A leaked game is one thing but having one of Nintendo's key franchises and holiday releases leak completely two weeks before launch can be downright disastrous. But that's exactly what happened when copies of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate began floating online over the holiday weekend. Here's what happened and what it could mean for Nintendo.
Nintendo's holiday season was supposed to be capped off with the release of the highly-anticipated Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. With every character ever playable in Super Smash Bros. and coming out for the popular Nintendo Switch, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate would serve as Nintendo's big holiday offering for 2018. But pirated copies of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate would beat Nintendo to its December 7 release date.
As Nintendo has been working to pull leaked content and anything else that might spoil Smash Bros. Ultimate from the internet you might not be able to find much online anymore. But over the weekend everything from videos of character combos, the full soundtrack of hundreds of music tracks, and even the full Smash Bros. Ultimate game made their way online. Players particularly wary of spoilers are warning others that the ending of Smash Bros. Ultimate's single-player mode, Spirits, was also leaked online as well as other secrets, stickers, and more.
How did Super Smash Bros. Ultimate leak?
According to Motherboard the leak for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate itself originated on the WarezNX Discord server, a popular server for Switch piracy. An administrator who goes by JJB even told staff to ban low level users as they "did not agree with Smash leaking as early as it did." That sentiment is echoed by several internet users who became involved with the leaks. JBB also says that a leak two weeks early "is insane for a public leak."
Since then multiple versions of Smash Bros. Ultimate found their way online, some leaving consoles "bricked" in their wake. A functioning, pirate copy of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate appears to have originated from a physical cartridge from Mexico. A source told USgamer that the physical copies originated from a retailer in Mexico which received a shipment early.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Leak Consequences
Nintendo's response has been swift and hard even for those who only leaked parts of Smash Bros. Ultimate. YouTubers who leaked parts of the Smash Bros. Ultimate soundtrack were hit with copyright strikes and have had their YouTube accounts terminated. Nintendo is doing the same with any leaked gameplay footage that makes its way online.
Like JBB, one YouTuber who leaked the Smash Bros. Ultimate soundtrack said they were worried of leaking the soundtrack so early but decided to upload them anyway so as to not lag behind other leakers.
Our source says Nintendo was blindsided by the leak and are aware that it most likely originated on the retail side. Other sources for leaks are when journalists, reviewers, or influencers leak early copies of games online.
This isn't the first time a Nintendo game has leaked before release. When a review copy of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga was leaked online last year, Nintendo responded by toughening its review copy policy and denying smaller influencers and reviewers early copies of its games.
Nintendo also took legal action against a ROM site earlier this year for infringing its copyright, another example of Nitnendo's no-tolerance policy towards piracy of its IP and games.
Nintendo is currently striking down videos and other leaked materials making their way online. Most reports, including sources we've spoken to, suggest the leaks likely originated from a physical retailer. Therefore it's unclear if Nintendo will restrict review copies again as in the fallout of the Superstar Saga leak which happened as a result of an influencer.
One way Nintendo could ensure this doesn't happen again is to give retailers tighter shipment windows, or maybe even restrict physical copies of important games to major retailers. Rockstar Games did something similar with Red Dead Redemption 2 by delaying shipments to small, independent retailers until after launch.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate leaking online is no small matter. Nintendo has a goal of selling 20 million Nintendo Switch units by March 2019 for the fiscal year. Nintendo sold about 5 million Switch units in the fiscal year so far leaving Nintendo to sell nearly 15 million more units by next year. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was no doubt set to play an instrumental role in moving Switch units this holiday season.
With full copies floating online however it's unclear what the damage to potential Smash Bros. Ultimate sales is. With so much at stake Nintendo will likely not take this major leak lying down.