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Video game companies should prepare for leaks

Video game companies should prepare for leaks

Video game companies should prepare for leaks
February 02
18:21 2020

Video game companies and developers put a lot of thought into deciding when, where and what info they plan to release about a game before the official launch. The lead-up to release and the hype and press built up over that time are critical to a game’s success. So imagine how catastrophic it can be when some random hacker decides to leak full details of your game months in advance.

One of 2020’s most anticipated games, “Final Fantasy VII Remake,” recently suffered a huge data mine leak earlier in January. No specific spoilers will be discussed here out of respect for those avoiding them, but the leaks span from character abilities and weapons, unrevealed models and party members, map data and even full-on cut-scenes. 

Even beyond the video game industry, leaks are an inevitable obstacle in the age of information. Game info can leak from various sources and methods including but not limited too, an inside employee sneaking out a screenshot or websites uploading information too soon about a product. A lot of leaks are just honest mistakes, but they are still leaks.

A common source for leaks is when early copies of games are given away early from retailers, and those piraters begin uploading new information. This happened back in 2018 with “Super Smash Bros.” Ultimate as retailers in Mexico let customers have the games early. It’s incredibly difficult to prevent leaks from occurring so far down the line of production, so it might benefit companies to focus their prevention efforts on more controllable areas of production, specifically in the digital realm.

I’ve heard conflicting information on the different levels of security surrounding the demo. Some rumors say it was completely unencrypted and easy to access, but many outlets stick to the content of the leaks rather than how hackers accessed them in the first place. If we assume this rumor viable, then an easier prevention method would be an investment in encryption or cyber-security. Even if the rumor is false, it would not hurt Sony to make their demos harder to access on their servers.

Looking back at leaks throughout the industry, a common trend seems to appear that might explain the problem with leaks. As stated before, the Final Fantasy remake demo seems to play the opening parts of the game, so why does the demo feature data with cutscenes for the endgame? Why leave so much information in the demo that the demo itself doesn’t cover? Too much data in demos seems to be a major oversight when it comes to digital leaks.

One famous instance was Sega’s “Yakuza 6.” The demo’s release was 36 gigabytes and players found ways to access the full game. It was such a fiasco that Sega had to pull the demo from stores. This specific instance might be an extreme example, but there’s plenty of others.

In 2016, “Pokemon Sun and Moon” released a demo version before its official release. That demo also included full information on the game, including all the new Pokemon, their stats and moves and full story spoilers. As with most leaks, this was a huge deal at the time and made a significant impact on Game Freak apparently as both of the following mainline Pokemon games lacked demos of any kind. Sadly for Game Freak, both the “Let’s Go” games and “Pokemon Sword and Shield” also suffered from leaks, even without demos.

It would make sense that game developers create their demos directly from their full game’s data. But, it might be beneficial for companies like Square Enix to instead make the demo from the ground up or thoroughly remove all unnecessary data from the demo because when a demo is released, or even unreleased in this case, it will likely be hacked.

First and foremost, I don’t support leakers. I don’t think Sony or Square are in the wrong here, either. But when handling information about their game, they do have direct control over what does and doesn’t go into a demo’s code. For future projects, if the companies don’t want to reveal certain info yet, then that data should not be included in a demo. Of course, some people think the leak was intentional and a publicity stunt but given that shortly after the leaks, Square announced that the new “Final Fantasy” would be delayed. I sincerely wish all my luck onto those avoiding spoilers online and my heart goes to you.

Featured Illustration: Jeselle Farias

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Matthew Payne

Matthew Payne

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