Thus Always to Leakers

I’ve written a few times before about the irrelevance of gaming journalism due to the Internet providing new avenues for both publishers and largely unpaid enthusiasts to spread information that was previously limited to trade shows, magazines and to a lesser extent: through broadcast media. As with most changes, it took a while for many to notice but the adjustments to this reality are now coming with ever more rapidity. E3 ended in 2021 the very year I wrote about how pointless it had become. I don’t claim to be a prophet on this as many far more knowledgeable had been saying the same for many years before that. A few years before this, in a post on the general state of the gaming industry, I devoted a few paragraphs at the end to the irrelevance of gaming journalism. I also listed a number of websites that had closed at that time and this has only increased most recently with lay-offs at The Escapist and even Kotaku struggling though both these websites are still active as of writing. 

Gaming websites now perform only a handful of functions and most of questionable importance. The only really useful one is writing guides which is something gamers have been doing unpaid for decades anyway. Two more are re-reporting press releases and announcements and less importantly: adding commentary to these announcements and through opinion pieces. The commentary is original content at least but again, is usually done better elsewhere and by people with genuine enthusiasm.

The only other thing they can really do is report on leaks and rumours which is at best, ethically questionable. Spreading rumours from “sources” which more often than not, turn out to be false is serving no purpose outside of generating ad revenue; which means that it is the purpose for doing so. Where these rumours or leaks do turn out be accurate, it is either no better than a guess or it is because someone in a trusted position has spread information they should not have which brings me to the subject of this post.

Now leaks and rumours have no doubt been around since the first pamphlets were passed around on the street. Sometimes this leaked information or rumours have relevance to the public and it is good that such information was made public. What is at times true of socio-political issues is never true of video games. Revealing the new Kirby game Nintendo is developing a month or even a day before the official announcement is never in the public interest. And while someone may not care about causing irritation to a very rich corporation  — revealing private information can and does hurt people. It casts suspicion on all who have access to such information and it also causes friction and irritation in the workplace as new guidelines and rules are put in place to prevent future leaks. It also hurts the relationship between other companies that might be entrusted with such information earlier for various other reasons. 

What I’m talking about specifically here are not the “my uncle works at Nintendo” kids making up stories on web forums of old. I’m speaking more of the people usually positng on places like Twitter seeking “Internet clout” by revealing this information before it is officially announced. The people who seek out and spread this information are also part of the problem. Many of these people have come and gone over the years and some still go at it despite being wrong just as much as they are right. I’m quite certain that these people have even responsible for announcements  and reveals being delayed due to such leaks. 

In very recent news, one such leaker has closed their Twitter account after it was all but discovered they got their information from access the Nintendo’s website. If accurate, this meant they were able to see new games ready to go live on the storefront when the announcements were made during or directly after a Nintendo Direct. In the most recent Nintendo Direct, this didn’t happen so the leaker had no information to leak and sleuths were able to make the connection as a result. Again, if this is accurate it means that this is also an example of what I mentioned above where a company has to make changes to their protocols because of unreliable employees. Whether the leaker was an actual employee or knew one is not really relevant as the result is the same.

This can be read at this link which is an archived copy of a Bloomberg article by Jason Schreier. The leaker in question was dumb enough to respond to Schreier under the always mistaken belief that a journalist will keep anything you tell them confidential. I wouldn’t take Schreier’s disdain for who he terms “anonymous video-game rumormongers” as related to his own ethical considerations. This is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. The only difference between Schreier and these anonymous leakers apart from the anonimity is that he gets paid so they represent a threat to his hustle. Still, someone who has gained clout by betraying the confidence placed in him receiving the same treatment from someone who makes a living betraying confidences is quite poetic.

Now to whether news sites should report on leaks. I would say generally, that it is hard to avoid and to tempting for any media that reports such news. That said, I don’t think leaks should be sought out or anyone should be involved in trying to get them more directly. Leakers themselves should be ignored or if someone must pay them attention, it should be to mock them relentlessly. I would generally encourage reporting the leaks without mentioning the leaker and so hopefully discouraging others. I naturally don’t expect anything like this to happen. 

I for one, will still be happy when I hear that one has received consequences as has happened in this most recent case.

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