Once upon a time, game companies were able to keep secrets tightly under wraps even after the game was released. Today, the revelation that Metroid’s Samus was a woman would have been all over social media in hours but gamers then were taken by surprise. Likewise, scores of great games with plot twists and details. Today, it’s much different with information spreading fast, but a few companies have managed to pull off some big surprises.
But quite often, what were supposed to be huge reveals end up being spoiled far too early. The most common way is for someone to get hold of a copy of the game to share it online and spoil the big turns. Other times, the announcement is undone by a too-early press release or a store not realizing they’re supposed to keep it quiet. Some reveals are for truly shocking reasons that the companies never saw coming. It happens constantly and more than one would-be shocking reveal has been undone thanks to leaks. Here are 20 of the most notable cases of big games marred by leaked spoilers to show how it’s harder to keep secrets nowadays.
20 Not So April Foolish
If you’re going to get away with leaking a game, you might as well do it on April Fool’s Day. In 2018, a 4chan poster shared images from what he said was the brand new Pokémon Go game featuring the kid-oriented Switch title and shots of trainers. Obviously, everyone dismissed it as a cheap photoshop because of the date with a few cracking on how bad the fake graphics looked. Cut to a few months later when the real game hit and all the doubters realized the joke was ultimately on them.
19 Script Approval
Fallout fans had already been burned in 2014 by a big story of the game set in Boston that turned out to be a hoax. Thus, they were wary when someone posted what they claimed was the script for the opening of Fallout 4 with lists of characters and dialogue. As it turned out, the leak was completely for real as this was used for auditions for voice actors. While no one knows how it got out, it was a great early look at the game.
18 Twitch Debacle
Bethesda has absolutely no one to blame but themselves for this. They were going to rock everyone at E3 2015 by revealing Dishonored 2. They were doing a rehearsal on Twitch to get the bugs out for the presentation. Too late, they realized they were going live to everyone and while the game itself wasn’t mentioned, the gameplay was enough for fans to connect the dots. Thus, a simple Twitch use ruined the big moment for the company.
17 Gears of Leaks
This was a near perfect storm of leaks coming together to spoil the big reveal of the latest entry in the smash hit action series. First, the Tawianese ratings board revealed leaked box art for Gears of War 5 (simply called Gears 5) that folks realized was too good to be faked. Then came what seemed to be a memo from Microsoft to retail stores revealing story details including an “open world” setting. Then a Walmart ad seemed to give away the release date. Instead of being able to do a big E3 announcement, Microsoft had Gears giving away details early.
16 The Walmart Mess
Walmart usually isn’t high on the list of important places for video game fans. The retail chain has decent prices but not the additions of stores like Best Buy. But just before E3 2018, Walmart Canada uploaded a huge “placeholder” ad that included games no one had any idea were coming. Lego DC Super-Villains, Fozra Horizon 4 and Rage 2 were all included. The biggest was Boderlands 3 which wouldn’t be formally announced for another year. Somehow Walmart was able to get the scoop so many places missed.
15 Call of Spoilers
Few things throw a gaming company into crisis mode than when one of your biggest titles is massively spoiled months in advance. Such was the case in 2011 when Sledgehammer was taken off-guard by Kotaku spilling full details on Call of Duty Advanced Warfare 3. Compiled from numerous sources, it gave away locations, characters and a near-full detailing of the entire story campaign down to voice clips. The developer had to work fast to post trailers to back it up but seriously annoyed so much of the game was given away six months before release.
14 Plane for the Syndicate
It’s always best to ignore some guy online who claims to have “exclusive inside knowledge” of a game as 99 percent of the time, it’s garbage. Most thought that was the case when a poster on NeoGAG talked about how he’d been sitting next to a developer on a plane ride who basically shared the entire set-up for Assassin's Creed Syndicate. No one believed him but sure enough, weeks later, Ubisoft made the announcement that confirmed the game. For once, a “too good to be true” encounter really was true.
13 Assassin's Key
A leak due to artwork or someone posting the wrong video is one thing. But doing it via a novelty souvenir is another. Buzz had been huge about the next Assassin's Creed game in 2018 with talk on how it would be anything from vikings to the long-awaited ninja setting. Instead, retail outlets found themselves receiving Odyssey keychains that were quickly shared online to tell everyone the game was set in Ancient Greece. Ubisoft was forced to speed up their announcement to confirm it so this truly was a “key” game leak.
12 Far From Secret
The Far Cry games just have a bad history with leaks. Far Cry 3 had some points given away by artwork leaked by hackers. In 2015, just hours before their big E3 announcement, someone at Ubisoft leaked images and the title for Far Cry Primal spoiling the big “prehistoric times” twist. The latest case is New Dawn which was given away by its now infamous cover art indicating the Father would be the target (literally.) Already reports are coming of Far Cry 6. The franchise just can’t avoid spoilers.
11 A Deus Ex Indeed
Deus Ex Mankind had been enjoyed by fans for its terrific action and wild gaming. In 2015, buzz was building up for a new version with Square Enix naturally playing cards close to the vest. So they were horrified when a Russian website managed to leak not just the title, Mankind Divided, but screenshots and the reveal hero Adam Jensen would be the star. It was a blow to the company’s hopes to pulling a great surprise on fans.
10 The Early Crafting
Giving away a game ending a month or so before it’s released is one thing. But managing to spoil a game that’s not going to hit for two years is something else. For reasons no one has ever been able to explain, in 2010, the full cinematic ending of Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm hit online, two years before the pack was completed. It was a very rough version but still clear what was happening. To their credit, Blizzard didn’t change the ending at all and rolled with this mega-early spoiler.
9 A Splash of Spoilers
This leak was so wild that some contend Nintendo did it on purpose. In 2016, Nintendo had hopes for Paper Mario Color Splash, the latest entry in the fun RPG series. As has become standard, owners had a digital version of the game set to go as soon as the release date hit. What wasn’t standard was that the version was somehow unlocked three weeks before that date. That meant fans could play the entire game for its secrets and share them. The conspiracy-minded may believe it was done by Nintendo to spark up interest but it still counts as a big error.
8 No Guarding the Leak
After Shadow of the Colossus became a smash hit, game fans were eager to learn what Team Ico would do next. There had been rumors of a new game but nothing was confirmed until 2009 ... when Sony accidentally posted a trailer for what was then called “Project Trico” on the Playstation LifeStyle blog. The game would later become The Last Guardian and Sony blamed a rogue agent for ruining what was going to be a big E3 reveal.
7 Ultimate Giveaway
Capcom really needs to fix their servers. Nothing proved that more than the mess in 2011 as the company had already announced Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 and making a deal out of hiding which characters were involved. But fans quickly discovered a trick on the Capcom website that allowed them to search for certain characters and quickly find images of them from the game. Within hours, the entire roster was being posted online with Capcom forced to go along with their own screw-up.
6 Smashing Surprises
Nintendo is usually very good when it comes to keeping secrets and cracking down on any leaks. But they dropped the ball in 2014 when hyping up Super Smash Bros. for the 3DS. Nintendo sent images of it to the Entertainment Software Review Board and it somehow got online. Thanks to the ESRB leak, fans were able to see the entire roster early, which included some surprise names. It was never explained how it happened but it's a rare leak for Nintendo.
5 Doom to Spoilers
2002 is practically considered ancient times for both video games and the Internet. Yet this was a massive deal when it occurred. Back then, there wasn’t much in streaming video so fans were satisfied with just images of Doom 3 at E3. Then someone posted the entire demo online, giving fans the ability to play the first three levels of the game. To this day, no one is sure how it happened but it remains one of the biggest leaks in gaming history.
4 Halo Hijinks
The Halo Franchise is somehow just hit by scores of leaks and spoilers. The first game was an under the radar smash but obviously the sequels got more attention. A copy of Halo 2 was stolen from a German factory and uploaded to the Internet in full weeks before release. Several stores in England had Halo 3 a week earlier than in the U.S. and French stores had Halo ODST a month before everyone else. Halo 4 had scores of leaks giving away story and gaming details as everyone wants to know more about Master Chief.
3 Source of Life
Sure, leaking images or videos of a game is one thing. Getting out plot details and a release date is another. But it’s truly amazing when a game’s entire source code is somehow put online. Such was the case in 2003 when a German hacker somehow cracked Valve’s servers and was able to copy the source code for Half-Life 2 to post online. The company obviously was not happy as fans were able to play with the code for some time.
2 Destined To Be Leaked
This is a recent addition to the list and has been getting some attention. There had been buzz over a new expansion pack for Destiny 2 with various planets and settings tossed about. Bungie was going to do a big announcement live but just days before, data streamers digging through the game stumbled onto the moon-set Shadowkeep expansion all set to go. It was soon reported all over, blowing Bungie’s planned live stream and marring their “destined” big reveal.
1 The Kingdom Is Open Early
Fans had waited years for Kingdom Hearts III to continue the beloved mix of Final Fantasy action and Disney characters. As it turned out, they didn’t have to wait as long as they thought. In December of 2018, six weeks before its official release, the game somehow leaked online. Square Enix was quick to point out that the game’s main epilogue was missing but the fact so much of the game and its plot points got online so early was a major embarrassment for the company.
Sources: Kotaku, ign.com, gamesradar.com