How YouTube’s New Gaming Leak Culture Actually Works

According to a report from 404 Media, which has allegedly obtained an internal Google database tracking six years of potential privacy and security issues, one employee has been responsible for several leaked Nintendo announcements in the past. But according to our sources, that’s just the tip of the iceberg in this new Google/YouTube leak culture. First, it should be stressed that 404 Media’s report is based on information spanning from 2013 – 2018, but is clearly still an issue today.

A couple of days ago, I tweeted that YouTube had investigated two occasions (that I know of) when employees breached their contractual agreements by accessing data on the backend. While only one of these investigations was purely gaming-related due to leaking announcements, it’s important to dive into the first instance and how it caused a substantial internal investigation that caused some people to lose their jobs.

The first investigation happened towards the latter end of 2022. The catalyst? A ‘Try not to make me laugh’ video by popular content creator KSI. Back then, KSI would do a weekly YouTube series called ‘Try not to make me laugh’ in which if he laughed, he would display an Amazon Gift Card on screen for one of his viewers to redeem. At first, he started at $100 per gift card per laugh and incrementally got higher and higher with each video. In the final video, KSI offered up $1000 per laugh, with the grand total of all the cards exceeding $10,000+ for his fans to redeem. The catch? They were all redeemed before the video went public.

The scandal resulted in KSI and his team pressing YouTube, which resulted in Google conducting an internal investigation. According to our sources, who wished to stay anonymous as they were not authorized to talk about the company’s internal processes, the investigation led to some people being fired, even some not privy to the scandal. “Your videos are not just watched for monetization approval,” said one source. “They are watched by employees all the time,” they continued. This included anything private, scheduled, or unlisted: showcases, game announcements, and other footage not intended to see the light of day.

Of the two I’m aware of, YouTube’s second investigation happened soon after the GTA 6 leak, which, admittingly, could have just been a wild coincidence. After all, it has now become common knowledge among those in the industry that many gaming leaks do come from unlisted, scheduled, or private YouTube videos – and maybe the investigation was already ongoing at this time. Nonetheless, the result probably resulted in disciplinary action for one or more people.

Whatever the case, though, these investigations have seemingly done nothing to stop it from happening again.

Sony’s recent State of Play was a big eye-opener for me and the most recent example I can give about how widespread this new YouTube leak culture is. Within around 18 hours of the State of Play being scheduled on YouTube, I had four different individuals send me the complete game list. Some game names were slightly different from others, likely because of different regions and the rush to jot everything down to be the first, but they were all generally spot on. One such individual even told me that the information was sold to an undisclosed person for a small three-figure amount, who then told him to spread it to more people for validity.

It is unclear how this will be resolved. Still, repeat investigations are clearly not working, and simply not uploading the content to YouTube before an announcement is a marketing nightmare for publishers. For instance, it’s not ideal for your first glimpse of a game to be in 360p because of YouTube’s shoddy processing times. Then, there are other marketing needs, such as sending the content to marketing partners, content creators, the media, and more.

But yes, there you have it. That’s how a lot of information is leaked before a reveal, at least to my understanding anyway. After all, it isn’t a coincidence that precise bits of information leak before being revealed in the way that they have been.

Why people are simply not being fired for breaking the rules is also a mystery, but perhaps there are so many people who watch this behind-the-scenes content, that it could be impractical to lay that many people off.

Datamining and searching for trademarks are also common ways for people to obtain information, and I can discuss them further in the future if requested. But I also want to point readers to a Reddit post from Jason Schreier, which explains a lot of other ways of sourcing in detail.

For more Insider Gaming, read about how The Last of Us was supposed to have started life, and don’t forget to subscribe to the Insider Gaming Newsletter.