Video game leaks are a big problem for game developers. They are arguably an incredibly public and under-talked-about cybersecurity issue for the gaming industry. Avid gamers may welcome leaks as it allows them the opportunity to catch a glimpse of a game that they have been waiting months, or even years, to release.
Developers often take a reactive, rather than proactive approach, to leaks. This is mostly out of necessity. Leaks are almost impossible to prevent entirely. They often come from employee error, despite NDAs and End User License Agreements (EULAs) being in place to prevent information from getting out. A lot of game developers hire external game testers before a game release and, despite signing the aforementioned NDAs and EULAs, some cannot resist leaking elements of the games before their official release.
No context clips make audiences jump to conclusions.
Leaks can vary from an individual leaking concept art for a new game onto social media, to someone releasing initial gameplay footage. Consumers gain access to raw content and information on what the developers are planning to do in the game, including microtransactions, or certain narrative-based decisions.
Some developers deliberately leak information to tease new content to gamers and to gauge reactions from audiences. However, doing this is a high-risk game. Consumers do not see the full picture and make assumptions from out-of-content crumbs that are dropped on social media. This can damage the reputation of a game and stunt the momentum surrounding its release.
The backlash Star Wars Battlefront II received following a leak is a prime example of how leaks can give audiences negative expectations after fans were shown a pay-to-win model of the video game. Despite this being changed before the game’s release, Battlefront II never quite recovered from the initial backlash, and the leak severely dampened the hype surrounding its release.
2022 saw some of the biggest leaks in gaming history
An upcoming mobile game from Ubisoft and the latest iteration of its leading game franchise, Assassin’s Creed, was leaked in December 2022. Over 20 minutes of footage from Assassin’s Creed: Jade was released onto social media through like YouTube and Twitter.
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September 2022 saw one of the biggest gaming leaks in history. Dozens of video files related to the highly anticipated Grand Theft Auto 6 started appearing on GTAForums. This gave fans across the world a first—and extremely unintended—look at developer Rockstar’s next AAA game. Rockstar had only announced in February 2022 that they were working on the next generation of GTA and, as a result of this early leak, Twitter was awash with speculation and opinions on a game that would not be released for at least a few years. Unfortunately, there is no one solution that game developers can employ to prevent new content and new generations of games from being released prematurely to the public. It is a cybersecurity risk that may cause a few days of Twitter trends and speculation as to game features. Consumers should better understand that online leaks do not necessarily reflect the finished article and keep an open mind when waiting for their new favourite game to release.