Leaks are both demonized and lauded among the gaming community. People who put hard work into their projects want the right to announce them when they are read. Those who are fans want to know everything as soon as possible sometimes, and other times want to be surprised. We have seen leaks become a tremendous issue as of late for two reasons. One, is because Walmart Canada ended up spoiling many of E3 2018’s surprises, like Rage 2. The other is because Square Enix confirmed games like Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts 3 were announced too early to combat leaks. What can people do to fight them?
A good step forward might be Stricter NDAs for everyone involved in the game creation process. If people have signed a contract that penalizes them in some way, they will be better about keeping things quiet. Extend it to voice actors too, since it is because of Chris Jai Alex, the voice of Rhino, that we know Doctor Octopus will be in Spider-Man. Sure, there will be people like that Fortnite QA contractor who broke an NDA by talking to a friend about upcoming additions, then tried to say they were not responsible for the whole internet knowing because it was their friend who shared it. But good NDAs can work!
Nintendo seems to be a master of secrecy. While there was one source who ended up leaking the entirety of the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate E3 2018 Nintendo Direct reveals on 4chan ahead of the event, the company is otherwise great about keeping things on lockdown. We did not know Metroid Prime 4 was a thing until it was announced. Details about Fire Emblem: Three Houses were similarly kept under wraps. If it weren’t for necessary ratings board and trademark filings, we would probably never hear a peep out of the big N. That is, unless Nintendo wanted something to be shared.
More transparency is another way to fight leaks. If people are constantly aware of what you are doing, then there is no way to have something slip out. Putting development of a game in the public eye could be a big help. It would allow for a controlled drip feed to people. And, if something bigger ended up slipping through the cracks, you could play it off as intentional and use the feedback from it to continue to make the game as a whole better.
We’ve already seen Ubisoft take this approach, with Beyond Good and Evil 2. Ahead of launch, Michel Ancel, the man behind the series, was teasing fans with art. Then, at E3 2017, it was officially announced alongside a Space Monkey Program that would allow fans behind the scenes access and opportunities to influence the game’s development. At E3 2018, we saw Jade and learned a beta would appear before 2018 ends. Leaks aren’t an issue here, because Ubisoft is keeping everyone current.
Leaks will always be a problem. The degree to which they impact games can be lessened, though. If companies are willing to crack down harder on leakers or be more open during the development process, a positive change could be made. Of course, this does mean leaning toward two extremes on a spectrum. We will have to see what impact things like the Fortnite QA leak and Beyond Good and Evil 2 program will have on the industry.