We hear about this all the time; developing company A has had some of its under-wraps footage leaked by irresponsible staff member B. Most likely, this staff member will be the intern, but either way, it’s still a common feature in today’s news. My issue here though is this: is this actually a problem where members of staff can’t be trusted, or are companies aware of the publicity they’ll receive as a result?
The material often contains several screenshots, which usually get left online, along with short trailers that detail certain aspects of the game. Be it multiplayer, or highlighting some of the single player campaign, the videos are usually pretty juicy and get that little bit more hype circulating around the game.
So knowing that hype will be created as a result, are some developers playing us for fools and playing innocent? Well, in some respects you would say definitely yes, as, given the fact that some material stays online, this suggests that they are not top-secret. A strong PR campaign can make the difference between being the top spot in the charts, or being pipped to the post by your closest rival. When people are already excited about your game, thanks to E3 and other expos, then how else to make them more excited than ‘leaking’ a video that is meant to be withheld?
Unquestionably, these trailers and screens will keep the forumites busy which in turn, for the vast majority, will result in sales due to the expectation put on the game. You see, the positives stack up when you think about this logically and you can see why companies would do such a thing. There never seems to be any fallout from any of these incidents whereby staff have been laid off or any of their staff have spoken out against the developer. More food for thought.
On the other hand, though, could game developers just be on the receiving end of poor personal discipline in their PR department? Well, maybe, considering the hasty withdrawals of some of the leaked content, I mean if it was purposely done then you’d leave it out there longer wouldn’t you?
Whilst the accidentally-on-purpose leaking of this information might help a company in terms of sales, it can also have a negative effect on their chances too. Rival companies can see the latest additions and changes that have been made to the game and therefore do their best to replicate or exceed them in their own game. It’s unlikely when the game is at a late stage in development, yes, but if it was possible then a rival company wouldn’t discount the opportunity.
Whatever the end scenario is, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever know how material crops up on the internet. Be it a clever marketing ploy or a genuine fumble of accounts, (or a bit of both), one thing’s for sure: 90% of the time, this will create a positive buzz about the game in development.