The Epic Games Store went offline on Thursday morning as users anticipating the launch of Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto 5 for free on the platform overloaded its servers. News of the game’s free release leaked early on Wednesday on the Epic Games Store Twitter account.
The website and launcher both went down just before 11 a.m. EDT, when the Premium Edition of the game for Windows PC was scheduled to go live. “We are currently experiencing high traffic on the Epic Games Store,” Epic Games said on Twitter.
“We are aware that users may be encountering slow loading times, 500 errors, or launcher crashing at this time and we are actively working to scale. We’ll provide an update as soon as we can.”
Reached for comment, an Epic Games representative pointed Polygon back to the original Twitter post. The high traffic appears to have also knocked the Fortnite servers offline, with issues impacting “Launcher logins and in-game purchases,” according to a tweet from the Fortnite Status account.
Despite being six and a half years old, GTA 5 is clearly still popular. It goes beyond just the game being available for free, too: 2019 was one of Rockstar Games’ best sales years for GTA 5. GTA 5 was initially released in September 2013 on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and again in 2014 on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. In 2015, it came to Windows PC. With the PC launch, the game found a new audience with the modding scene and in Grand Theft Auto Online. The game’s popularity on Twitch ballooned in the past year with role-playing servers in GTA Online.
GTA Online’s influence extended beyond its own servers recently, when an in-game war between green and purple aliens took over YouTube and TikTok. GTA 5’s online communities are wonderfully weird (though sometimes terrible) and it’s no wonder folks are eager to dive into them.
We’ll update this post when the servers have stabilized and the game’s officially available.