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Rockstar Games and GTA 6: an unprecedented global hype

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François Genette

News addict, geek culture fan, digital tech aficionado and hardcore gamer, François Genette is passionate about everything related to digital. A journalist for nearly 15 years in the major national and local media, he now uses his pen to share his discoveries from the worlds he loves.

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Unless you live in a cave (or you are totally disconnected from current affairs), it is impossible to be unaware of the incredible breaking wave unleashed by the disclosure of the first teaser for Grand Theft Auto 6, developed by the Rockstar Games studio. The announcement, methodically scheduled initially, has been catapulted across the ensemble of the global internet media earlier than planned.

The date and time of December 5, 15.00, had been written in red on the calendars of the hundreds of millions of fans of the GTA franchise. Ten years after the release of GTA 5, the new iconic Rockstar licence game had been kindling disproportionate expectations, to the point of overshadowing the rest of the news concerning the video game industry, which was nevertheless full to the brim with many other items.

But whilst the fated moment was drawing nearer, an event occurred which threw a spanner into the mechanics of this shrewdly orchestrated communication. A mysterious Twitter account, @gta6trailerleak, played the killjoy by prematurely posting the trailer. Behind the pseudonym, the son of one of the employees of the New York studio, who took advantage of the fact that his father was in possession of an unfinished version of the game to use his smartphone to make a film and post the video on TikTok.

Whilst such a move is damaging for any studio launching a game, in this instance it has taken on unprecedented magnitude, becoming the No. 1 trend on all of the global social networks and feeding thousands of fan theories, and above all obliging Rockstar to release its trailer in a mad rush to avoid losing total control of its communication. 

GTA, from a satirical video game to a global phenomenon

To explain the scale of the event, let us, first of all, return to what GTA is. As you will have read, it is the acronym for ‘Grand Theft Auto’. As its title indicates, GTA gives you the possibility of being in a(n American) city whose size little by little increases as the episodes succeed one another. In it you personify a young delinquent (or several of them) involved in an extraordinary and scripted story which leads them to visit all four corners of the metropolis and to carry out various missions, often in a criminal setting. And to succeed in them, you can pretty much do as you like, including committing carjackings, shooting at police officers or crushing passers-by in your vehicle.

From its first opus up until the present day, the game has obviously led to extensive media coverage and triggered numerous debates, with some considering it to have an extremely harmful influence on young people.

However, the enthusiasm around the franchise has only grown exponentially, and the game has been widely acclaimed by a significant proportion of the specialised press, but also by a fringe of the cultural world which sees in it an extraordinary satire of society.

A good deal more than a simple video-gaming creation

The hype around the series is for a large part down to the studio which develops GTA, Rockstar Games. Over the decades and the various iterations of the franchise, it has succeeded in sculpting an indelible legacy in erecting virtual cities which are unbelievably detailed and teeming with features and with life, offering the gamer a moment which transcends simple entertainment.

But more so than that, it is Rockstar’s ability to capture the essence of contemporary culture and to offer a satirical version of our society which delights so many people. Because GTA also means an incredibly rich cultural impact, ubiquitous references to music, cinema and even politics, turning each announcement of a new opus into a cultural event.

Permanent technological revolution

Another aspect which leads to each new GTA becoming a major news item for every gamer the world over is the astonishing technological and visual evolution offered by each new opus. It is very simple, each new game is a genuine technological showcase which renders the previous version totally obsolete. From the views from above of the first GTAs to the open and immersive worlds of GTA V, Rockstar manages to constantly rethink the ways we, the gamers, experience and interact with their creations.

On each occasion, it is an ever-vaster world which is offered, more complex characters and a narrative which transcends the borders of the conventional. But above all it is the level of realism and aestheticism of the world offered by Rockstar which impresses. The studio always manages to surprise and to exceed expectations despite the pressure of the fans.

And GTA 6 is no exception. The first images provide glimpses of the details of an insane realism, from reflections of the rain on the pavements to the characters’ facial expressions. This technical evolution, paired with the power of the new consoles, opens the way to an unprecedented immersive game experience.

A viral trailer for fans who have become obsessive

Let’s talk about the trailer for GTA 6. All by itself, it demonstrates Rockstar Games’ know-how. The 91 second sequence leaves nothing to chance. Each image is meticulously chosen and has within it graphical aspects which refer to the previous opuses or, on the contrary, nourish the craziest theories and speculations.

The social networks have thus played host to heated discussions, each person seeking to decipher the clues disseminated in the video. Some try to establish links between the characters shown, some zoom into the image to discover the phrases written on posters in the background, whilst others attempt to read the video backwards in the hope of discovering more about the storyline of the game which will be offered.

In short, a totally successful launch since, in less than 24h, the trailer had passed the symbolic barrier of 100 million views and positioned itself as the third most seen video in the history of the YouTube platform within a single day.

Controversies galore

The release of the first GTA VI trailer has sparked animated debate within the gamer community. Two distinct camps have formed, the one paying tribute to Rockstar’s impeccable use of satire, whilst the other has expressed concerns, in particular as regards the violence found in the game, the amorality of the actions which can potentially be carried out and the hypersexualisation of women.

This intense discussion has revealed the complexity of the balance between satire and controversy, highlighting the increasingly complicated challenge of creating a game which is simultaneously provocative and respectful of contemporary sensibilities.

An interminable wait and the inventiveness of the community

But what is doubtless the craziest thing about the launch of the first GTA 6 trailer is the temporality in which the latter has been placed online. In fact, the game will be released … only in 2025, that is to say over a full year after this first video.

As we have seen, this very premature launch has not eroded the passion for the future Rockstar Games blockbuster, quite the contrary. Then again, it has itself engendered viral reactions on the part of its community of fans. One of these is based on GTA 7, emerging from ironic jokes about the interminable wait between two opuses, or also the trend ‘do not die before GTA 6’, which, as its name indicates, stages fans showing a whole series of stratagems for staying alive until their favourite game comes out.

it just goes to show, that is also one of GTA’s miracle recipes: having a community capable of enough irony to wholeheartedly enjoy the work to come!

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