they wrote.
  • They said they were also responsible for the recent hack of Uber.

Between the lines: The unpolished state of the GTA VI footage is normal for a game that is years from completion, especially if the clips largely represent the state of the game in 2021.

  • Games are inherently complex, especially for blockbusters like GTA, which are worked on by hundreds of people in studios around the world.
  • The look, sound and feel players experience at launch often has only come together in the months leading up to release.
  • One source familiar with Rockstar’s development processes told Axios that the studio is no exception, noting that Rockstar’s original Red Dead Redemption, for example, didn’t have the visual polish or even one of its signature pieces of music until the months leading to its release.

The big picture: The digital nature of video games make them highly susceptible to leaks, though footage tends to leak closer to release, once it's in the hands of outside testers, influencers or people in the retail supply chain.

  • In April 2020, footage of a near-final version of the highly anticipated The Last of Us Part II leaked due to a hack just two months before that game’s release.
  • Reacting to Sunday’s GTA VI leak, The Last of Us Part II's creative director, Neil Druckmann 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. Keep pushing. Keep making art."

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