How this YouTuber pulled off the elaborate GTA 6 fake announcement

(Image credit: Joe Designs)

Rockstar Games hasn't officially announced GTA 6 is in the works but, with a new console generation on the horizon and Red Dead Redemption 2 out of the way, we're expecting a new Grand Theft Auto game to be in the pipeline - we just don't know when we'll see it. 

There's been heaps of rumors and leaks about GTA 6 over the past few years, but hype is now at a fever pitch as we rocket towards the PS5 and Xbox Series X's release, with some expecting Rockstar to announce the next GTA sometime in 2020. 

However, there's not been a peep from the developer, and fans are getting pretty desperate for information. Which led to one group of pranksters putting together an elaborate April Fool's Day plan: fake the GTA 6 announcement.

Now there have been plenty of unlikely leaks, rumors and countdowns surrounding GTA 6 - we've even debunked some of them to stop fans getting their hopes up. But few GTA 6 hoaxes see such planning as that of Joe Designs and his cohorts, who faked a GTA 6 logo, teaser trailer and announcement stream - all for April Fool's Day. 

Editor's Note: TechRadar does not condone Joe Designs actions. This piece aims to show that you can't always believe every leak and rumor you see on the internet. We at TechRadar aim to provide authority when it comes to leaks and rumors, but treat all speculation with scepticism. 

Putting the plan together

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

GTA fans were originally expecting an announcement for GTA 6 to take place on March 21, with a trailer expected to drop on March 25. 

As we pointed out at the time, this was highly unlikely given that Rockstar Games hadn't teased anything itself or made any official statement that an announcement was coming. And, as expected, those dates passed with no announcement made. 

However, with GTA 6 hype at a fever-pitch, Joe O'Shea (aka Joe Designs) and his friends decided that now was as good as any to roll out an elaborate fake GTA announcement that they had been considering for a few months. 

"I think even for us, it started out quite small initially, and then we kept throwing ideas in. And then it grew."

Joe's friend Zach has a penchant for grabbing old, inactive usernames on sites and handing them over to other people. It just so happened that, a few months prior to the prank, Zach got his hands on the GTAVI username on Twitch. This sparked an idea, where Zach wanted to create a logo for GTA 6 to trick people into thinking an announcement was on the way.

"If you're going to try and fool people, the most realistic thing Rockstar would do in that situation would not be a logo on a black screen with a rubbish countdown," Joe O'Shead explains to TechRadar. "They would big it up."

Zach contacted Joe, who does freelance graphic design for YouTubers, and asked him to create a logo. Within 15 minutes Joe had created the logo you see above, but they wanted to take it that step further.

"In my head I was thinking 'yeah, I can do you a logo - but I could do a lot more than just a logo'," Joe tells TechRadar. "If we did a little bit more, there's a chance that this could take off as a good April Fool's joke.

"I think even for us, it started out quite small initially, and then we kept throwing ideas in. And then it grew."

The plan turned into a fully formed idea: they would set up a 24 hour Twitch stream counting down to their fake GTA 6 announcement, complete with a teaser trailer to really get fans excited.

The stream went live on March 28, and was ran by another friend, Ryan, who had a PC capable of running a 24 hour Twitch stream. 

Obvious signs

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

There were several points where Joe didn't think the plan would work. After all, the logo had been designed in 15 minutes and included a fake skyline he found online and a blacked out image of Jason Statham. The music playing in the background of the stream was also from GTA: Vice City - after all, some rumors suggest GTA 6 will be set in Miami.. 

There were plenty of clues but, according to Joe, few people picked up on them.

But that's not to say everyone believed the hoax, the majority of viewers clocked on straight away, but that didn't stop many from hoping that this could be the real deal. Nor did it stop 125,000 people viewing the stream.

"I don't think that the graphics were 100% convincing," Joe tells us. "The fact that there's so much hope probably adds to that and makes it a little bit more believable." 

The Twitch stream chat was torn between those who called it fake, and others defending the stream.

"I think people are so hopeful for a new game that they're willing to accept things a little bit more," Joe told us. "If they took a step back and asked themselves if it makes sense, they'd probably realize: it doesn't. They want the game so desperately that it's like a mild delusion."

Rumbled by Rockstar

(Image credit: Rockstar)

The plan was going better than the threesome had expected, with viewership improved by news outlets, and a popular YouTuber, covering the stream. This was further helped by the group sewing the seeds of the fake announcement stream in GTA forums and through social media.

But the question remained: what would they do when the countdown ended?

"Because there was three people: me, Zach and Ryan, there was a bit of a conflict of interest between what we were going to do," Joe tells us. "I was very much in the mindset that I wanted to keep it going forever, I wanted to keep it under wraps and never reveal it."

While some members of the group wanted to simply throw their names up on the screen when the countdown ended, Joe had another idea. He wanted to make another trailer, using remastered GTA: Vice City shots, which subtly cited Summer 2021 as the GTA 6's release window. 

But then Rockstar caught on to the stream and the jig was up - and reactions among the group differed.

"I think people are so hopeful for a new game that they're willing to accept things a little bit more."

"Zach was a bit taken back by it, he didn't expect it to go this far," Joe tells us. "I think he was half-happy and half-worried about the whole thing. Ryan didn't want anything to do with it anymore."

Joe was personally happy with the development, hoping that Rockstar being in stream would add authenticity, but Ryan wanted to pull the plug - primarily due to Rockstar's history of legal action. So, just two days after it went up, the GTA 6 fake announcement stream was taken down on March 30. Two days before April Fool's Day.

To try and prevent legal pursuit from Rockstar, the group released a statement on the stream which clarified that they are fans of the series and they had no malicious intentions with their joke. That didn't stop the community from theorizing that Rockstar had sent the group a cease and desist order.

"The truth is: no one has done anything," Joe explains. We still have the account and we could stream from it right now if we wanted to."

The reaction of the community to the group's joke was mixed: ranging from well-humored to death threats. Some even accused the group of using the prank for their own monetary gain, with the aim to gather subscribers, before selling the account on to someone else.

"If we wanted we could have used it maliciously," Joe tells TechRadar. "But I think because it was an April Fool's they're a bit more calm about it. But I think the minute we decided to do anything else with the stream, that would be taking the mick."

A lesson learned?

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

Joe and his cohorts never made it to their planned April Fool's unveiling, and they very nearly missed legal action from Rockstar Games, but the thing Joe has taken away most from the hoax is not to believe every leak and rumor you see. 

"It seems like something that happens once in a blue moon," Joe explains. "So the fact that we did it and it worked in the way that these things do makes me wonder what I'm reading online and if it's entirely true.

"Anyone can do it, regardless of their intentions. So, be a bit more aware."

But does Joe feel guilty about the fans that were the collateral damage in the prank?

"The intention was it was an April Fool's joke and my pride comes from the fact my work was to a standard that a game company could have done that logo," he tells us. "But obviously I do feel massively guilty for those people who were looking forward to it."

TechRadar contacted Rockstar Games for comment but received no response.

Joe created an video where he explains how the plan came together, which you can watch here

Vic Hood
Associate Editor, TechRadar Gaming

Vic is TechRadar Gaming's Associate Editor. An award-winning games journalist, Vic brings experience from IGN, Eurogamer and more to the TechRadar table. You may have even heard her on the radio or speaking on a panel. Not only is Vic passionate about games, but she's also an avid mental health advocate who has appeared on both panels and podcasts to discuss mental health awareness. Make sure to follow her on Twitter for more.