Unfinished sympathy

A grand theft.

I like to work on The Week in Games in piecemeal fashion. A lot of time goes into making it, so I like to add to it gradually throughout the week, slowly filling out the content ready for a final check and issue on Friday. Hopefully you’ll agree the finished product is something that is laid out sensibly and reads well. Something with a little bit of polish to it.

If you were to see The Week in Games on a Wednesday, that would most certainly not be the case. You’d find a half-written intro at best, news stories and links pasted randomly here and there, images with no context and out of date release dates.

Not good.

Sure, most people would understand that the newsletter doesn’t magically appear fully formed each Friday and was obviously sent out too early. But some would see a careless, nonsensical mess. Nobody wants that in their inbox, and unsubscriptions would follow. The newsletter was never meant to be seen in its unfinished ‘Wednesday state’, but the damage is done.

Rockstar’s upcoming Grand Theft Auto VI was leaked in its Wednesday state this week. As you’ve probably heard, some pesky so and so managed to swipe a large quantity of photos and videos from Rockstar’s servers and release them to the public. Which meant that within a few minutes, they were everywhere. Inevitably, the resulting cries of “it looks unfinished” and “the graphics are awful” were as quick as they were vicious.

To be clear, the cries weren’t wrong – the game does look unfinished. But guess what? That’s because it is unfinished. The reason Rockstar hasn’t shown GTA VI yet is really rather simple; GTA VI isn’t ready to be seen yet.

Fellow devs such as Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann (who has experience in this field after devastatingly spoleriffic cutscenes for The Last of Us Part II leaked online before the game’s release) were quick to offer their sympathies. Many even released work-in-progress footage of their own games in a show of solidarity.

Thoughts go out to the Rockstar devs whose hard work was released out of context and in an unpolished state. But let’s be honest, GTA VI is going to be okay. Just as The Last of Us 2 was okay despite far more damaging, story-ruining leaks. The hype train for the biggest name in gaming is hardly going to be derailed by pretty uneventful footage leaking a year or two early.

One thing that’s for sure, however, is the reaction to this leak (alongside this week’s unrelated outing of a high-profile online leaker) certainly isn’t going help the already-strained relationship between eager, opinionated fans and a traditionally secretive industry. As much as we might clamour for early footage of our next favourite games, this week has shown that, collectively, we simply aren’t ready to see it.

I’m sure most people reading this know how games work, and would love for developers to pull back the curtain and give us a glimpse behind the scenes at their in-development projects. But trust and understanding has to go both ways, and with that unlikely to come from the vocal online community any time soon, those curtains are likely to remain firmly closed.

This article is an extract from The Week in Games newsletter.

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