On May 1, Sony confirmed to Gamesindustry.biz that it has identified the parties involved in the recent major leaks for The Last of Us Part II. The confirmation also states those individuals aren’t affiliated with either Sony Interactive Entertainment or developer Naughty Dog, debunking the popular theory that the leaks were executed by a disgruntled Naughty Dog employee.
Sony also provided a statement to Polygon, which reads: “SIE has identified the primary individuals responsible for the unauthorized release of TLOU2 assets. They are not affiliated with Naughty Dog or SIE. We are unable to comment further because the information is subject to an on-going investigation.”
The unauthorized leaks Sony is referring to are the leaks that first appeared on YouTube on April 26 and were quickly spread among sites like Twitter and Reddit. While the videos were quickly taken down, a thread with details on the leaks, as well as heavy discussion and speculation, can be found on Resetera. The massive leaks contain spoilers for just about every major aspect of the game, including the ending, so we advise you to look them up at your own discretion.
A message from the studio: pic.twitter.com/f0TzIZXUIB
— Naughty Dog (@Naughty_Dog) April 27, 2020
The leaks were potentially done in response to the news at the beginning of April that The Last of Us Part II would be indefinitely delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Naughty Dog has had a long-time reputation of being one of the most difficult studios in the industry to work for. In March, it was in the spotlight for this as a result of a Kotaku report that shed light on the abysmal crunch the developers at Naughty Dog are doing to ship The Last of Us Part II.
It is because of this that the leaks were rapidly accompanied by rumors that a disgruntled current or ex-Naughty Dog employee was to blame. The narrative that they leaked the game as a protest against underpaying and crunch conditions spread like wildfire; however, according to Sony, not only is this untrue, but there is also more than one person involved. No evidence accompanied these rumors, but they were easy to believe given the company’s well-documented contentious history.
Sony has also denied that the leakers were third-party contractors in a statement to Ethan Gach at Kotaku.
I wondered if Sony’s statement could have allowed for the leakers to be ex-employees/contractors. Not the case. A Sony rep tells @ethangach: “The individuals we referenced in our statement are not former employees or contractors of SIE or ND. “
— Stephen Totilo (@stephentotilo) May 1, 2020
While the public at large will likely never know the whole story, the discourses that the rumor and leaks sparked will remain with this game’s history.
If it had been someone affiliated with Naughty Dog, the point that a developer feeling so exploited that they felt compelled to leak one of the most anticipated games of the next generation remains valid. The different forms of abuse workers in the video games industry experience is absolutely no secret, especially as the industry tries to move into a future in which it is properly unionized.
However, not only is this ultimately not the case, but it’s also important to think of the developers who have poured their hearts, souls, and endless hours (especially overtime ones, given that it’s Naughty Dog) into making this game. The leaks will likely have a minimal impact on sales, but I can only imagine how disheartening it is to have your project leaked before it’s ready. Those spoilers are out there and easily accessible, and the experience has been affected for the many fans who wanted to experience the sequel to one of the most well-known games as its developers intended.
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Even if those developers have had to endure the worst crunch of their lives, it is still a project they have worked hard on, care deeply about (whether it’s due to the hours they’ve committed or genuine love for the game), and have had carelessly released in an unauthorized manner. We can care about the multi-layered suffering of employees — about their suffering over experiencing exploitation as much as their suffering over having almost the entirety of a multi-year project leaked to the public.
Ultimately, though, the truth seems to have much fewer grounds for discussion. Given that most developers are working from home due to the ongoing pandemic, builds aren’t as secure as they would be in normal circumstances, so it’s not hard to imagine how unauthorized people were able to get their hands on all the material.
A day after the leaks surfaced, Sony made an announcement confirming The Last of Us Part II‘s new release date, along with that of Ghost of Tsushima. With the game now launching on June 19, fans won’t have to navigate the landmines of rampant spoilers for long. However, it’s a less than ideal situation for fans and the developers, so if you need a list of terms to mute — including if you don’t particularly want to read about the video game industry’s deeply-rooted crunch problem and the time an ex-Naughty Dog employee accused the company of covering up abuse — you can head over here.