Are Gaming Announcements Being Deliberately Leaked?

This might just be me, but there seems to be a lot of gaming announcements being leaked lately. These leaks/rumors tend to spread like wildfire, and more often than not, recent ones have turned out to be spot on. I could be just thinking like a conspiracy theorist, but it does seem like this is could be happening on purpose.

Secrets—we all know some, and all have some. We learn the concept of secrecy at an early age, and carry it throughout our lives. Sometimes it’s wrong to keep a secret, but this doesn’t apply in every case. When it comes to most company/business secrets, employees are required to keep them. That definitely applies in the world of gaming. Even with my job as a writer, I’m sometimes obligated to keep secrets when reviewing a game, for example. This comes in the form of an NDA: “non-disclosure agreement”. Basically, it’s just a fancy way of saying: “Ssshhh, don’t tell anyone.” In a lot of businesses, even employees that are let go, quit or retire are still sometimes obligated to adhere to the terms they agreed to when they signed an NDA.

Just like in normal life, business secrets are kept to ensure not only privacy, but also protection. The main thing businesses try to avoid is their competitors finding out about their plans, as that could potentially lead to the competitors then counteracting whatever new thing they have in the works. This is why companies like Apple and Samsung tend to only talk about new projects shortly before release, giving competitors virtually no chance of being able to create a direct response anytime soon. Then we have other companies that may announce something early on, then not talk about it for a long length of time. A good example would be Nintendo and their deep silence surrounding the Switch before its release. The existence of the system was first officially mentioned by the late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata in Spring of 2015 under the mysterious title: “Codename NX”. It wasn’t until October 2016 that Nintendo actually unveiled the NX as what we now know today as the Switch. Between those two events, Nintendo said absolutely nothing about the system aside from a few vague comments here and there. Even so, that didn’t stop all of us from finding out what the NX really was long before its complete reveal.

I remember quite vividly all the NX rumors and leaks that sprouted between 2015 and 2016. Some of them turned out to be false, but quite a number were true. We basically knew the entire concept surrounding the system long before Nintendo finally revealed it. The fact that it’s a hybrid, has a dock and detachable controllers, and that it’s powered by an Nvidia chipset: all of these details were leaked months before the October 2016 reveal. Of course, there was no way of knowing that these facts were 100% true until that reveal happened, but it still exposes one big point about secrets today: when it comes to the Internet, there are none.

Nintendo kept very silent about the Switch when it was simply known as the ‘NX’. Still, that didn’t stop leakers from exposing nearly all of the details early on.

Before we had the Internet, news tended to travel very slowly. That’s because it could only be spread by “word-of-mouth”. The way the Internet allows us to communicate today is fundamentally the same as it has always been, except everything is much faster. On top of that, since the Internet is used by so many people, it’s hard for news to be lost. As stories get shared around on various sites, more and more people not only learn about, but there are more ‘permanent’ posts. A physical secret can eventually be lost if people forget about it or any records of it are destroyed, but when it comes to details online, getting rid of every trace is quite difficult. With stakes as high as these, it really makes me wonder why there’s such an abundance of leaks and rumors sprouting up seemingly on a weekly basis.

For instance, the PS5 rumor mill has been working overtime recently, and these apparent leaks contain very sensitive details. I’m sure the NDA surrounding the system must be massive. Of course, that can also be said about so many other things that have leaked. All of that makes me wonder why any employee would risk their job sharing all this secret information? Some of the leaks have been accidental, such as a few retail listings popping up before quickly being pulled. But what about the rest? That brings me to the pain point: how many of these leaks are actually accidents?

Like I said, the frequency of these leaks lately has been rather high, at least in my eyes. So, let’s say some of it is being done on purpose. What could be the motive of the sources? There could be cases where perhaps a disgruntled employee could be retaliating. Or, there could just be instances where someone who’s bad at keeping secrets gets a little too excited. There could also be other scenarios where someone who wasn’t supposed to know secret information found out about it or gained access to it one way or another, and then shared it out. But, the potential scenario that I really want to analyze is the likelihood of companies themselves sharing ‘secret info’ but dressing it up as a leak. I’ve already brought up the point of businesses keeping secrets in the first place, so why would any of them share their info on purpose? Well, I have a theory. Two words: market research.

Could some companies be deliberately ‘leaking’ information in order to conduct market search? I have a hunch…

Gaming is one part of the entertainment industry. Everything in this industry lives or dies according to consumer interest. You can’t sell an entertainment product to people if they don’t like it or don’t care for it. With that being the case, gauging  the level of consumer interest is very important.

So, if a company deliberately leaks one of their new projects, it would essentially be like a free early marketing campaign. Of course, anytime something is leaked (accidentally or not) the parent companies do find out about it. That means they can see what people are saying about the leaked information. If the reaction is negative, it could give the company a chance to make adjustments in order to provide something that the consumers will actually approve of.

There are other ways to go about doing something like this, such as a simple survey that asks ambiguous/hypothetical questions. But, deliberate leaks are arguably more effective. That’s because people love gossip. It’s unfortunate and a little sad, but humans are attracted to controversy: that’s why kids tend to learn the concept of secrecy early on. It’s sometimes exciting to have or find out information that’s supposed to be confidential (only when it isn’t something damaging, though). This is the reason why some people are bad at keeping secrets in the first place—they let the excitement get the best of them. So, when a project is leaked, news of it tends to spread like wildfire. If some of these leaks are truly deliberate, then this is actually a really clever way for companies to perform market research. Nevertheless, this is all just a theory on my part.

Can you keep a secret?

Jason Lepine
Operations manager at EG and video darling. The "class" of our Class vs. Crass podcast.