Hi, how was 2022? Probably better than Rockstars. The studio was the subject of one of the biggest leaks in video game history in September, setting the internet on fire and giving us all our first, unauthorized glimpse of Grand Theft Auto 6 (opens in a new tab). Then again, the company also continued to pull in hundreds of millions of dollars from GTA Online (opens in a new tab) alone, so that probably softened the blow a bit.
It was a wild ride. After Rockstar talked about GTA 6 in a blog post in February (opens in a new tab) confirming “that active development for the next entry in the Grand Theft Auto franchise is well under way,” the studio returned to its characteristic silence regarding future projects. That is, until one brisk day in mid-September saw a flurry of videos and screenshots of the next game spread across GTAForums (opens in a new tab) as if the GTA 6 computer car had overturned on the highway.
Since then, it’s only gotten weirder and bigger. We’re talking about international black-hat hacking networks, a criminal investigation by British police and the FBI, and the eventual arrest of an alleged teenage hacker.
Wait, what happened?
First, let’s lay the groundwork for what actually took place and what we learned from it. On September 19, a user named teapotuberhacker dumped a treasure trove of GTA 6 materials on the GTAForum fan page. A total of 90 videos – some lasting seconds, some running for minutes – the leak appeared irrefutably legit to anyone watching, and any lingering doubts were put to rest when Rockstar came out and confirmed it had suffered a “network intrusion”. (opens in a new tab)“.
Teapotuberhacker also claimed to be the culprit behind the hack of Uber on September 15 (opens in a new tab), where an attacker gained administrative access to Uber’s entire network. Uber said it suspected it had been attacked by someone affiliated with the hacking group Lapsus$, an international hacking group that had previously targeted the likes of Nvidia and Microsoft. Lapsus$ had already been in the news once before in 2022, when a 16-year-old in the UK was accused of being one of the leaders. (opens in a new tab).
So far, so Zero Cool (opens in a new tab). But instead of a cinematic, Holmes-and-Moriarty-esque war of wits between police and villains, the story came to an anticlimax a few days later. The FBI got involved, and in an investigation carried out together with the City of London police, a 17-year-old in Oxfordshire in the UK was arrested just days after the leak took place. He denied one count of computer misuse (opens in a new tab) but pleaded guilty to breaching an earlier set of bail conditions. It’s been pretty quiet since then.
And that’s… pretty much where we are at the end of the year: A teenager in a juvenile detention center, countless videos of a game that won’t see the light of day for years floating around the internet, and the nagging possibility that someone , somewhere out there, may have access to GTA 5 and 6 source code, which has likely generated no end of sleepless nights for Rockstar engineers.
What did we learn? That GTA 6 will be a lot like GTA 5 (which was a lot like GTA 4, which … you get the idea). It will probably be played in Vice City. There will be crimes, the police will be sent to stop the crimes, the action will take place from a third-person perspective, and in the background of it all, NPCs will say crazy and outrageous things much like they have in GTA games for the last 20 years .
Probably the only new we did lore is that GTA 6 will likely feature at least two protagonists, one of whom – a Latina woman named Lucia – will be the single-player game’s first playable female protagonist since GTA 2 on the Game Boy Color.
It’s pretty nice, but I’m not sure it’s nice in prison.
Nobody wins (hey, I’m nobody)
If you’re trying to figure out who’s coming out ahead in all of this, which for some reason I am, it’s tempting to point the finger at the fans. After all, those who were most excited about GTA 6 got a brief, tantalizing look at the game well in advance. What’s not to like?
Well, the fact that it’s an early and dilapidated mess, pretty much. Whatever GTA 6 ends up being, it will only vaguely resemble the strange videos – awash in placeholder text and recycled assets – that we saw back in September. I’m all for tearing up the absurd confusion that surrounds game development: by all means, let the fans see what it’s like to make a game from day one, but not like this. Dumping a wealth of contextless early footage on the internet is confusing and discouraging, not educational, and will only make Rockstar guard their secrets more jealously.
Neither did the hacker(s) win. If the true culprit isn’t the teenager picked up by British police, then it’s probably only a matter of time before they’re caught, painting a target on the back of international law enforcement to reveal to the world that GTA is having a woman in it doesn’t feel like a particularly glorious act of martyrdom to me.
But it’s a feeling I can’t shake. you know who got a lot out of this? Me. And video game news everywhere, to be exact. We got game history in motion: a rapidly evolving and complex story to really sink our teeth into. It became, for a week or two, very easy to choose which story to focus on when I got to work: The one with its own Wikipedia- page (opens in a new tab).
That’s the awful truth, I’m afraid. The fans didn’t profit, hackers didn’t profit, and Rockstar certainly didn’t profit. But I? I could throw an arrow and hit something worth writing about. I sent emails, pored over PDFs, and filled enough Google Docs to make up a short story. Through all this nonsense, I’m pretty sure that’s the closest anyone got to anything positive. So thanks, hackers, I condemn you in the strongest possible terms.