Two days before the big reveal of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 on Sunday, along with hands-on previews from journalists that got to see the game a week earlier, images of promotional materials from GameStop were posted showing a ton of information about the game. This undercut Treyarch’s big moment on Sunday. These kinds of leaks aren’t just isolated to this incident, however. They are a big problem in the industry.
Chandler: The popularity of the entertainment industry has the side effect of fans being rabid for more information. Whether it’s scraping together every possible clue about an upcoming release in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or looking for spoilers about what may happen on upcoming episodes of a TV show, the fans will seek out every bit of information they can get prior to the release of a product. In addition to those looking for details are those who actually have that information, and want to be the first to leak it for some kind of 15 minutes of fame on the internet.
This is no more true than in the games industry, where we find ourselves with new leaks of information on upcoming games every other week or so. The average fan may just see these leaks as a great way to get details on titles that they are excited about, but the fact is these leaks have a much more damaging impact on game creators than we know.
This last week’s Black Ops 3 leak is a great example. From the couple of images posted and the little bit of information they had to go on, people suddenly assumed they knew everything about the game. I had been sitting on a lot of information about Black Ops 3 for a week, and now everyone was talking about it, some of it right, and some of it wrong. But I couldn’t say a word. I was under NDA and respected Activision and Treyarch asking that we not talk about it until after the official reveal. The leak took the attention away from the official reveal and early previews, and unfairly gave traffic to those who posted the leaks, making the official reveal feel less impressive or important, because the information was already out there.
The other big problem is early creative, assets, and ideas may not make it into the final product. Developers are being forced into revealing their games and ideas earlier and earlier because they would rather control the flow of information than allow somebody to leak something out of context or that just might not be true. I know that you’re excited, but sometimes our own rabid desire for the next nugget of information causes assumptions and expectations that the game cannot live up to. Is it possible to go into a release of a new movie or game without needing to know every detail about it?
Dan: I know that most people will see this article and think, ‘who cares if we get some bit of information a week early, it doesn’t matter’. But, the reality is that it does matter, and for reasons that are probably beyond most people who don’t consider the penalties for an industry that is constantly breeding mistrust within itself. Like any business or service that is reliant on professionalism, it is far too easy to capitalize on sensationalism, or in this case, abuse access to sensitive information.
Fans are always complaining about specific sites getting exclusive access because they think they are doing little more than ‘shilling’ out products to their viewers. But, the reality comes down to trust, and how much a developer or publisher can trust the people they are working with to handle the information they are giving them. Information really is power, and those that are more than willing to abuse that power for temporary gain, are also those that are most likely to not bother with checking their sources.
This means that while a site may gain an increase in readership, they are also under the impression that they need to keep ahead of the curve to keep people coming back, not just provide quality content. Being first in this industry does have a great deal of benefit, and timing is important, but if you cannot spend the time to create something of quality, while it may hurt developers, it really will be the fans who lose out in the end.
Just like Chandler had brought up, expectations are a genuine issue for developers, and that is why most announcements are carefully planned out. While it may suck to have to wait for the a nugget of information regarding the next big thing, sometimes we need to see the whole picture before jumping to conclusions and not all leaks do a good job of explaining what we are seeing. So, in general, if all a leak does is perpetuate a feeling of mistrust, force exclusives to a handful of publications and potentially give us incomplete or false information, is it really worth not having to wait a few days?
Are leaks really all that bad for the industry? Would you rather have a little information right now, or complete information later? Feel free to leak your responses to us on Twitter @FoolsJoker and @FinchStrife, email us at [email protected], and of course, join in the discussion in the comments below.