In 2021 we celebrate 10 years of one of the most controversial cases involving the launch of a game in Brazil. In this ocasion, Mortal Kombat 9 would arrive in the country on April 28, but leaked 15 days before in its physical version for PS3, falling into the hands of a Brazilian from Manaus (AM). The situation would be manageable without major headaches, were it not for the fact that the Brazilian market was still in its infancy to become what it is today, in terms of title debuts here, as well as distribution and location.
O “Kaleb Kettle case” pierced the “gamer bubble” and gained space in large generalist media portals. A certain virtual lynching campaign was also engaged in social networks, which already played this role at that time, while companies tried to chase the damage, reverse the situation and also legally resolve the imbroglio caused with international headquarters.
In this text I decided to revisit this case, not only to remember but also to try to understand and find out “what happened”. There are those who question the validity of such a story. After all, why mess with a buried subject? In fact, it wasn’t buried, just forgotten, but it’s always good to remember this leak of a simple fighting game that completely changed the way of releasing games in Brazil from 2011 onwards.
The road that a major video game release takes is a long one. From its initial idea, through concept development, actual production, closing, manufacturing and, before reaching the consumer’s home, distribution. This is true for Brazil and for the world, but here things have gained particular aspects.
The way to launch games in Brazil is far from what we saw 10 or 15 years ago. The digital format is usually prioritized and, in many cases, games made on disc do not even exist. There are also services, such as Game Pass, that make the launch automatically available to those who subscribe, on the same date and time around the world, within reach of a download, within a few minutes.
And the market has changed a lot too. I spoke with a source who preferred not to be identified who mentioned something extremely important to launch games: deadline. “Today publishers’ deadlines are much shorter than they were years ago,” he said. It is not known if it was exactly because of such a leak of Mortal Kombat, but this was one of the factors that changed the way of launching and distributing games in Brazil. Now companies treat everything differently, from prioritizing large retailers to also avoiding possible leaks with the game stopped in stock for a long time.
The Mortal Kombat case
I remember working at the time on a site relatively well known in the gaming journalism market and covering daily news from Brazil and the world. The site no longer exists, but my memories of the occasion are still very vivid. By the beginning of April we were happy with the imminent arrival of Mortal Kombat to the market not only in Brazil, but worldwide.
The game was of enormous importance, as it would be the first major title in the series to function as a “reset” and with a huge focus on the story, in addition to being the first truly Mortal Kombat PS3 and Xbox 360 generation official. Still, it earned the nickname Mortal Kombat 9, for being, in fact, the ninth of the saga.
In the best possible scenario, Brazil was going to receive the game fully translated! Subtitled and dubbed, plus other benefits such as official launch events across the country. In 2011 this was not just an exception, it was a rarity. The games around here don’t even compare to what we have today, in terms of official representations.
Many companies were already working with the Brazilian market at the time. The Xbox 360 was officially in Brazil, for example, since 2006. The PS3 arrived a little later, in 2010, but almost at the end of the generation. Online services were in their infancy, with the exception of Steam, which already included Brazilians in its networks. We didn’t have local stores for most devices.
Thus, the official release of Mortal Kombat it was a real event, long awaited and also appreciated. Director Ed Boon of the NetherRealm studio was already well known to the public at the time. We had, however, a new presence in the piece: Hector Sanchez, the game’s producer, had a very close connection with the Brazilian public, for dating a Brazilian and speaking Portuguese. It is not by chance that he would come to official launch events here and also participate in the Brasil Game Show, even quite constantly.
Everything was perfect except for one detail that happened on a Sunday.
Kaleb Kettle is the main name of this story. The young man, who was 26 at the time, was the pivot of almost a scandal involving the launch of a game in Brazil. It was a Sunday, April 10, when Kettle posted two videos on YouTube, showing not only the finished album from Mortal Kombat 9, as well as gameplay scenes of characters that had not even been revealed to the public. It was unheard of for everyone and the case reverberated around the world in the next few hours.
One of the videos is still available on YouTube, retrieved on the channel “EricTheKing1101” and can be accessed at this link or seen below. With just over 4 minutes, much of the game is shown, days before it hits the market:
On Monday morning, April 11, game newsrooms across the country caught fire with their quest for information about who that person was, why she was with the game and what would be of Brazil in this “shameful” scenario. according to publications that follow on social networks and also on specialized websites and blogs.
Soon the young man was identified – although in a different scenario, the internet was already efficient at that time in the search for the identity of anonymous people. Kaleb Kettle had also published a photo with the disc in hand, showing the middle finger, already illustrated above. The photo would have been published inside the deceased Orkut, as a way of making fun of a community disaffection.
And who said that was Kaleb himself! But only “now” do we know that…
I had access to the MSN Messenger history of a fan who chatted with Kaleb at the time. The person, whom I prefer not to identify, asked the young man to explain himself to the public and claimed that everyone would understand, while, at that moment, an entire investigation was already being mounted and the police had already been activated by the parties involved.
“This finger didn’t go to any producer or anything, my story boils down to an orkut community, Official PS3. There a guy called me a liar and other things, but because I said I had the game. Because I was so irritated, I decided to do it”, said Kaleb, during the conversation, recorded on the afternoon of April 11, 2011.
Note that Kaleb says that “it wasn’t for any producer”. That’s because of the tweets that Hector Sanchez. One of the main names involved in the production and with the Brazilian public, even posted tweets about it, now deleted, which can be seen below:
The revenge and revenge scenario, for a good part of the public was formed – a search for tweets of the time with the name of the accused reflects this. Reports in magazines (yes, magazines!), websites and blogs declared condemnations against Kaleb Kettle and praised the posture of the Brazilian gamer, who attacked young people on social networks and only wanted to know about retractions and apologies, without further explanation.
The companies involved remained silent. Sony DADC, the former Sony factory in the Manaus Free Trade Zone, did not make a single peep publicly, while its lawyers tried to contact Kaleb at all times. In the messages I got, he said that he had no connections with the manufacturers, nor did he work there, and that he bought the game in a local market – a kind of “25 de Março” in the center of Manaus. Later, he changed the version and said he would have bought it from a man he met on Orkut.
Sony’s operations were bought by the current Solutions 2 Go and today they are a totally different company – most of its employees are newer and did not work at the time of the imbroglio. Those who worked and remember didn’t want to talk either.
Warner also didn’t say anything, even until today. Informally – that is, without the intermediary of advice – I contacted at least three people directly involved with the case at the time, and who no longer work with Warner. None of them wanted to speak. Hector Sanchez himself ignored my Facebook interview request. I also asked for an official note from the current press office or even a statement from Ed Boon about the case – and Warner Brasil declined both requests.
Kaleb Kettle was also found by the report and wanted to speak, in personal accounts on social networks, but unfortunately without an answer. At 36, he still lives in Manaus and uses his social networks to comment on sports.
On a rare occasion where the press responded to the G1, the young man says he was the victim of a scam. “If I had stayed quiet, none of this would have happened. I never had any problems with the police. I worried about my family when they knocked on my door as I am married and my wife is pregnant. I’m not a thief, I fell for a scam”, he defined to the website.
Identifying the responsible
A report dated May 4, 2011 indicates that the Civil Police identified and named the person responsible for the leak of the games, from the Sony factory. Márcio Roberto Santos de Souza was a former Sony employee, who reportedly sold copies of the game to a street vendor in Manaus. The seller, of course, was a friend of Kaleb’s and had his identity preserved, for having collaborated with the investigation.
Márcio Roberto Santos de Souza was indicted for the crimes of violating copyright and aggravated theft. As there was no flagrant, he responded in freedom and I testified to the police. The former employee had already been fired from the factory, but not because of the theft, but because of cost containment – an unfortunate coincidence. Márcio Roberto Santos de Souza was not reached by the report for further clarification.
According to Manaus police forces, a total of nine copies were diverted by the former employee. Of these, only six were recovered – among them the one held by Kaleb Kettle. What happened after that is almost a mystery, for reasons you’ll soon understand.
Industrial espionage risk
Fortunately, someone wanted to talk about the case, even though it has no direct connection. I spoke with Anderson do Patrocínio, 35, to better understand some possible legal implications.
Anderson is also a consumer and is inserted in the market, including his own stories to tell. His twitter account was his @GamerAntifa, which was suspended after a friction with the streamer Gaules and his “Tribe”, as fans of the web star are called. Away from consoles, he has been a lawyer for a few years now, with major cases on his resume involving digital rights, esports and video game industry professionals. He also advises on related matters.
“I can tell you that this whole process has come to nothing. You can’t find the police inquiry that was opened on the internet, because at the time we didn’t have the digital files and all of the national coverage. Even today, in 2021, there are cities where everything happens only in the physical format”, he revealed. “The law is not uniform in Brazil. The Labor and Civil Law is almost all electronic, but the Criminal Law is not. And this taking into account only large capitals!”, added Anderson.
The lawyer explains to the Techblog that “an inquiry is not a process”. After 10 days, if there was no additional registration, it would be archived. And, to find something like this nowadays, I would have to search the police stations, courts and places where this inquiry went, in depth, and only with a registered legal representative. Even if a case was filed, in addition to the investigation, it would take an intense local search to find it.
Due to difficulties, supposedly more important cases and lack of access to more witnesses and information, the process may have come to nothing, even though an initial investigation was carried out.
“In my understanding, personal opinion, I believe they decided that three additional missing copies and a conduct with less offensive potential would not be enough to create a fuss. They managed to recover six of the nine stolen copies, through an investigation and intelligence service”, he recalled. “Given the past time, if the process exists, it is already filed. It would take time to track and even longer to have access to the records”, he added.
For Anderson do Patrocínio, it is understandable if the process itself was not registered. During the chat he remembered that the internet in 2011 was totally different from today. It was already quite comprehensive and powerful, but it did not have the same power to move capital that it has today in relation to the transmission of games, for example. “There was no such thing as an influencer like today. What we understand about a broken embargo on a game at that time does not correspond to current reality”, he said.
But the lawyer guarantees: things would be very different and worse for the accused if they happened today.
“Depending on the content, he could be indicted for industrial espionage today. It falls under the conduct of leaking confidential information from private companies, as this [o vazamento do game dias antes do lançamento] it could give a competitor a financial advantage over the business”, he explained. “If you leak something specific from the game, it could give competitors an early advantage. The company can declare itself a victim of industrial espionage, even if this ‘victimism’, and put a lot of quotation marks around it, whether temporary, since sooner or later the product would be launched”, he added.
The lawyer clarifies that suing is a right of the company, but that does not mean that it is right. It may happen, however, that she can prove the real damage. A good example is the release of Cyberpunk 2077, at the end of 2020, which was troubled and received terrible versions on PS4 and Xbox One. If the public had known about these defects before launch, sales could have been different – but the company was able to hide well the low technical quality of these editions, which caused all misfortune.
“In summary, Kaleb was lucky in a temporal dimension, in which the networks and the games market didn’t talk so much and didn’t even have the dimension they have today”, summarized Anderson, at the end of our chat.
The evolution of the Brazilian market
the case Mortal Kombat 9 it’s full of gray areas, between revanchism, structural flaws and virtual lynchings. Game leaks have always occurred not only in Brazil and not only in 2011. Game distribution has already been badly affected here and has even affected game journalism for a long time.
In 2015 the journalist Renato Siqueira, or “Penpas”, published on his personal blog the text “How bad distribution affects games journalism”, which even initially inspired this special. Penpas was also a guest of our 23rd episode of Hit Kill, the games podcast for Techblog, in which he reflected a little on cases from his career and the industry.
In the original text, Penpas talks about the difficulties of a journalistic work on games at the time, since getting a game in advance was not an easy task, especially in the Brazilian market after the Kaleb case. On one of the occasions he narrates the epic that went to get the game No More Heroes 2, from the Wii, before it hit the market – a saga that even involved speaking directly to Japanese producers, in Japanese, to obtain images and illustrate a print report.
“To maintain a balance between the media and producers, there are NDAs that are common abroad and that also exist in Brazil, with the exception of some producers who think that no Brazilian, regardless of what they do, deserves trust”, states the text by Renato . “The company releases games and information to international vehicles via NDA that release their texts on scheduled dates. In turn, if the company does not trust the Brazilian website or magazine, it is forced to run after the loss after the game has already been launched”, he adds.
Interestingly, Penpas also uses in his text another example involving Warner, to explain how the market’s relationship with its releases and professional areas related to games needed to evolve. At that time it was the Batman: Arkham Knight, which arrived on PS4 and Xbox One, the “new generation”, and which had been leaked days before in the informal market – while game journalists needed to sign NDAs to keep everything confidential.
And then he explains the “cat leap”:
That’s where the “middleman” comes in […] This guy knows all the little stores he goes there and calls himself a Warner Games “seller” to them. He gathers all the small shops and stalls saying that if they buy 3000 pieces they will receive the game first. The Warner Games seller wants to sell and has an NDA to respect. The “middleman” signs the NDA to pick up the product, but when he passes it on to the small retailers, they are not tied to any contract, so if they don’t respect who will blame them? And if you go to the “middleman” and say it was him, the guy contractually did nothing but take the game. The fault is of the bad distribution that confuses small and big stores, harming everyone including those who write about the subject. The guys have not diverted a shipment of Batman games and are not intercepting anything from the Manaus Free Trade Zone or bringing it from Paraguay, Warner itself is distributing the games to everyone in advance.
Still in the text, he illustrates a selfie with Batman in hand, a few days before it officially arrives to players, bought in a “March 25th” of life. Renato certainly did not suffer the same reprisal as Kaleb, neither through legal means nor virtual lynchings via Twitter. The time was different and reality had changed. But the culprits? Brazilians in general, according to Penpas. “The seller says that he passed on the product, but that retailers did not respect the embargo. The American headquarters pulls the reins of releases trying to solve the problem until the arrival of the next blockbuster”, he concludes.
Today, the things are pretty different. As I explained at the beginning of the text, there are tools such as Game Pass, Apple Arcade and many others that facilitate access and allow the player to enjoy the game even a few days in advance, such as EA Play. The digital media is also strengthened and, as much as piracy is still a problem, fans are increasingly convinced of paying for services and having convenience – and, for Brazil, easy access, in financial terms.
the whole case of Mortal Kombat 9 and Kaleb Kettle would hardly happen in 2021, but it’s a story to be remembered and not repeated, especially in terms of “listening to all sides”, when one of them is an ordinary person who was possibly the victim of a simple mismanagement plot of processes and systematic failures that favor leaks or deviations.