The gaming community awoke the morning of September 18 to an unprecedented leak concerning the upcoming Grand Theft Auto 6. The now-confirmed leak contains more than 90 videos of the still-in-development title. Despite reassurances from Rockstar Games, this leak will likely have a significant impact on the production going forward. Beyond a potential release date delay, this leak will affect the Rockstar Games' employees and their freedom regarding how they work.
Why a delay is likely — The GTA 6 leaker claims to have gained access to the source code of the current build of the long-awaited sequel. That could present a major security risk for players — and it isn’t an easy fix.
“When code goes live, there's usually substantial obfuscation and encryption around the actual code that runs the software. Peeling back the layers to see how games and software works from that entry point is relatively difficult to do,” explains a game developer who goes by the handle GrunkleGrok on Twitter. “The source code is a different matter. If you can see every line of code, every API and Database queries, how the code interacts line by line, how the CHEAT ENGINE detects people attempting to exploit, you know exactly how to get around it.”
What does this mean for Grand Theft Auto 6? There’s a good chance it could mean a significant delay. As a Ubisoft developer speculates, the need to rework so much from the ground up could push the release closer to the end of the decade, with this leak accounting for nearly two years' worth of work in itself.
Rockstar released a statement assuring fans that they, “do not anticipate any disruption to our live game services nor any long-term effect on the development of our ongoing projects.”
This is what anxious gamers want to hear right now. But it may be unrealistic given the extent of the leak and the general consensus on how this will affect production.
How the leak affects workplace culture — The last two years created a lot of problems that game development had to find solutions for. Working on a big-budget video game isn’t all that easy to do from home, for technical and security reasons. But WFH has become a more viable option for some game developers. It also came with added benefits, namely a push for better work-life balance in an industry notorious for crunch culture.
However, breaches like this give companies an opportunity to push workers back into the office. In a tweet from September 18, Bloomberg journalist Jason Schreier observes that the running theory at Rockstar is that, “their Slack was compromised, and their Slack wouldn't have had so many work-in-progress files if not for remote work.”
This would not be the first high-profile leak that could be attributed to WFH vulnerabilities. Just months before the release of The Last of Us Part 2, a major leak revealed much of the game’s plot. While Naughty Dog never outright confirmed the cause of the leak, multiple outlets reported it was due to a hack, which was corroborated by company employees.
According to Schreier, Rockstar employees are concerned about how this recent leak will affect remote work. As the developer works to rehabilitate its image and support more sustainable working conditions, the security issues raised by the leak could lead to a backstepping into Rockstar's more toxic work environment.
The immediate fallout is just the beginning. But as Schreier writes, “The repercussions of this leak might not be clear for quite a while.”