Leak: the perverse pleasure of peeking over the lock

Another year full of announcements, video games and new and old developments ends, but some wolves that sneak into the video game industry, holed up safely in the shadows, lose their fur, but not their vice; will it be in economic interest to move them? Grudge against an employer? Or simply want fifteen minutes of popularity among the web pages? We are obviously talking about the leaker, or those who - more or less systematically - reveal confidential information concerning the videogame titles of the moment. From the announcements leaked before The Game Awards 2020 to The Last of Us 2 even ending with the Christmas offers of Epic Games, it is very clear how another year has passed, but that the spiel is always the same. But what is a leak? IS what causes in the gaming industry and gamer communities? Let's try to clarify the topic, analyzing some examples that you will surely remember.

Genealogy of the leak

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, for leak (literally "loss" in English) means one leaking confidential and unconfirmed information before their official disclosure by the videogame production house, turning out to be true and consistent with the game after its release. Obviously, the latter has no interest in spreading such news, which travels quickly on the web and could harm the profits of the video game in question. To release online leaks, therefore, are employees,it of videogame houses, Journalists, or groups of hacker trying to extract information directly from the source.

The leakers, once they get the news, have subsequently two alternatives to disseminate the contents in their possession: contact some important and followed person in the videogame industry (such as the journalists of the most important sector newspapers in the world, often very popular on Twitter) or give the information directly to users Reddit and 4chan, thanks to the "protection" guaranteed by anonymity, in a post that is as captivating and structured as possible to overcome the first step of the reaction on which leaks are based: make do not go unnoticed and talk about it.

Users, on the other hand, are now used to hearing about leaks that have finally turned out to be alone rumor particularly imaginative and bordering on credible, so once the offending post has been identified, the next step is verify the alleged source and reliability of the material, perhaps comparing it with other content leaked some time before. Sometimes timing doesn't help at all - think of the Pokémon Let's Go! Screenshot. uploaded to the network on April 1st, the date on which the fake leaks flock! Whether you like it or not, in this phase of the spread of leaks, these unconfirmed news are real sticky for communities: here we start actively discuss the title in question, searches on search engines multiply, theories and conjectures about the contents of these premature revelations go crazy. L'hyping it flows powerfully between web pages. But what's wrong then?

If it is true that on the one hand the buzz around a game in output increases exponentially, on the other hand it increases the possibility of criticisms and negative comments against a title that has not yet seen the light of day. In addition, following the disclosure of features or even gameplay, many users have even decided to cancel your pre-order because they are not satisfied with a video game they have not, on balance, played yet.

The cases are many, varied and distributed over time: already in 2003, a leak revealed the source code of Half Life 2, just five months after the game was released. Ten years later, however, Kotaku revealed to the world that he had received one script (later revealed to be authentic) which alluded to Fallout 4. On the Nintendo side, we remember the striking leak of the CIA file of Pokémon Moon, which allowed the title to be illegally played before its official release; or again, just think of the many leaks concerning the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate roster, which nullified the hype for subsequent ads.

Taking into consideration some more recent examples, a case of leak of mammoth proportions concerned The Last of Us 2: An employee uploaded a gameplay of a dev build, revealing all the cutscene of the game. The consequences, as you may remember, were disastrous: users began to criticize the narrative direction of the game, letting themselves go to disrespectful comments towards developers and the LGBTQIA + community. Nonetheless, the development house Naughty Dogs he responded diplomatically to the leak, urging fans not to let the surprise spoil. But this wasn't the last big news leak of 2020: in the last few days, a leak has hit the upcoming one Resident Evil 8: Village, revealing the game build containing maps, enemies and storyline. In short, Merry Christmas, especially at Capcom.

Between curiosity and crime

If fans follow leaks and rumors with passion (just take a look at the dedicated subreddit on Reddit, which boasts more than 100.000 subscribers), uploading these materials is a real infringement of intellectual property, as well as serious economic damage to the company that is producing the title. Just think of all the canceled pre-orders and pirated copies of the titles. And the fewer returns for gaming houses mean fewer resources for future titles.

A couple of elements emerge with arrogance in this sea of ​​credible news and illegally stolen content: users no longer want to wait. Now everything is just a click away, faster and more interconnected, so there are those who prefer to spoil the surprise and risk being disappointed rather than wait for the official announcement. Let's wallow inera of extreme curiosity and spoiler, always poised between the desire to peek beyond the lock and the wait, sometimes exhausting as in the case of Cyberpunk 2077, for the announcements and releases as the production companies foresee.

There are those who could justify the leaks by virtue of a future conscious purchase. In this case, I'll run the risk of sounding reactionary: relying on a disjointed series of unconfirmed elements to judge a title is equivalent to judging a book by its cover, bypassing the judgment of the press, aimed precisely at guiding users in their choice in the game. Especially in the United States, it is also true that after the events of the Gamergate of 2014, which led users to doubt the sector press, there is a general climate of mistrust towards videogame journalists. This does nothing but add gunpowder to that boiling cauldron that is the videogame industry, weakened by the logic of leaks that has now become practice.

If you've come this far with the hope of finding answers to the big questions of the leak issue, I'm sorry to disappoint you: I just have more questions. I wonder and I ask you: why settle for second-hand opinions, especially when it comes to news that can't actually be confirmed until the game is released? Why trust the first opinion that comes up, when only we will be able to establish whether we liked a game or not, thanks to our personal tastes and our videogame experience? If you are here, you love video games as much as we love them and you are aware of how much work it takes to brighten up our free time: and so why undermine the gaming industry and its workers?

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