Take-Two Interactive, the company that owns Grand Theft Auto publishers and creators Rockstar Studios, appears to have made mention of the likely release window of the massively anticipated next game in the series, GTA 6.
Last night (17 May), the company gave an earnings calls in which CEO Strauss Zelnick stated that the Take-Two anticipates a significant year in fiscal 2025, a financial period which starts in April 2024. The goal is to "set new standards in our industry" with "several groundbreaking titles," he said.
In a press release published simultaneously with its annual results report, Take-Two provided predictions for its future, including an ambitious projection for the fiscal years 2025 and 2026.
"Looking ahead, Fiscal 2025 is a highly anticipated year for our Company," it said. "For the last several years, we have been preparing our business to release an incredibly robust pipeline of projects that we believe will take our company to even greater levels of success.
"In Fiscal 2025, we expect to enter this new era by launching several groundbreaking titles that we believe will set new standards in our industry and enable us to achieve over $8 billion in Net Bookings and over $1 billion in Adjusted Unrestricted Operating Cash Flow."
Grand Theft Auto is not specifically mentioned by Take-Two here, but it is difficult to picture any other franchise bringing in such massive returns for them. Grand Theft Auto V - first released 10 years ago in 2013 - is the best-selling single game of all time, and still routinely sells about five million units every quarter.
Rockstar acknowledged last year that GTA 6 is in the works but hasn't provided any official updates since then. The game made headlines late last year when more than 90 clips purporting to show gameplay from the upcoming video game were leaked and circulated on social media.
Among the clips were examples of in-game action, scenery, and characters, implying that the game may include the series’ first female protagonist and be set in Vice City, a parody version of Miami and the setting of an earlier game in the series from 2002.
The leaked footage represented one of the biggest leaks of information seen in the gaming industry for nearly 20 years when, in the early 00s, an unfinished version the long awaited Half-Life 2 was stolen by a hacker and leaked online. That leak damaged team morale and slowed development of a game which went on to be considered one of the greatest of all time.
What do we know so far?
In the video game industry, leaks of information and footage of upcoming titles are surprisingly common, but for in-development footage of such a blockbuster title as GTA 6 to find its way online is rare.
The added security and secrecy around such an anticipated title means for it to leave the closely guarded development studios or be obtained by hackers is extremely difficult.
Nevertheless, the footage in question was originally posted to the GTAForums website by user teapotuberhacker, who claimed to have gathered the files through employee communications.
Video game ‘leaks’ can often be elaborate hoaxes, sometimes nothing more than loving mock-ups created by fans as they await the next game in a beloved series.
But the 90 clips posted of GTA 6 seemed to be much more complex than your average fakery, and despite containing many placeholder graphics and text (the game is still very early in development after all) still looked much more polished than the average fan could manage.
Indeed, Rockstar Games (the multi-billion dollar studio behind the GTA franchise) eventually verified the legitimacy of the leaks, saying it is “extremely disappointed” after details of the next instalment in the series were revealed. On 19 September, it confirmed “an unauthorised third party” had accessed and downloaded details of the Grand Theft Auto sequel.
A statement from the team said: “We recently suffered a network intrusion in which an unauthorised third party illegally accessed and downloaded confidential information from our systems, including early development footage for the next Grand Theft Auto.”
What do the leaks reveal?
Aside from the setting, and the fact that the series may be getting its first playable female protagonist, the leaks don’t reveal all too much.
The development of blockbuster video games such as GTA 6 is a long and arduous process, and while Rockstar have not confirmed when the finished game might be released, many are speculating it won’t be until 2024 at the very earliest.
With the game still a couple of years off, it could be that the leaked clips simply showed test footage, early builds of the game used to trial and error new gameplay ideas and concepts before concrete decisions are made on the future of the game.
Many of the clips leaked featured on-screen texts, ‘debug’ code used by developers to visualise the complex computations needed to run and display a complex, graphically demanding game set in an open-world with all manner of variables.
Placeholder text was used in place of dialogue, locations are left unfinished. Though these leaks give tantalising glimpses at the next entry in one of the most popular video games series ever created, the footage on display is far from the complete product.
Even if we are seeing ‘locked in’ missions or gameplay, GTA 6 will likely go through hundreds of further iterations before Rockstar settles on the finished product.
That’s something worth remembering for the handful of fans complaining online that the game doesn’t look on par with their high expectations of Rockstar’s next release.
Not only is the footage taken from a very early build - meaning graphics and other visuals are far from finished, using placeholders in many instances - there is still years of work to be done to polish what we are seeing into the final game.
By the time GTA 6 is released officially, it likely won’t resemble this leaked footage much at all.
It will make an interesting comparison point, sure, and to the average gaming fan, this leak provides an intriguing peek behind the curtain, but we really shouldn’t read too much into it.
How will the leak affect the final game?
As mentioned, the infamous early-00s leak of Half-Life 2 demoralised studio staff working on the project, and led to an eventual release date delay of over a year. So could the same happen for Rockstar?
At this time, the studio is not anticipating any major impact on the finished game, and Rockstar said it does not anticipate “any disruption to our live game services nor any long-term effect on the development of our ongoing projects.
“We are extremely disappointed to have any details of our next game shared with you all in this way. Our work on the next Grand Theft Auto game will continue as planned and we remain as committed as ever to delivering an experience to you, our players, that truly exceeds your expectation.”
Could there be more GTA 6 leaks?
Teapotuberhacker - who originally obtained the leaked footage - has said they could leak more data, including Grand Theft Auto 5 and 6 source codes and assets, as well as a Grand Theft Auto 6 testing build.
Soon after the initial post on GTAForums, Teapotuberhacker posted again inviting staff at Rockstar, or parent company Take Two, to contact them.