It’s been over a month since the last official news dump about Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, and a flurry of unofficial and extremely blurry images purportedly leaked from an unfinished build of the game are now filling the void. Fans have no idea if they’re real, but that hasn’t stopped them from rushing to create new fan art, speculate about alternate endings, and debate possible new mechanics.
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet take place in a new Spain-inspired region, feature alternate professors, and a borderless open-world layout that appears to build on the previous flow of exploration in Pokémon Sword and Shield and Pokémon Legends: Arceus. But while players have been introduced to the next round of starters and legendary Pokémon, there’s still a ton more they don’t know. Out November 18, Game Freak still hasn’t even revealed the official name of the region in the new Pokémon game.
That’s where this new batch of alleged leaks comes in. While game leaks are a dime a dozen, and Pokémon leaks have an especially long and checkered history, a stream of potato-quality JPEGs purportedly revealing new Pokémon and gym leaders have really gripped fans’ imaginations. That’s partly because the world of Pokémon, from cards to anime to games, is on a roll right now, and expectations for Scarlet and Violet are running particularly high. But it’s also the nature of the leaked images themselves, which have just enough detail to fuel the fandom and just enough ugly blown-up pixels to require a lot of extra detective work to make any meaning out of them.
The apparent leaks began on July 11 with a batch of low-res images claiming to show seven of the eight new gym leaders, as well as Scarlet and Violet’s rival. Re-shared by the PKMNleak and CentroLeaks fan accounts, it was hard to make heads or tails of them. Some were so blurry you couldn’t even make out the eyes. Most only showed the heads. Adding to the intrigue was the fact that a leak account called Riddler_Khu had shared cryptic tweets from a month earlier that seemed to line up with some of the new images.
That was just the beginning. More images purported to show evolutions for two of the starters, Sprigatito and Quaxly, as well as Lechonk, the Spanish ham that took the internet by storm last month. To try and legitimize the leaks, fans even started comparing the number of curling leaves in Sprigatito’s base form with the number of purple flaps extruding from its evolved form. PKMNleak even tried to up-res some of the images to make them less blurry. Much fanart ensued. Three pink lines with a black smudge at the top became a flamingo.
It was all coming from one source: a Twitter account followers have taken to calling Mr. K to protect its identity. It went private shortly after the leaks started blowing up, and later was deleted altogether, before re-emerging the next day. According to the PoryLeeks account, which has also been following the frenzy, Mr. K changes Twitter handles each day to dump more leaks before disappearing again.
“He Tweets a burst of new info for a few hours,” PoryLeeks told Kotaku. “If he starts noticing people posting about him on 4chan or twitter using his name or handle he then changes His @. It’s the same Twitter account but he keeps changing his name and @ often.”
The community believes Mr. K to be a tester given the mix of impressions and hard info in his leaks. Adding legitimacy is the fact that a previous leaker who goes by Uncle Ridler on the Chinese social media platform Baidu is reposting some of them. Uncle Ridler is associated with Pokémon leaks going back to the Sun and Moon games on the 3DS. Some of the stuff in the images also seems backed up by previous things Riddler_Khu allegedly leaked.
Why is the quality of the images so crappy? According to PoryLeeks it was to filter out any identifying information. The leaker put a filter on top of it because there is numbers on the screenshots,” the account told Kotaku. “Probably code numbers for a build. He also seems scared of posting images.”
The most polarizing stuff to come out of the leaks aren’t the images themselves, but purported details about the larger structure of the game. Mr. K, as relayed through leak aggregation accounts, claims that Pokémon can time travel and that there are multiple endings. They also claim to have revealed a core mechanic the community is calling the “crystal gimmick” by which Pokémon can get a damage-type bonus once per battle through a glittery effect that lasts until they go back in their Pokéball. Fans have speculated this is why Pokémon look weird and shiny in certain pics.
They also say that the gym leaders don’t scale in difficulty based on the player’s number of badges, a potentially controversial design choice in a game where the developers have confirmed you can complete sections in any order. Fans are already arguing over how this would work and whether it means the leaks are fake. “That sounds very gamefreak to me,” wrote one commenter on the Pokéleaks subreddit. “Riding on the copium that there’s either an error somewhere or that this is fixed in a later build,” responded another.
While unconfirmed, the claims are also subject to misinterpretation. According to PoryLeeks, Mr. K’s grammar in both English and Japanese isn’t the best, and even if they are legitimate, whatever they mean to say could be easily misunderstood. The game also isn’t even finished yet, and if other recent Pokémon releases are any indication, things could still change or be updated through launch.
Plus, leaks, real or not, have a way of spiraling out of control. There is already a lot of confusion around the possible “crystal gimmick,” with people providing speculative explanations of how it would work or mixing up the supposed new information with stuff from old 4chan posts. And many of the accounts spreading the original leaker’s info have routinely had to issue updates or corrections over errors in translations.
One thing that will bring the potential misinformation boom to a close is more official information from Game Freak, but fans are also divided on when that will eventually arrive. While Scarlet and Violet have firm release dates now, the schedule for Nintendo and Pokémon Directs has been all over the place in recent years, and especially this summer. Once the dam on official news does finally break, then fans can switch over from feasting on low-res images to complaining about low-res trees in the latest trailer.