A 17-year-old boy has officially been arrested for hacking into Rockstar Games’ system and sharing development footage of Grand Theft Auto 6 with the rest of the gaming world. This whole saga may have opened up a new can of worms for the seasoned game developers.
Leaks and Geeks
When The Last of Us Part II came out in June 2020, there were few surprises left. Hackers exposed key elements of the game’s plot. This represented failure for Naughty Dog, the game’s developer, who had gone to great lengths to shroud narrative details in mystery. That game went on to be a huge success, smashing sales records and winning awards across the board. The leaks certainly didn’t seem to harm the game’s critical or commercial success. There was a fan base divided of course and the leaks undeniably signaled the start of the game’s poisonous discourse.
The Last of Us Part II leaks were probably the worst-case scenario in terms of video game leaks. Yet, the latest sensationalist story in the world of video game leaks may push that saga close. Indeed, this week a 17-year-old hacker was arrested in relation to the publication of the leaks. The irony of this will surely not be lost on Rockstar. The accused’s actions are a drop in the ocean compared to Trevor Phillips’ rap sheet. But the embarrassment associated with going toe-to-toe with a child in a court of law will be the least of Rockstar’s problems.
Why Are The Fans Hating?
A vocal section of the GTA fanbase (an impossibly big group given that the game is the most commercially successful ever produced) has expressed deep concerns about the unreleased game’s quality. Expectations are high for this game, with many debating how the game will look for a number of years. This is understandable given that GTA V is the second-most commercially successful video game ever made, racking up sales of over 160 million copies as of 2022. There have been reservations about the graphical fidelity of the new game for one. In its current state of development, the graphics look below the standard one might expect from a next-gen console. Some fans are under the impression that the ill-will stemming from the leaked footage will be justified (see below).
The footage also gave fans firsthand experience of gameplay involving a female protagonist. This has been a controversial topic since a Bloomberg report confirmed this much-rumored detail to be a reality. The discourse has been raging since July (see below) but this has once more stoked the flames of that particular fire. The danger Rockstar may now face is that the discourse grows wildly out of control, just as it did in 2020 before The Last of Us Part II’s release. As can be seen below, divisions along this socio-political fault line seem to be forming.
Is There A Positive Spin?
Yes, potentially. There has been an outpouring of support for Rockstar and the artists behind its development. This has mostly come in the form of Tweets from other developers who have provided evidence that early development footage is rarely pretty.
The leaks do appear to have resulted in an opportunity for education when it comes to the process of video game development which cannot be a bad thing. Hopefully, this kind of knowledge will lead to an understanding of the difficulty of the development process among fans. Adjustment in expectations is important, particularly for Rockstar which are taking steps to address the controversy surrounding crunch. The new game has been developed over a longer period of time and the developers are being given time to perfect it at their own pace. Any revelation that aids this, including insights into the process of game development, is therefore probably positive for the industry.