A Tennessee man who leaked 45 minutes of Starfield gameplay earlier this week, and was selling copies of the game online more than a week before its release date, has been arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and possession of stolen property.
The sordid tale began on August 22 when, according to Kotaku, a low-quality clip of Starfield gameplay was posted to YouTube. It was quickly taken down following a copyright claim, but as usual, bounced around on other places for a while: Redditors chased the clip on increasingly obscure hosting sites, while a 60-second chunk on Imgur, which for the moment is still up, has racked up more than 1.2 million views over two days. The quality isn't great, but people clearly want to see it.
The leaker, who used the alias memphian94 across various social media channels, later shared a video complimenting the game. "Todd, no offense man," he said. "That's a good game. Perfect timing, about leaving the Earth and all that. That's some good stuff."
He also apologized for "playing like a beginner," saying that he's "not a game expert, but [was] just trying something out."
"It's a good game," he concluded. "Y'all don't want to miss it. Starfield's for real."
The person who leaked the Starfield gameplay on YouTube has uploaded a response video. “Todd, no offense man, that’s a good game.” 😂 #Starfield #Xbox pic.twitter.com/EuwxOhC7BJAugust 22, 2023
As a rule, big game publishers don't like leaks, but the Starfield hype machine is in full swing, information is flowing fast and furious, and this might have been left to pass as annoying but ultimately harmless, and even kind of amusing as these things go.
The bigger problem was that memphian94, whose real name was later revealed as Darin Tyrone Harris, was selling boxed copies of Starfield—a lot of them—through the online marketplace Mercari, along with other videogames, power tools, SSDs, GOPro cameras, and various other products, some of them offered in unusually large quantities.
Then, presumably to address doubts that he actually had the product he was offering, he posted a video showing a stack of Starfields in his car, and of him putting them into FedEx envelopes for shipping.
"Y'all thought I'd be out here putting stuff on the internet, and it ain't real?" he said, attaching shipping labels to the padded envelopes. "Nah, baby, that's not how we do it. That's not how we do that. Y'all used to playing with little boys."
It's a top-notch customer service effort, but unfortunately not such a great idea when you're in the midst of a criminal enterprise. On August 24, Harris was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance (marijuana, which has not been decriminalized in Tennessee), theft of property $2,500 - $10,000, and theft of property $1,000 or less. It wasn't initially clear whether the charges were related to the dozens of copies of Starfield he had in his possession, but a copy of the police report later obtained by Polygon indicated that he was in fact arrested for stealing 67 copies of the game.
News site Memphis Commercial Appeal said the investigation into Harris began after the head of loss prevention at supply management company Vantiva informed police of the theft. Police searching Harris' home found a half-dozen copies of the game as well as one sealed inside a Fedex shipping package (he was using Fedex to ship copies of the game he'd managed to sell), plus three handguns and marijuana. Harris reportedly told the police that he hadn't stolen the games himself, but had purchased them from someone else.
According to the Shelby County Jail website, Harris is now out on $10,000 bail. His next court date is August 28, just four days ahead of the September 1 release of the Premium and Constellation Editions of Starfield. The standard edition comes out on September 6. I've reached out to Bethesda for comment and will update if I receive a reply.