Why Do Nintendo Keep Falling Prey to Data Miners?

Super Smash Bros Ultimate hit store shelves last week as Nintendo makes a huge move on the Christmas market. It’s set to be the biggest Smash Bros yet, with all the previous characters from the series making a return. 

On top of that, there’s a bunch of new characters and stages to play, with maybe a few secrets in there too. Or secrets for most at least, as recently Nintendo fell victim to another major leak. 

Series creator Masahiro Sakurai has expressed his distaste for data miners in the past. He supposedly avoided a traditional story mode for Ultimate because ‘the cutscenes just end up on Youtube’. Nintendo shares Sakurai’s views on privacy, so why does this keep happening to the Japanese studio?

Pokemon and Super Smash Bros. Leaks

Two of Nintendo’s most targeted series’ are Smash Bros. and Pokemon. Both consistently fall prey to these leaks and hacks, revealing new characters and story missions ahead of release.

Pokemon Sun and Moon were almost entirely spoiled by Reddit and 4Chan users who acquired insider knowledge on the game. Kaphotics and Rusyaas9 were two big names who spoiled the plot, stats and starter Pokemon online prior to the game’s release.

Nintendo took the issue very seriously, acquiring legal orders to have the threads taken down. They also attempted to sue the offending parties for damages to avoid copycat miners for future releases. Super Smash Bros Wii U was also heavily data mined, with reveal trailers appearing online before Nintendo had aired them.

Despite Nintendo taking a very harsh stance on these occurrences, both series were hit again this year. Firstly Pokemon Let’s Go had plot features and game design spoiled ahead of the announcement. Several sources made various claims, including some of those synonymous with the Sun and Moon leaks.

The soft re-boot of Pokemon Yellow was revealed as a part of these leaks but many other claims were debunked. Likewise, there were plenty of leak rumours leading up to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, again many of which were untrue.

On the verge of the game’s release though some people had managed to get early copies and revealed a new host of spoilers.  

How the Leak Happened

Nintendo has scrambled to remove all the content from the internet and successful withdrew offending threads quickly. The information is out there now though and those who have seen it have continued to circulate rumours on Reddit.

The leak originated from WarezNX a Nintendo Switch piracy group that uses Discord to spread rumours. The leaked details were taken from a full copy of the game that the group got their hands on ahead of its release. Nintendo had shipped full copies of the game to retailers around the world so that it could be stocked ahead of the game’s release.

It means retailers could have dozens or even hundreds of copies of the game on hand before release. It’s a common practice but some have questioned if Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was shipped too soon. Having copies sitting in storerooms around the world weeks before release, increasing the chances of a leak like this.

Whilst major retailers like Game or Smyths keep copies securely locked away, it’s the smaller retailers that are the concern. It’s near impossible to track where a leak originates from which will lead some small retailers to secretly sell copies early for inflated prices.

The Super Smash Bros. Ultimate leak is believed to have originated from a retailer in Mexico who did just that. The data nature of Nintendo’s games also makes them easier to mine than other AAA releases. This makes games like Smash Bros. and Pokemon prime targets for data miners, making leaks almost inevitable.

What Next for Nintendo?

Nintendo has seemingly tried everything to prevent the leaks but they continue to fall prey. They have successfully pursued legal cases against data miners in the past but it has done little to deter others.

The sad truth is, as long as miners are determined to continue there will likely be little more Nintendo can do.

A later shipping date could help but it can’t’ guarantee the game will still not be released early, Without punishing all minor retailers and significantly affecting sales, there is no way to prevent copies getting out.

The real shame is that these miners felt the need to spoil the game so close to its release. Within a week the details could have been released legally and in keeping with Nintendo’s intentions. It’s become a part of modern life and Nintendo series’ will likely continue to be targeted due to their popularity.   

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