The topic of leaks is always a very volatile one when it comes to the game industry. On one hand, some fans prefer to have publishers and developers announce their upcoming projects when they’re ready, but on the other hand, with games taking years and years to make, it’s difficult and not always consumer-friendly to just tell players about a game right before it’s about to come out. With conflicting opinions everywhere you look, Alex and Ben have once again put their heads together to share their thoughts on the world of leaks.
Leaks are beneficial – Ben
The game industry is a strange one compared to the broader entertainment space. Movies, TV, music, books, none of these things are written or made overnight, but at the same time (unless you’re George R.R. Martin) they don’t usually take 5+ years to make. Many games, especially big-budget AAA titles, do.
This is precisely why leaks are still a necessity for the game industry. Publishers don’t often like to tell you about what games they have in the pipeline, and so there is always a degree of uncertainty about what we as consumers can and should look forward to. There would be uproar if the major film and TV production companies did not inform media and fans in a timely manner about the projects they were working on, but in the games space it is the norm.
Let me make something very clear. There’s a difference between a leak revealing that Rockstar is working on Grand Theft Auto VI (because we all know Take-Two won’t say anything official about this game until it’s ready to actually debut), and that of a self-appointed insider sharing secretive and often unconfirmed information about a project that’s barely in the pre-production phase. Like the world of sports journalism, the gaming world is chock full of these “insiders” who claim to have insight into the industry, yet often have a success rate on confirmed information that leaves much to be desired.
But without these kinds of rumors and reports, the gaming space would be a very corporate and PR-centric industry to follow. Publishers would only tell you exactly what they want you to know about their upcoming works. We would probably have very little idea about revenue generation plans, release windows, style and concept of games. And this even extends to the hardware space to boot, because we never really know what’s happening in the PC component and console development space until official information is revealed, and to me that’s just terrible.
It is an open secret that Nintendo is working on a new Switch model, and yet there is no official information about this yet. Without leaks, we would all still be complaining endlessly about the dated components that make up the current version of the platform, and begging Nintendo to finally release an updated and next-generation system.
Until there is regulation, or the game industry suddenly becomes more transparent, leaks must continue and be present. If not, we’ll just keep trending toward a Cold War-like world where secrets and false information circulate the industry, while consumers are kept in the dark and beg to get every little detail about upcoming projects.
Leaks are harmful – Alex
Is there anything worse than building up anticipation for a movie, TV show or game, and then having important details spoiled before you get a chance to experience them for yourself? Well, there are, of course, things worse than spoilers. Famine, murder, those are a lot worse, but a spoiler is still terrible to experience. In the age of modern media, it’s so hard to just experience something without knowing things in advance. Leaks only increase the chances of getting something spoiled and can completely ruin a game’s chances of delivering the experience the developers intended. This doesn’t always happen, and in some cases leaked details will help build hype, but the element of surprise can be lost in some truly daunting ways.
Two great and recent examples that come to mind are those of Grand Theft Auto VI and The Last of Us: Part II. Both had key aspects of their experience leaked online. With the former, we saw early gameplay clips and screenshots long before Rockstar was ready to show them, and in the latter, the game’s biggest storyline was shown to the world. In some ways, the Grand Theft Auto VI leaks were not the worst thing that could have happened, because they at least let us know that the game was in development. However, it distorted the idea of what the game would look like for most people who viewed the leaks. Those who saw these early images thought it was what the game would look like upon release, which is obviously false, but hasn’t stopped some from bashing the game before we’ve even seen anything good from it.
The Last of Us: Part II had a completely different leak, as I mentioned, which showed that Joel would not make it far in the sequel. This infuriated fans before they could actually experience the narrative beats in The Last of Us: Part II to see if the decision made sense in Naughty Dog’s vision of the story. Leaks in both cases have given gamers an early but unfair look at what a game will supposedly look like, and as quick as gamers are to jump to conclusions, this has led to extreme backlash based on content that is not really definitive. The gaming atmosphere is toxic enough as it is, and leaks and other information gathered before it has been officially revealed has only allowed it to further this toxicity. It’s also from a developer’s perspective, because you can have spent years working on a great project like Grand Theft Auto VI, waiting for that perfect moment when you can show off your efforts, only for that moment to be ruined by a 17-year-old on a laptop. Anyone who has worked hard on something for a long time can identify with it. It’s like a book released half-written, or a painting shown when much of the canvas is blank. It doesn’t quantify a game’s potential achievement, while people can dive on it because they refuse to understand the difference between a leak and an official reveal.
Big leaks like this are rare, but when they happen, it shows that we might be better off if we could just experience things as they were intended. If you’re looking for leaks to get an early impression of a game before you buy, why not just wait until official material is shown? This does not cover when event details and the like are leaked, as these early reveals often do not have such a huge impact on the industry as a whole. But in short, leaks not only spoil content for people, but they also create a lot of flawed and false expectations before anything official is revealed in the proper format.