Video Game Leaks: Friend or Foe?

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I’m not here to discuss leaks and how they happen. No, we could be here all day for that. Instead, I want to discuss the effect of leaks. Whether we accept this or not, this much is certain: leaks are not a good thing for the industry. They can ruin trailers and announcements, and while that may not mean a lot to some gamers out there it definitely means a lot to a team who had to put that promotional material out. Imagine working weeks on a trailer for a game you know people are going to love, only to see the announcement made by a Reddit post because of the leaked box art or something. That would be pretty shitty.

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With the ease of access to information we have these days, it’s not surprising that game companies are having a hard time keeping leaks from happening. Be it from a rogue developer who just uploads something, a developer talking to a YouTuber or journalist, or just a bit of neglect, information is hard to keep a secret. Some companies out there are good at keeping a lid on information, others not so much. Somehow, the gaming companies still haven’t learned if you put too much info into something as small as a demo then put that on PC that it’ll get datamined to hell. I would have thought that kind of stuff ended years ago but hey. Here we are.

I’m not here to discuss leaks and how they happen. No, we could be here all day for that. Instead, I want to discuss the effect of leaks. Whether we accept this or not, this much is certain: leaks are not a good thing for the industry. They can ruin trailers and announcements, and while that may not mean a lot to some gamers out there it definitely means a lot to a team who had to put that promotional material out. Imagine working weeks on a trailer for a game you know people are going to love, only to see the announcement made by a Reddit post because of the leaked box art or something. That would be pretty shitty.

Now, with all that said, I don’t think leaks are a bad thing overall. Does it hurt the industry? Yes. However, the entire point of promo material is hype. To get people aware and excited about their next project. Honestly, I’m fine with trailers becoming more confirmation and visualization than hype. Consider this: when Resident Evil 3 Remake was leaked, people lost it. Some thought it was fake, others convinced it was real. Some Youtubers were even making videos about it. But ultimately, when the trailer came out, we were surprised (and hyped) because of how good it looks and that it’s actually happening. In that case, the work of those putting together the promo wasn’t wasted.

Perhaps it’s because I’m an impatient person and not the fondest of surprises, but I fail to see the harm in leaks. They do the same thing that developers were trying to do. They create expectations, generate hype, and get people ready to buy their next product. Really, the only harm in a leak is when it isn’t real. But that happens so often, the trailers are even more important. How the information gets to the people hardly matters these days, and there are very few instances that can suggest otherwise.

The only other time leaks can be harmful are post-launch leaks of things like development, ideas that were scrapped, and other info about how the game came to be. Often, we’ve seen workers at these companies tell journalists all about this sort of stuff; like the big Anthem scandal to the exposure of companies that abuse “crunch” that ultimately burn the development team out. Now those leaks can do some damage to a company’s reputation, but that’s about it. Otherwise, game leaks are fine.

Ultimately, whether or not you’re into leaks is up to you. If you hate them because you don’t want your surprises being ruined, then, of course, they seem bad. That won’t stop them from happening though. Leaks at this point are just part of the gaming culture and happens to the best of them. If developers don’t want it to keep happening, then they will need to improve their security and privacy practices internally. Also monitor their employees better with stricter non-discourse agreements. Someone needs to be held accountable for these leaks. How does a whole trailer get out ahead of schedule? Box art? Demos being leaked? That’s all internal stuff. We, the consumer, just get to enjoy it.

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