Rockstar Games, the developers behind the incredibly popular Grand Theft Auto franchise, have told staff that they are expected to be in the office five days per week starting in April, reports Bloomberg.

A subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive, Rockstar announced in November 2023 that Grand Theft Auto 6 was on its way, though leaks as far back as September 2022 had all but confirmed that the game was in development.

It’s the threat of leaks along with the need for productivity and focus that have resulted in this decision by Rockstar. In an email to staff Jenn Kolbe, Rockstar’s Head of Publishing, cited security and productivity as the key factors. “Making these changes now puts us in the best position to deliver the next Grand Theft Auto at the level of quality and polish we know it requires, along with a publishing roadmap that matches the scale and ambition of the game,” said Kolbe in the email.

In addition to these earlier leaks, the Grand Theft Auto 6 trailer was leaked just days before the official trailer launch date. This resulted in some disappointment from Rockstar but didn’t harm the launch – people loved the trailer. It was found that a British teenager performed the trailer leak from a hotel room.

Rockstar Games’s Culture of Crunch

While a desire to prevent further leaks in the last phase of development is an understandable one, some eyebrows will be raised at the second part of the reasoning – “productivity”. The topic of working from home versus in-office is a contentious one, and often split on managerial lines, with workers saying they get more done at home and managers saying they see higher productivity when people are in offices. It is undeniably much harder to enforce crunch (compulsory overtime) when people are working from home.

Rockstar is notorious for crunch, and staff were regularly working over 100 hours per week in the run-up to Red Dead Redemption 2’s launch. With the games industry in an incredibly volatile state (studio after studio announcing mass layoffs and game cancellations), it becomes much easier to manipulate those who have stayed employed into tolerating harsh working conditions.

A pervasive fear that it could be your studio and your job next in line will lead to developers doing more for less, and with their stated focus on “productivity,” it’s hard not to see this as a euphemism that Rockstar is hiding behind to ensure Grand Theft Auto 6 meets its planned release window.

Rockstar Games has offices in the USA, UK and India. It is unclear if the work-from-office mandate applies to all staff.

A UK-based Rockstar Games employee, who did not want to be named, told “People are speculating that it’s a soft mass layoff” and “by making conditions worse” people will quit “so there wouldn’t be any severance.”

Rockstar Games have been approached for comment.

Featured image credit: Rockstar Games

Ali Rees

Freelance journalist

Ali Rees is a freelance writer based in the UK. They have worked as a data and analytics consultant, a software tester, and a digital marketing and SEO specialist.

They have been a keen gamer and tech enthusiast since their childhood in are currently the Gaming and Tech editor at Brig Newspaper. They also have a Substack where they review short video games.
During the pandemic, Ali turned their hand to live streaming and is a fan of Twitch. When not writing, Ali enjoys playing video and board games, live music, and reading. They have two cats and both of them are idiots.

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