Horizon: Zero Dawn has leaked! Some stores have already begun selling copies of the PlayStation 4 game, which wasn’t supposed to be sold until February 28. Party time, right? Wrong. While the idea of a broken street date is exciting, it isn’t as glamorous as it’s cracked up to be when you consider all the people who could or will be hurt by some stores messing up and selling much desired games early.
I mean, the obvious people hurt by broken street dates are the stores who go ahead and actually break the street date. When this happens, the retailer ends up having to pay a not-insignificant fine to the company who made the game. What do you think happens to the worker who made the mistake and sold early copies then? If you guessed that they’d get fired, you’d be right. One of my friends who used to work as a cashier at GameStop sold two copies of a World of Warcraft expansion early and was let go as a result. While you may not care much about a big name retailer losing some cash so you can play a game a week or two early, knowing someone could lose their job as a result taints the joy that comes from adventuring with Aloy ahead of time.
Broken street dates are of course bad for the people who are making the games. These developers and publishers have certain schedules in mind. Dates are planned for a reason. Patches are scheduled to arrive on launch dates. When a product leaks early, people may not have the optimal experience. People could form preconceived notions based on one or two experiences, which could negatively impact sales.
Such a thing even impacts other people in the gaming industry. Early copies of games are occasionally sent out to outlets for coverage. Though, thanks to companies like Bethesda and sometimes Ubisoft or 2K, this is getting scarce. Publishers want to preserve some sense of excitement and control the coverage surrounding their games. When leaks like this happen, it can make them more leery. Which could, in turn, cause shorter lead times for coverage. This could result in fewer reviews ahead of launch, which means less advance warning.
And, of course, it can be bad for the gaming public. When a game is leaked, spoilers abound. Imagine if you’ve been anticipating a game, happen to stumble upon a Reddit or forum post that seems innocuous enough and only discussing a character, then realize someone who has or saw footage from a leaked copy revealed a major plot twist. Worse, maybe you checked Facebook or Twitter and someone you were following posted or retweeted a major spoiler. The game could be ruined for you. Of course, I probably don’t have to ask you to imagine such a scenario. Given the power of the internet, it’s probably happened. Broken street dates ruin experiences for players.
It’s exciting to hear about games breaking street dates. I’m sure we’d all like to one day be so fortunate as to find a game we’ve wanted for months, maybe even years, weeks before everyone else. It’s a thrill, but we have to think about the consequences. Too much is at stake when something comes out too quickly, which can end up making things worse for everyone.
As an aside for those of you who did get manage to get early copies of Horizon: Zero Dawn, please mark any spoilers before you share them!
Image Credit: Kyle McVean Photography | Ely Renae