How Are Video Games Fully Leaked Before Release?

If you’ve been reading the news regarding video games recently, you have seen that Nintendo’s new Super Smash Bros. game was uploaded onto the Internet before it was officially released. This led to Nintendo banning the accounts of people accessing the game online before the release date came around.

This is not the first time this has happened: games like Crysis 2, Spore, Half-Life 2, and Super Mario Odyssey reached players before the store shelves. How does this happen, and what are companies doing about it?

Product Leaks

The problem with having a product release countrywide on a specific day is that you can’t ship it to every store on that day. Trying to do so would just be a logistic nightmare! As such, the games are usually sent to the stores weeks before the release date. The employees then keep it tucked away in storage until release day, at which point it’s moved onto the shelves.

The more ambitious a launch a game expects, the more vital it is to have the game in-store on release day. This means games can be held in stock for long before the street date. Unfortunately, this gives people plenty of time to sneak a copy home and leak the contents onto the Internet. Super Smash Bros. was leaked when an employee from Mexico distributed the game from stocks.


Companies are trying to cut down on this method of leak by sending out the game as late as possible. While they can’t risk having the game missing from the shelves due to a late delivery, they can cut down on the amount of time it’s sitting in storage, ripe for the picking.

Source Code Leaks

Sometimes the source of a pre-release leak comes from the developers themselves. This can either be a malicious attack on a former employer, a hacking attack stealing a game in development, or simply code getting out into the wild. Half-Life 2 was originally hacked from developer Valve’s servers and leaked onto the Internet, causing the hacker to come under serious allegations with the law. Valve saw it unfit to release a game everyone had already played for free, so they remade the game to keep it fresh.


Of course, this is only fixable by keeping code under tight wraps! Locking employees out of their accounts before telling them they’ve been let go, as well as keeping the code itself tight and secure, are ways companies can prevent their code being leaked to the public before it’s ready.

Simple Mistakes

Sometimes a full leak isn’t due to people pilfering product from a store or a hacker gaining access to the developer’s database. Sometimes it’s down to an honest, well-meaning mistake. Players were excited to hear the next installment of the Yakuza series, Yakuza 6: The Song Of Life, would have a demo release before the main game came out.


The demo came out, but it had a strange file size: 35.6GB, roughly the size of a full game. Sure enough, players soon discovered that the demo was just the full game with restrictions placed on it. By circumventing the restrictions, players gained full access to Yakuza 6 two months before it was supposed to be released. The demo had to be pulled after the developers heard of this.

Sneak Peek at Leaks

Seeing full videogames leaked before the release date can be shocking and can damage sales of the game as a result. Unfortunately, there are many avenues through which a highly-anticipated game can be leaked. Developers and publishers have to take great care to stop games from reaching player’s hands before the release date.

Have any games you were looking forward to suffered a partial or full leak? Let us know below.

Image credit: Video game retail store, consumerism at its finest..

Simon Batt
Simon Batt

Simon Batt is a Computer Science graduate with a passion for cybersecurity.

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