by Jonathan Tung
Once again, we have arrived at the beginning of the Fall Gaming Season, the only time of the year where some of the most highly-anticipated video games are slated to be released. Among these games is the much-anticipated Grand Theft Auto V, already considered to be the most expensive video game ever developed at a whopping $265 Million. With an massive advertising campaign underway and preorders outselling the likes of Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 (on just the Xbox 360 alone, too!), it is quite clear that Rockstar and Take 2 Games has a hit on their hands. But when we live in a time where videogames are bound to get leaked onto YouTube at least several days before release, it’s also an extremely tough job for them to prevent any plot details or spoilers from reaching the internet. In fact, as I am writing this article, the first screenshots of someone actually playing the game have already leaked out onto the internet, in addition to scans from the game’s strategy guide as well as some poorly recorded footage on Vine and Instagram.
Despite Rockstar's numerous and substantial attempts, leaks for Grand Theft Auto V became increasingly common thanks to streamers and various social media outlets.
If there is one thing we have learned from the internet, it is the one and only truth that once you let the cat out of the bag, nothing can stop it, except for the FBI, of course. Such can be said for the great Half-Life 2 leak, which most PC gamers can agree is perhaps one of the most controversial game leaks in recent history. As the story goes, following the game’s debut at E3 in 2003, a hacker managed to breach Valve’s secure servers and post the game’s source code online. According to a series of posts written by Gabe Newell on the Valve Time forums (then known as halflife2.net), the hacker managed to get into their system through a simple security hole within Microsoft Outlook, following a series of unauthorized logins on Gabe’s email account.
Following several leads, it wasn’t until February 2004 when the hacker decided to personally email Gabe himself. Calling himself “Da Guy,” German hacker Axel Gembe admitted to hacking into the company’s servers, in addition to providing proof in the form of two confidential documents taken from the day of the hack. While he admitted to being sorry for what happened, he also tried to ask if he could also get a job working at Valve. Gabe replied “Yes.”
In reality, the supposed job offer that Gabe Newell presented was, in reality, a sting operation set up by the FBI to capture Axel when he arrived in the country. However, upon learning of this operation, German authorities decided to take matters into their own hands, instead breaking into Axel’s home in Schönau im Schwarzwald and arresting him in bed red handed. Following his trial, Axel was sentenced with two years of probation. Nobody knows what he’s up to now. The last time someone checked, he was working in the security industry, and probably still is, at least, according to Eurogamer.
Over the next several years, game leaks continued to increase in number, sometimes for high profile releases, other times for more b-rated schtick. While not as high profile as Half-Life 2, an incomplete beta build of Crysis 2 was leaked out regardless in early February 2011 to the delight of PC gamers everywhere. Despite the slightly positive reaction to the build, it did result with some heavy criticism from various game journalists, among them Jim Sterling, who published a scathing criticism towards those who pirated the title illegally. In it, he pretty much insults the entire PC gaming audience to the point where he actually admits that this is perhaps the sole reason why most game developers don’t even publish games on the PC anymore (for more information on game piracy and so forth, please consult my previous Mindshare).
The leak for Crysis 2 didn't affect sales so much, although it did stir up recurring fears of video game piracy.
And then we come to the present day, where game leaks often come in the form of premature game releases, with certain video games being released several days or even weeks prior to the official release date. Titles such as The Last of Us, BioShock Infinite, Halo 4, and Max Payne 3 often fell under this category: highly-anticipated titles with plots so wrapped up in secrecy that a minor information leak from any source (be it potato-quality cam footage or a live stream) could potentially ruin the suspense and surprise from playing such a game. As always, the publishers would try their hardest to remove as many leaked videos as possible, or, if they are in a polite mood, kindly request the owner of the site to refrain from posting until after the game has come out. In the case of Rockstar Games, the former is the most likely action undertaken.
Now, some of you guys might be quite jealous of the many leakers out in the wild who happened to have scored a copy of GTA V in advance of this Tuesday’s release. You might be upset that this could ruin your experience when playing this game, especially if you go onto 4chan or reddit and someone decides to ruin the ending for everyone. Trust me: this has happened to me multiple times, and it’s a thing of life, really. Even if you want to avoid spoilers and leaks, keep in mind that the best way to avoid them is to just simply not visit any of those sites at all. It’s common sense, really. And besides, even if you had the ending for a game spoiled for you, just shrug it off. It’s just a game, really.