Leaking From Review Copies Is Just Plain Wrong

Leaking game information has become a sport with how much it’s done now. It wasn’t long ago that you had to work incredibly hard to be a part of the game creation or marketing to leak it. Now, I think I see two games get some leaks from review copies for every five released.

We published an article about how Super Smash Bros. doesn’t use cutscenes anymore because of how many leaks happen. I remember Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 getting its entire game leaked on Reddit just because a reviewer or influencer got a review copy. That kind of stuff used to be really hard to get and no one in a real gaming journalism site used to think to do that. It’s the biggest taboo.

When you love the games industry enough to write about it or to give your opinion, you care a lot about its growth. You don’t want to screw over the people that have given so much of themselves to their art. When those people hand over a review copy, they give you trust. Taking that trust and sacrificing it for clout is just despicable. You can earn internet points by working hard on something or get five seconds of fame on a throwaway account on Reddit. Too often we see the latter happen.

Now, don’t get me wrong, these all stemmed from the original leakers who worked hard to do this. This includes the data miners and people who worked with the company. These rare pieces of information are different. To data mine, you have to work hard; there’s no CTRL+F and typing in “Fortnite secrets.” You have to scour code and files and find the little pieces that you can show to fans. People like HypeX and Shiina work hard to find Fortnite information.

Then you have those people who risk their jobs to leak things. I have friends in QA for publishers, it is a great job to have but it’s also very controlled. Just having your phone past a certain point in a building is cause for immediate firing. It’s not a joke or something taken lightly when those leakers do what they do.

It takes work and real sacrifice in those cases. You also don’t get much. Then there’s that micro-influencer who wants everyone to like them so they leak things shown through review codes.

They ruin our industry because then you get a situation where Nintendo sends codes out only to a handful of sites to cover things like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Even though the leak still happened, that lack of trust came from those who needed attention more than their integrity. It makes our job harder because we can’t help with guides or give news quickly enough when we don’t get those codes.

Unfortunately, it has seeped into the professional parts of the industry as well. A friend of mine, James Wright, is the Editor-in-Chief of GinxTV. He laid out this point perfectly after Nicholas Cage in Dead by Daylight was revealed by those who were trusted by Behaviour Interactive. To quote his tweet:

“It fucking sucks that this (& more) has leaked 24 hours after a press briefing & days before an awesome showcase for fans. This isn’t from datamining, there’s no ‘work’ involved. No wonder publishers want to control the narrative when ppl can’t even be trusted with a press pack.”

James Wright, GinxTV Editor-In-Chief

I’ve worked at bigger sites and with people who have worked at the big names, and I promise you, the publishers aren’t giving away leaks. They don’t want us to reveal things that aren’t ready or to “test the audience.” That in itself sounds dumb because they could lose a lot of money by “testing” outside of the focus groups. It’s true that there are times when we know things early so we can help present it to the player and write things early, but not leaks. Marketing is so very controlled that they’d hate to have something go out in a way they didn’t intend.

Imagine you made a game and took years to finish it. You wanted to show everyone when it was done, and you let a few sites play it so they could get ready to help market this piece when it’s ready (with guides, a review, and news). You made promises that everyone would get to talk about it at the same time so the people who run those places agree to help you. You’re nervous about the set day but you know that your work should be ready when the day comes.

Then someone leaks it early and it’s not even ready most of the time. Everyone judges your game by what they saw without context; some won’t play at all because of this first impression. Those sites are wondering why you’re so loose with your codes, and now you’ve soured your own look. This is all because someone you trusted wanted to feel special for a few minutes.

When you leak a game from a review copy, you’re just hurting your own industry. Use the trust to build up your own articles and believe in yourself enough to do the work. There are a lot of people who get affected by it when you leak a game early. It’s important to have integrity in any role, but it’s especially important when it’s in an industry you love. Time to get off my soap box.

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