Let’s try to understand the extent of the GTA 6 material theft case and the risks it poses to the entire video game industry.
There are no cases like that of the theft of GTA 6 material in the history of video games, at least in size and importance. There have actually been many data thefts in the past (how can we forget that of the Half-Life 2 source code?), As well as leaks have never been lacking, so much so that they have become the daily bread of the sector. However, the fact that what is presumably the most awaited game ever by the masses was hit, following that GTA V capable of selling almost two hundred million copies, remaining uninterruptedly in the top 10 around the world for almost ten years, makes the fact particularly problematic, as could the consequences for the industry as a whole.
So let’s go back to the case of the theft of GTA 6 crafting materialtrying to understand the possible effects.
Rockstar Games earthquake
First, let’s briefly reconstruct the known facts: between Saturday 17 September and Sunday 18 September 2022, ninety videos of GTA 6 processing were published online, stolen from a hacker after gaining access to the Slack account (messaging software with features specifically dedicated to teamwork) of a Rockstar Games employee. At the time of writing this article, investigations into the identity of the hacker and the modalities of the intrusion are still ongoing. For now it seems that the theft was done for extortion purposes, that is, the hacker tried to blackmail Rockstar Games by threatening the publication, as well as videos, also of the source code of GTA 5 and GTA 6.
The stolen material, despite the absence of official statements, immediately appeared authentic, albeit very old, due to the amount of detail contained in the videos. The confirmations, however, came a few hours later from Rockstar Games itself, which publicly denounced the theft. The videos of them have verified several leaks from the past few years, namely that GTA 6 will be set in Vice City and that there will be at least one playable female character for the first time in the series.
Take-Two immediately began identifying forums and sites that posted the material, strongly demanding that it be removed. It will hardly be able to completely remove it from the network, but in the meantime it is trying to marginalize the damage, removing it from the most visible virtual places.
The software house has published an official press release, to explain the matter to the players, but above all to the shareholders of Take-Two, which should be reread:
“We recently experienced an intrusion into our network by an unauthorized third party who illegally accessed and downloaded confidential material from our systems, including development footage of the upcoming Grand Thef Auto. We do not currently plan to discontinue any of our gaming services nor will this have any long-term effect on the development of our ongoing projects.
We are extremely disappointed that the details of our next game have been shared with all of you in this way. Our work on the next game in the Grand Theft Auto series will continue as scheduled and we remain committed to providing you, our players, with an experience that truly exceeds your expectations. We will update you soon and, of course, we will correctly present this project to you when it is ready. We want to thank everyone for their continued support through this situation.“The message is important and should be read in the light not so much of the online comments on the stolen material, in which however many gamers, influencers and journalists have shown great immaturity, but rather that of reassuring the stock exchanges on the state of work, bags that have reacted in any case. initially very bad for the situation, making Take-Two, the publisher of Rockstar Games, lose 6%. After the publication of the press release of reassurance, the title regained its share, a sign that the goal was achieved, at least in the short period.
Why did Rockstar Games confirm the theft when it has never bothered to publicly confirm or deny the leaks in the past? The launch of a game like GTA 6 (or whatever it will be called, as the official name has not yet been revealed) is essential for the financial health of Rockstar Games and Take-Two, so much so that during the meetings with shareholders and investors there is never a lack of questions on the state of play. Leaving the sector uncertain could have had disastrous consequences, so, in this case, it was necessary to take a stand officially.
For now, there is no official launch date for GTA 6, but there is constant talk of 2024. Many have wondered if the theft of the material will create delays. In reality it is not said, unless new safety measures are implemented such as to stop the works for some time. There will certainly be some jolt in production, but its magnitude is not yet clear. The most obvious risks are other and no less serious, especially for the relationship between developers and gamers, but also for the working conditions in software houses.
Faced with such a case, the entire industry could contract even more than it has already done in the past few years, making pre-marketing communication even more sparse. It is well known that developers tremble at the very idea of opening up to gamers because their every word can be misunderstood by contemptuous hordes, who can’t wait to strike up controversy about anything, talking about topics they don’t understand, incited by those who have everything. interest in letting them bait in controversies. The comments to the GTA 6 videos have, unfortunately, confirmed this trend. Although they date back to 2017 and although they show some processing material, many have used them to express tranchant judgments on the game, commenting as if those videos were the mirror of the final version. The damage is relative to the importance of the title, but it confirms the inability of many gamers to dialogue with the professionals, if not in a toxic and often offensive way. It also confirms why the teams always hope to be able to show their works in the best possible conditions, in order to avoid certain attacks.
The most likely result will be the confirmation of the goodness of the policy implemented by the major software houses of exclusion of the members of the development teams from the public debate, apart from some prominent elements, which will probably be exacerbated. Too bad, because instead this could be an excellent opportunity to understand how video game development works in such large teams and to find out what a game in progress looks like, beyond the filters of official communication.
Another big danger is the possible reduced flexibility of working from home, or smart working to put it in a more fashionable expression. The risks associated with having employees manage confidential data remotely were already known, but such a fact will fuel the fears of skeptics, who now have a particularly pointed arrow in their bow. The theft of material will not stop, but working conditions could deteriorate in many studios, not just Rockstar Games.
It should be specified that for now these are only hypotheses, because the real effects of the theft will manifest themselves above all in the medium and long term. To find out what will happen, all that remains is to see.