How does a game get leaked?

The Catboy

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Some of the most common leaks are caused by a few different factors
1: Store sells the game early and actually lets the sale go through. Most stores actually have a system to block early sales, some don't and it's normally those that don't that can allow someone to get an early copy.
2: Store employee "buys" the game and leaks it. These aren't common, but often involves selling another game or "keying in*" the game to sell it early.
3: Sites like Amazon ship their pre-orders a few days in advance so they get to the buyers house by launch. Sometimes those hit a few days early due to the unpredictable nature of the mailing service
4: Someone working for the company leaks it.
5: Reviewer leaks it.

*Keying in is a term used when the cashier doesn't actually scan the product, but instead sells it by typing in the information manually. This bypasses the system and is supposed to be used as a last resort. It can however be used to "legally" sell games before streetdate and hopefully not get noticed.
 
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jt_1258

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*sit's child on lap* alright, a mommy nintendo and a daddy reviewer traitor get together, the reviwer goes in and then comes out, and a cia is born /s
 
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FAST6191

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Read the game NFOs some time. Down the bottom of many you will see requests for people in all sorts of positions. They are some of the main sources.

From a random 360 era SPARE NFO
Code:
     GROUP_NEWS___________________________________________________________;
     Currently we are looking for :
     
     - Suppliers of new unreleased Games and Moviez
     - You work for a GAMES or MOVIES or UTILS,        |
              Distributor, Magazine, Warehouse, Publisher,    
              press/marketing company, duplicator, courier    
              delivery firm, tv/radio show, language          
              translator company or store
     -You can get NEW unreleased GAMES or MOVIES or   
              UTILS, from one of the above Game/Util/Video   
              shop (such as, Baggages, Electronics Boutique  
              FuncoLand, Media Play, Software Etc. GameStop  
              Baggages, ebgames  etc.).

Occasionally online stores have been compromised as well
http://www.shacknews.com/article/78635/hackers-crack-uplay-security-download-games-for-free
That one upset a few people actually as apparently it was known and they were saving it for Watch_Dogs.
 
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Taleweaver

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A couple more potential sources that haven't been mentioned:

-beta testers. In order to get valuable feedback, developers need to distribute open beta's or even alpha versions to sources they can trust. And while this is usually the case, it tends to happen that these sources leak as well
-burglary. Games get made on PC's that are usually connected to the internet. I remember a few instances on some highly anticipated games where the developer got hacked and an upcoming game (some beta) ended up compiled and online
 

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