The Evils of Video Game Leaks
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With how loud people in the minority on the internet can be, it is hard to tell what a majority of people think. When it comes to game leaks, it can be even harder to know where you stand. Selfishly, I am a fan of leaks, because I get a better glimpse into an upcoming game and I can have a better idea of what to expect. For me, it feels like a nice contrast to the carefully cultivated image a video game’s marketing team strives to create. The most annoyed I’ll get at a leak is when my cynical side tells me that the leak is intentional and a tactic to create more buzz. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are people that hate leaks. After the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate leak, which was a result of gamers getting ahold of copies of the game two weeks early, I am starting to better understand why leaks can upset people so much.

First, I have nothing but sympathy for game designers who want the launch of a game to be a surprise. They work tirelessly for their art, and each step of the process goes toward making sure they are making the best game they can for gamers. There’s something to be said about an unadulterated experience that comes from playing a game blind. When news sites and forums light up with all the latest in leaks, that can be hard to do. Also, everybody enjoys games differently, and there’s a chance that the internet will cast a bad light on a game before everyone has an opportunity to decide for themselves. A leak is the polar opposite of careful marketing, and it can create an equal, but opposite illusion.

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In regards to surprises, spoilers must be considered. A lot of gamers play games for the narrative, and there’s an expectation that it’s safe to participate in game discussions about things like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate without fear that these spoilers will pop up. But some people also love spoiling things and when something like a movie script leaks, those spoilers make their way around. With the dramatic trailer for Smash depicting nearly every non-Kirby character getting absolutely destroyed, there’s an air of intrigue. I would wager that most people want that mystery to unravel naturally. Now, they have to be on their guard.

On another level, leaks like this take away a bit of the fanfare surrounding marketing itself. Sure, there are a lot of discussions people can have about the merits and detriments of marketing and that’s a complicated conversation to have, but I must admit that press events and announcements are fun. With this particular leak, it has finally clicked with me why people are upset: there isn’t anything more to announce. The folks at Nintendo have put a lot of effort into making their press events feel special and have somehow set themselves apart from other publishers in this regard. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has even been the center of a lot of these events, and there’s a tradition in the series for these bits of information to be unveiled like surprises. Fortunately, there is still room for surprise with this one, in the form of DLC characters.

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From a reporting standpoint, there’s less to write about, too. There was a giant wave of information, and now there is simply a countdown towards release. Like your average fan, many of us look forward to finally getting a chance to play the game. But there’s no longer a puzzle to piece together, thanks to the leak. I looked at everything I could regarding the game, spoiling it for myself, because I felt it was my responsibility to stay informed. I’m not mad about that and I did so willingly. But I will say that there are some surprises that would have been cool to uncover naturally and it is my hope that fans of the game make it through launch spoiler free so they can play the experience with childlike wonder, the way it was intended.

Benjamin Maltbie
Benjamin Maltbie

Contributing Writer
Date: 12/12/2018

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