The awaited GTA VI , Cyberpunk 2077 , The Last of Us Part II , The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom , Street Fighter 6 and even Starfield. Many major games have already suffered from leaks this year.
If the expectation for a major launch in games is high, the chances of game leaks occurring even before an official announcement are huge. And, in recent years, this has become increasingly common in the industry.
Because the development process can be long and arduous, it’s not always easy to keep details secret. As a result, from time to time, someone drops something outside of the companies’ official channels to satisfy those eager for an update.
When everything was wild and games only existed on physical media, people turned to magazines looking for news. On the dial-up internet at the time, there were already leaked photos of these magazines in very low quality circulating around.
Today, the prints, gameplay videos, documents and even source codes with full games hitting forums, Twitter and YouTube before the official release. But how is this possible? How do companies let this happen?
How do game leaks occur?
From the moment that care is not taken by the game owners, the leak (or “leak” in English) reveals to the public information that was previously secret, ending the distributor’s power to control the game’s launch narrative. On top of that, rumors arise within the community about characters, history, etc.
Most leaks come from anonymous internal sources, such as disgruntled former employees. In some cases, details are also leaked by accident – for example, when an artist uploads concept art to their public profile instead of the publisher’s servers, or when an executive updates LinkedIn with confidential information.
But, at the top of the list, hackers are champions and the main responsible for large leaks. In September 2022, the Rockstar and the world saw 90 gameplay scenes , in addition to the supposed source code and various information about GTA 6 being shared by unofficial profiles. Making the case become one of the biggest in gaming history.
One of the most controversial figures in the gaming community is Axel Gembe. The 20-year-old German hacker managed to invade Valve’s computers in 2003 and release the source code of Half-Life 2 a year before launch.
In this game, the Valve It lost US$250 million (according to the police), but the game still sold an astronomical 8.6 million copies. Some time later, the young man sent an email to Gabe Newellassuming responsibility and asking the owner of Valve for a job, in exchange, he was sentenced to two years of conditional prison.
And there’s been everything, you know? Crysis 2 becoming, according to a Torrent Freak report, the most pirated game of 2011, with more than 3 million downloads. US Walmart employee selling 30 copies of Kingdom Hearts 3 before time, PS4 Slim going up for auction before it was even announced, the developer’s Google Drive account The Witcher 3 being hacked, etc.
30 copies of Kingdom Hearts 3 were stolen from a distribution center in North Carolina and were posted for sale on Facebook Marketplace for $100/ea.
Beware of spoilers! pic.twitter.com/662aawyFr8
— Andrew Alerts (@AndrewAlerts) December 15, 2018
And believe me, even for producers, this is not all bad. Speak well or speak badly, have the name of the franchise and brand on Trending Topicswith new followers, followed accounts and shared content is even favorable.
Done intelligently, a “leak” can engage the fan community and, based on feedback, adjust and improve the game, improving the final result.
And even though information was exposed before launch, this does not mean that we will experience a game “without surprises” or new features.
And don’t be surprised if a certain game sees an increase in pre-sales, as leaks can positively influence a market share that was in disbelief with the game being an “unofficial” second pitch.
What to expect from the future?
Believing that there will be no leaks in the future is impossible. This is because current technology allows for software like ransomware, which locks PCs and demands a ransom to unlock them.
An example of the program in action occurred in 2020, when attackers encrypted and stole more than 1 TB of data Capcomincluding internal game documents like Resident Evil, Street Fighter e Monster Hunter (including source codes), contracts and other highly confidential documents.
A Capcom had a difficult choice: pay $11 million in bitcoin by a decryptor or risk confidential information being leaked to the public. Capcom chose the latter option, and hackers dumped a treasure trove of insider information onto the Internet.
For moral and legal reasons, an attitude like this is seen as an insult to the work of developers. Ensuring that all confidential information is secure is of paramount importance to the success of a project or company.
In the case of game developers, the content must be restricted and released only to authorized people, so that, in the event of a leak, the company can track and identify the author.
And you? Do you think leaks and rumors are essential to the hype of the gaming fan community? Do you agree that companies should carefully publicize their surprises and improve the player experience? I hope you enjoyed this dive into the underworld of game leaks.
Text produced by Amanda Fleure.