Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom has leaked on piracy sites, and Nintendo's now in a whack-a-mole war with streamers

Zelda from Tears of the Kingdom
(Image credit: Nintendo)

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is in the wild.

Over the weekend, physical copies of Tears of the Kingdom appear to have gotten into the hands of buyers a full two weeks ahead of the planned May 12 release date. Photos of the Collector's Edition appeared on 4chan, while at least two copies of the game popped up on online marketplace Mercari. The leak has now escalated to streams across Twitch, Discord and smaller streaming sites, as early players share brief looks at the game before their streams are abruptly taken offline.

PC Gamer has identified what appear to be pirated copies of Tears of the Kingdom on multiple torrent sites by following links from 4chan, shared in a file format consistent with Switch cartridge rips. We can't confirm that those files are genuine—but given the proliferation of streams, it's almost certain that the game is already being distributed illegally. There is also at least one archive of Tears of the Kingdom's pre-rendered cutscenes being linked around, though in .webm format with no audio.

That archive will likely be taken offline by a Nintendo copyright strike before long. So far, streams seem to only be online for a matter of minutes on Kick and Trovo, often using the joke title "playing Horizon"—a callback to Sony's Horizon Zero Dawn releasing a few days before Breath of the Wild. While much smaller than Twitch, neither of these two streaming platforms is exactly underground: Kick was launched in recent months by controversial streamer Trainwreck as a gambling-friendly alternative to Twitch, while Trovo is owned by Tencent.

According to Kotaku, Tears of the Kingdom streams have also popped up in a more private venue: Discord servers. One of the largest has already been shut down. But with nearly two full weeks to go before release, Nintendo's copyright enforcement teams are going to have a lot of work ahead of them.

Several 4chan posters have also uploaded screenshots and short videos of Tears of the Kingdom running in Switch emulator Ryujinx, running between 20 and 30 fps. Another appears to show the game playable on a Steam Deck. That appears to answer our question of whether Tears of the Kingdom will be playable via emulation on day one. But both Switch emulators Ryujinx and Yuzu maintain strict anti-piracy stances, meaning it's unlikely any patches to either emulator will directly target Tears of the Kingdom until after its official release. The Discord servers for both emulators currently have bold red warnings in their channel topics:

"It is forbidden to request copyrighted content (Firmwares/Games/Keys/Shaders)," says Ryujinx's.

Yuzu's is even simpler: "Piracy is not allowed."

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).