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Joe Donnelly

Did the GTA 6 leaks help or hinder Rockstar's long-awaited GTA 6 trailer reveal?


Like or loathe the fact GTA 6 will almost certainly dominate video game conversations between now and its expected 2025 release, I'm sure we can all agree on one thing: the crime sim series understands hype. 

This is a series, after all, whose earliest, most crudely-animated, top-down law-breaking fare was debated and dissected in the UK parliament and US senate. It has now courted controversy for over 26 years, and has been the driving force of misleading tabloid headlines since day one. In the face of the much-publicized response to the GTA 6 trailer from the real-world Florida Joker, I likewise reckon it's safe to say the next game will be no different from its predecessors. 

What makes the controversy surrounding GTA 6 so far a little different, however, is the fact Rockstar Games itself has faced its own unprecedented dramas on its side of the fence. For me, this begs the question: has Rockstar been as negatively impacted by its own misfortune as might be perceived? Or, to put that a different way: has Rockstar benefited from the negative attention it's accrued over the last 14 months? 

Leaky blinder

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)
(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

Welcome to Grand Theft Advent – a month-long celebration of Rockstar's enduring crime sim series. Be sure to check in on our GTA 6 coverage hub for more every day throughout December. 

The short answer is: who really knows? But we can, as always, speculate. The in-development leaks that surfaced from Rockstar last year – an unfortunate catalog of over 90 work-in-progress screens and short gameplay videos – were a huge blow to Rockstar at the time, I don't think that's up for debate. It set the imaginations of would-be players racing, while at the same time the roughness of the in-development content was bemoaned by a small but pretty vocal facet of the GTA community. 

Now that we've seen just how pretty GTA 6 in motion appears to be, I don't think the quality of the next Grand Theft Auto was ever in question; but Rockstar was still left with egg on its face and a point to prove whenever it was finally ready to officially show something from the next entry nevertheless. The stage was of course set for Tuesday, December 5 at 2pm UK/9am EST, before the developer took another embarrassing blow when its Tom Petty-scored GTA 6 trailer hit the internet the day before, in turn forcing Rockstar to push out its official moving pictures 15 hours early. 

I mentioned it in my favorite gaming moments of 2023 reflection feature, but I totally get why folk were disappointed with the way the GTA 6 trailer reached us – from fans of the series being forced to handle the fragmented order of the drop, to the devs who might have shared the moment together in-person – but I likewise found it really exciting all the same. The next morning, everywhere from STV (Scotland's national broadcaster) to the BBC, CNN, Sky News and many more filled their bulletins with news of the trailer and the leak; while just about every radio station I cycled through when dropping my kids off at school did the same. The nature of the GTA 6 trailer reveal was a global event that had everyone talking, which I'm sure had a direct bearing on just how many people flocked to Rockstar's official YouTube channel to watch the Vice City tease inside that first 24-hour period. 

(Image credit: Rockstar )

"I had actually written all of the above before the Insomniac Games breach of earlier this week, but, while not directly related to GTA 6 nor Rockstar, I feel it'd be remiss not to mention it here."

Like everyone else, I'm running on the assumption that none of this was planned. But given just how shrewd Rockstar is when it comes to hyping up its games, I don't think it's totally unreasonable to say there's at least an outside chance the trailer leak was intentional. I mean, I personally don't think it was, but again it comes back to: who really knows? Looking at the bigger picture – assuming the trailer leak wasn't planned and taking into consideration last year's in-progress leaks – I'm reminded of the old proverbial adage all publicity is good publicity simply because Rockstar has already put the leaks behind, it's shown off a remarkable concept trailer, and now has left the world waiting, at the very least a full year, to get its hands on GTA 6 proper. Unfortunate circumstances or not, Rockstar has come out the end of a pretty turbulent period unscathed and as ready to go as ever. 

Of course, a wider, wholly unsavory leaker/hacker culture appears to be gaining momentum more than ever before. I had actually written all of the above before the Insomniac Games breach of earlier this week, but, while not directly related to GTA 6 nor Rockstar, I feel it'd be remiss not to mention it here. For me, situations like this don't serve anyone well – certainly not the developers working tirelessly behind the scenes, but equally not us as customers and would-be players, as we're denied the opportunity to get excited when in-development games are showcased early and without warning. As a longstanding fan of Insomniac's games myself, I sincerely hope the studio bounces back in the same way it would appear Rockstar has under similarly extraneous circumstances. 

As for GTA 6, we will of course get some more preview trailers before its arrival in 2025. As for what the next trailer might show off – we don't know that either, but tune in to tomorrow's penultimate Grand Theft Advent entry for some (mis)educated guesswork. 

How many of the best games like GTA have you played? 

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