Was the GTA VI trailer’s hype overshadowed by leaks?

A bar graph for the breast cancer rates among women of different ethnicities.

Rockstar Games’ GTA VI has had a hard time dealing with hacks and leaks, and it raises questions about how it might have affected the game’s development and initial reception.

Photo: Rockstar Games

Published on Dec 7, 2023

Back in September last year, a person going by the alias Teapotuberhacker spilled 90 videos of Grand Theft Auto VI on the GTA Forums — developmental builds that showed unpolished gameplay and the supposed protagonist. The leak confirmed the series’ return to Vice City, as well as a female protagonist called “Lucia”, both of which were confirmed to be true with the recent trailer reveal. Officials at Rockstar Games later confirmed the unprecedented leak to be true, expressing extreme disappointment yet stating that this would not affect the long-term development of the game.

After months of speculation, a report from Bloomberg suggested that the trailer for GTA VI could be released as soon as next month — a report that was later confirmed by Rockstar Games president Sam Houser. However, untimely disaster struck the company once again, as a grainy GTA VI trailer was leaked online just 24 hours before Rockstar Games meant to reveal the real thing. The company had just one response: dropping the trailer earlier than planned.

A leaker looking to negotiate a deal with a video game developer can be a nightmare — overwhelming devs while threatening to affect the legacy of something that has tirelessly been worked upon for years. Just a couple of months before The Last of Us Part II’s release, footage of a near-final version of the highly anticipated sequel was leaked. Being re-uploaded all over, the footage revealed pivotal plot points like Joel’s role in the game and Ellie’s relationship with Dina — a moment that developer Naughty Dog described as “incredibly difficult.” The recent God of War title experienced similar leaks, and Pokémon essentially has its entire Pokédex revealed before the game ever becomes available.

The digital nature of video games makes leaks seem like an eventuality, and being one of the most successful video game franchises doesn’t help either. Rockstar is famously secretive about its projects — only acknowledging the development of GTA VI in February 2022, nearly ten years after GTA V came out. Such secrecy can work wonders for creating hype when even a logo reveal can generate millions of retweets and garner multiple reaction videos. The trailer for GTA VI broke several records, notably becoming the most-viewed video game trailer in 24 hours. But you are bound to ponder upon what could’ve been.

Similarly, leaks can be expected to have an effect that compromises the development of such projects — development continues behind closed doors, access to the press is restricted or cut off completely, and developers simply avoid taking major risks. Reports of internal leaks due to discontent or anger can have studios turn upon themselves, a situation just waiting to implode.

These leaks also serve as a reminder of how cybercriminals are targeting the booming gaming industry — and how they can be a privacy minefield.