After months of mostly silence, the Grand Theft Auto fan base was shaken by a compelling piece of evidence that lent some credence to an allegedly leaked GTA 6 map that was written off as bogus almost to years ago.
While Rockstar Games has yet to confirm GTA 6 is even in development, the long-awaited follow-up to GTA 5 is reportedly in the "early development" stages and remains one of the most hotly anticipated titles in memory over the past few years. Unconfirmed yet widely circulated rumors such as the so-called "Project Americas" leaks have fanned speculative the flames around the chatter that Rockstar is planning on setting GTA 6 in Vice City.
On October 9, an image of an island was posted anonymously to the 4chan forum and subsequently peddled as the latest GTA 6 map leak. The image gave fans virtually nothing to work with until a few Rockstar fans, like GTAForums user Arthur Bell, noticed that the island looked shockingly similar to a portion of a previous post claiming to have leaked the early map design of GTA 6.
Back in December 2018, a series of alleged GTA 6 map leaks with unknown origins began circulating online that were almost immediately called out as false because of how crude they seemed, as if anybody could make them using half-baked software.
One of these images included an island in its lower-right corner that was nothing more than a few paint splotches back in 2018. But that could have been a place holder for the more detailed landmass that was posted in the October 4chan post.
Could this 4chan island be an updated version of the map GTA fans cast aside as fake in 2018?
Arthur Bell laid out a compelling argument that this could very well be the case, but keep in mind, someone could have easily designed the 4chan island to look like the 2018 posts on purpose just to spark rumors.
The GTA fan compared the 2018 map to satellite images of Miami to verify that the post wasn't a copy and paste job done using Google Maps. While the map was clearly inspired by Miami, it appeared to be a recreation of the city and not a clone — which is more or less the approach Rockstar Games took to recreating an alternate version of Los Angeles for GTA 5.
Next, they spotted what seemed to be a landing strip for an airport in 2018 which they then compared to the scale of the Los Santos International Airport as it's seen in the GTA 5 map.
They found that most of the map fit Rockstar's scaling of Los Santos, which suggests that the 2018 leaks would have been company mockups of the GTA 6 map.
"The Mainland is about 5-7 [kilometers] long from West to East, expanding as it goes north," wrote Arthur Bull. "When comparing it to the GTA 5 map, I believe it’s a similar set. If we’re to believe that Rockstar Games continues building on their scale, then we may have evidence that this is a legitimate map."
But could this all be one giant stretch?
The Inverse Analysis — Until Rockstar reveals anything concrete about GTA 6, it is impossible to say for sure whether or not these images are legitimate or if it's an internet troll stringing fans along for fun. But Rockstar's early designs for the Red Dead Redemption 2 map did leak ahead of the Western's release in 2018, which is why fans don't want to rule these alleged leaks out just yet.
A prototype map for RDR2 that turned out to the real deal was leaked on the NeoGAF forums two years before the game's launch.
So could the same thing have happened to GTA 6?
For one, the map drafting process in all of these alleged GTA 6 leaks seem to be far cruder than the regionally-divided and annotated mockup of RDR2's map. It could be that the game is still in the very early stages of development and Rockstar is working on making a color-coded version of it right now.
But until a more substantive leak or an announcement from Rockstar, it's difficult to say if GTA 6 will be the grand return to Vice City that gamers have been hoping for since 2018.
GTA 6 is reportedly in early development.