- 8. A ransomware attack results in multiple Capcom title leaks
- 7. Hackers besiege S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, capture internal test builds
- 6. Rockstar Games breach reveals GTA 6 details
- 5. Gears of War 3 hype grinds to a halt due to a stolen build
- 4. Hackers infiltrate CD Projekt RED’s network
- 3. French version of Halo 2 leaked a month before release
- 2. Nintendo Gigaleak: The mother of all video game leaks
- 1. Half Life 2 leak may have killed Half Life 3
What is a video game leak?
A video game leak is any disclosure of information about a game outside of official public relations channels. It may be something small, such as unveiling new features for Star Wars Battlefront, or a very big deal, like spoiling major plot details for a Naughty Dog title.
Most video game leaks come from anonymous inside sources, such as former staff or temporary contractors. Some details are leaked by accident — for example, when a digital artist uploads concept art to their public profile instead of the publisher’s servers. Game leaks may even be deliberate, engineered by the publisher’s marketing department to generate buzz.
It’s all fun and games until hackers get involved, however. Hackers aren’t just one of the threats to online gaming — in many cases, they are criminals, plain and simple. From hacking EA to leaking full versions of games, hackers have cost the video game industry millions of dollars. Let’s have a look at 8 biggest video game leaks caused by hackers in history.
8. A ransomware attack results in multiple Capcom title leaks
On November 2, 2020, a group of hackers pulled off a massive cyberattack against the Japanese game developer Capcom. Using Ragnar Locker ransomware, the attackers allegedly encrypted and stole over 1TB of internal game documents (including source codes), accounting files, contracts, and other highly sensitive documents.
Capcom was given a harsh choice: pay up $11,000,000 in bitcoin for a decryptor or risk getting sensitive information leaked to the public. Capcom chose the latter, and the hackers duly dumped a veritable treasure trove of insider information on the internet.
The leak revealed Capcom’s planned release schedule for the coming four years, including new Resident Evil, Street Fighter, and Monster Hunter games, as well as other titles. Some of the games on the list, like Street Fighter 6 and the Resident Evil 4 remake, were later released in accordance with the leaked schedule, giving further credence that it was real.
7. Hackers besiege S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, capture internal test builds
The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl affair is the most recent video game leak on this list. In June 2023, hackers carried out a successful cyberattack against the game’s developer, GSC Game World, and leaked dev builds of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 weighing around 200GB to the internet.
The leaked builds were so heavily encrypted that they were effectively unplayable, so the game wasn’t spoiled for fans. Nevertheless, GSC Game Word took no chances and issued a public letter imploring players not to watch or share footage of the leaked content.
This cyberattack came at the heels of another similar incident in March 2023, when a staff member’s account for a work-with-images program was compromised. GSC Game World, which was previously based in Ukraine, claimed that it had been dealing with Russian hacker attacks for over a year, although the identity of the group responsible for the June 2023 leak has not been established as of yet.
6. Rockstar Games breach reveals GTA 6 details
In September 2019, a user by the name of “teapotuberhacker” shared a link to a very special RAR archive on GTAForums. The archive contained 90 confidential videos of developers debugging various Grand Theft Auto 6 features (such as camera angles), some with voice-acted conversations between NPCs and the main character.
This new leak was the result of a successful cyberattack against Rockstar Games’ Slack server and its Confluence wiki. According to the hacker, they made off with the GTA 5 and 6 source codes and assets, as well as a GTA 6 testing build. The hacker leaked screenshots of the source codes as proof of their claims.
The GTA 6 videos quickly spread to YouTube and Twitter, exposing the game’s biggest (and probably most welcome) secret: the female playable character, Lucia. Rockstar Games and its owner, Take 2 Interactive, bombarded video sharing platforms with DMCA and copyright takedown notices, but by then, the damage had already been done.
5. Gears of War 3 hype grinds to a halt due to a stolen build
Leaks are meant to tease interesting details about upcoming games — not spoil the mystery by revealing everything. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened to Epic Games in June 2011, when a complete early version of Gears of War 3 was leaked to the internet three and a half months before the planned release date.
The culprits responsible were allegedly the XBox Underground hacking group, which gained access to Epic’s networks using a stolen email password belonging to the company’s IT staff.
The leaked game had a fully playable single-player campaign and even offered some multiplayer features, but this version of Gear of War 3 was, to quote those that tried it out, “buggy as hell.” Still, it worked well enough to spoil the story for thousands of players who watched the cutscenes on YouTube.
4. Hackers infiltrate CD Projekt RED’s network
The February 2021 cyberattack targeting CD Projekt RED is interesting in that it exposed video game information well after they were released. Nobody was hyped for the pre-Alpha source code of Cyberpunk 2077 — the game had been a buggy mess for three months by that point. But it did give gamers a glimpse at what the failed magnum opus was originally meant to be.
In total, the hackers used ransomware to steal the source code for Cyberpunk 2077, Gwent, and the unreleased version of Witcher 3, as well as a whole bevy of accounting, administrative, and legal documents. When CD Projekt RED refused to pay the ransom and opted instead to restore the files using backups, the hackers took the stolen data to the dark web.
3. French version of Halo 2 leaked a month before release
The Halo family of shooters counts some of the most hacked video games in history amongst its members. All Halo titles were subject to video game leaks, but nothing compares to the leak of October 2004, when hackers uploaded the full version of Halo 2 to pirating sites a month before its release date.
While the authorities were unable to identify the attacker, the data breach was believed to have occurred during Halo 2’s localisation process, as only the PAL version of the game with French dialogue was made available to pirates.
In an interesting public relations move, the game’s publisher Microsoft openly called the players that downloaded the game early “thieves” and promised to take strict legal action. The game’s developer Bungie also cracked down hard on any potential video game leaks, threatening permanent forum and multiplayer bans for users that posted early screenshots of the game.
2. Nintendo Gigaleak: The mother of all video game leaks
The Gigaleak is not actually a single video game leak — instead, it refers to a series of smaller leaks on 4chan between 2018 and 2021. The Gigaleak series is famous for making valuable proprietary information and trade secrets (such as the console source codes and development tools) of Nintendo available to the public.
The first major leak in the series took place in May 2020, when Nintendo’s game console source codes were uploaded to the internet. The largest leak (sometimes dubbed the “Gigaleak”) took place in July 2020, with information about the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 consoles, multiple games, and the personal files of Nintendo developers appearing online.
The Gigaleak was unprecedented in its scope, offering rare insights into several decades of video game development. The leaked design documents, console source codes, and developer tools were especially valuable for emulator development and video game preservation efforts.
1. Half Life 2 leak may have killed Half Life 3
Half Life frequently features at the top of “Best Games of All Time” lists — and for good reason. So anticipation for Half Life 2, a sequel nearly five years in the making, was at an all-time high before the game’s slated release in the fall of 2003.
Unfortunately, the game was nowhere near finished at the time — and it took a massive video game leak for Valve to admit to the problem. Axel Gembe, a hacker from Germany, infiltrated the company’s network and downloaded the code for Half Life 2. He shared his spoils with a friend, who promptly leaked it online.
The outrage was immediate. Valve attempted damage control but was eventually forced to own up to its mistake and push the game’s release back another year. It is estimated that the debacle cost Valve around 250 million dollars. Rumor has it that the developers (including Gabe Newell) were so completely burned out at the end that they had no desire to start working on Half Life 3.