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How the ‘Grand Theft Auto’ leak has divided companies and consumers

Hype, building interest or catching attention — no matter how you say it, it’s the main function of marketing. However, most companies don’t have control over the hype if their plans for a new project are leaked.

In the gaming industry, a leak occurs when announcements or contents from a game or project are made public before their official release date. Leaks can be carried out on a grand scale in the current era of globalized internet communication, emphasizing the need for companies to police themselves. While leaks don’t necessarily lead to automatic disaster for companies, they don’t exactly benefit them either.

On Sept. 22, a hacker suspected of leaking assets and videos of the next installment of Rockstar Games’ “Grand Theft Auto” series was arrested in the United Kingdom. The leak, which occurred on Sept. 18, is a recent addition to a history of compromised information in the video game industry, with other notable incidents including the 2020 Nintendo “Gigaleak” and the 2003 source code leak of “Half-Life 2.”

Even after the leak, “Half-Life 2” went on to generate heaps of user-created content that brought long-term interest and a swath of fans. They were influenced by developer and publisher Valve’s support of the community. At the time, the ever-growing PC gamer crowd was small. Since then, it has continued to reach new heights of popularity, with user-created content being a big contributor.

In regards to the fate of “Grand Theft Auto,” according to Rockstar’s own statements, the hacker has not created any long-term obstacles for the game’s development. 

Sympathy for the employees of these large video game studios has grown. Developers forcing long hours in a rush to complete games against the ticking clocks of release dates and potential leaks have placed them under massive amounts of stress.

All things considered, Rockstar does not face a threat to the game’s release and reception. Sure, it may influence future marketing and interviews, but won’t stop the game from being a huge event. 

The other side to this issue is how widespread leaks, cheating and digital piracy have grown in the industry. Anti-cheat software is used by some developers, but that decision comes with a controversy of its own, as the software diminishes performance in some cases. 

Consumers have complained about such measures, with Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology being seen as a corporate move to enforce too much control over the games people own. Other companies let it be and leave the pirates to their devices; instead, they depend on loyal fans to keep their business afloat. 

Leaks can simultaneously jeopardize or aid a company’s product or image, depending on how the situations are managed and how consumers respond.

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