Here's Why Leaks Are Bad For The Videogame Industry
If you’re anything like me, and you’ve spent a lot of time on the internet following the latest gaming news on your favourite social media sites, then you’ve almost certainly heard of the infamous and much-discussed videogame leak. A leak can come from various sources, but they’re usually shared by industry insiders and popular YouTubers that often hear about a game’s delay or spicy rumour which dominates the headlines for a few days. It’s not that these things are anything terrible because, of course, we like to keep our ears peeled to the rumour mill — that’s just human nature, ya know? However, several issues arise from a leak being shared on the internet, regardless of its size or popularity.
For example, one of the best parts about the lead-up to a game’s release is all the mystery surrounding it. This, of course, depends on your tolerance towards spoilers before a title is released. Still, you can’t deny that many people prefer to go into an experience knowing as little as possible. So, by leaking an entire videogame for all to see (such as the latest The Lord of the Rings: Gollum), you’re ruining the possibility of a spoiler-free playthrough for many people and potentially ruining the developer’s life’s work. To be fair, it’s your choice whether you want to look at that stuff or not, but even if you don’t, it’s still there, and that thought will always be in your head, leading to the game being spoiled anyways. If you have all that power, why not keep it to yourself until some time has passed since the official release? I know that’s a lot to ask, and I’m aware of the human desire to be the first to do something, but at least think about the consequences for once.
Do you remember The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom leak that happened a few weeks ago? A highly anticipated sequel to one of the highest-rated videogames in a long while was ruined for tons of people due to pirates who somehow managed to get access to an illegitimate copy. Fans had been waiting for it for over six years, but that lead-up was tainted because some people wanted internet clout. Even if Nintendo’s reluctance to share details beyond what it had been sharing since its announcement was partly why the leak happened in the first place, leakers and pirates who do this stuff should still face consequences that are beyond just some insignificant DMCA strikes.
There is also the issue of games potentially being delayed due to leaks, as developers may want to retool their projects after they had been shown to the world before they were ready. We have no way of knowing for sure, but if you put yourself in the shoes of a developer who has spent the last five years working on a videogame only to have the entire thing leak way before it’s ready to be shown, then wouldn’t you want to make some changes to it, too? The element of surprises is crucial to a title’s success. For example, Grand Theft Auto VI, which was shared years before its official release date, forced Rockstar Games to either change minor plot details or start from scratch, depending on how upper management felt about the security breach. Game developers are artists, too, and if art is their passion, then it must feel horrible to have their life’s passion spread around the world like that. Think about something you’ve made in your life that you feel passionate about — would you want someone you’ve never met to hate on it before you were even close to finishing it? I don’t think so.
This is a highly contested and incredibly complicated topic, so this article only scratches the surface of the issue. At the end of the day, it would be nice to go into a game’s release without any significant leaks so we can all enjoy it the same way without the fear of arguments or spoilers. Or maybe you want leaks? That’s fine. But even if you do, then you have to at least agree that fans and game developers shouldn’t have to go through the added stress of having to decide if they want to ruin their favourite pastime or stay off social media all because someone couldn’t until the official release and just had to ruin it for others. Leaks create an unnecessary dilemma, potentially affecting the videogames they’re related to and tarnishing someone’s life, work and passion. And they’re not a fun time, either…