The rising digital age has brought with it many improvements to the world. We can now listen to any music of any era, order whatever item we want and have it arrive in a day, and watch endless videos of comedy sketches and cats doing silly things (which never gets old). But there’s also a downside to every good thing, and in addition to gaming’s already many existing problems, from the pre-order business to development practices, one such downside is the prevailing trend of leaks.
After weeks of rumors and some newly inserted teasers in Black Ops 3, Activision and Infinity Ward finally pulled back the curtain on their Call of Duty title for the year, Infinite Warfare. Before the official unveiling, it was leaked because someone at Sony jumped the gun and put it up on the PS Store last week. Oops. Also in that same week was the news that Uncharted 4 had copies stolen and Naughty Dog told people to basically stay off the internet, lest they desire to be spoiled. Which really sucks, because everyone at ND has been working hard at this game for years, and for all the hype to be built up over months, all that money spent on marketing, is more or less ruined now because any jerk could just ruin the plot or gaming moments for everyone the moment they want to.
Announcing a new Call of Duty is, at this point, something on par with the sun rising or inevitably hearing the same song on three different radio stations at once. Unless you’ve been in a coma since the release of Modern Warfare 1 in 2007, literally no one should be surprised by this news, to the point that it makes you wonder why Activision even bothers with the long con teases at all besides an exercise for the marketing team. That being said, is it maybe too much to ask for there to stop being leaks? It feels like the last six months have been leak after leak after leak. There’s been the release dates for Mafia 3 and Mirror’s Edge, the NX, the PS4.5 (or Neo, or whatever it’s called). Hell, even Final Fantasy and Pokemon’s upcoming releases aren’t immune to the monster that is leaks.
Yes, it can be annoying be forced to play “the game” that is a seemingly endless stream of coy teases that at first garner curiosity and interest before just being annoyingly vague. Nowhere is this more evident than Far Cry Primal’s initial reveal. It was really annoying to watch the cave drawings get more complex over the day, only to find that the full reveal was actually the next day. Totally not a waste of time, right?
Further, not every game needs a big announcement, especially if it’s a long running franchise. This doesn’t just apply to Infinite Warfare, but Assassin’s Creed, a series that’s had so many leaks that it’s almost ironic that it keeps happening to a series about stealth and infiltration. The leak sources have no real obligation to the publishers or developers to keep this stuff under wraps, and it’s not like they always do it as a middle finger. Sometimes they do it because they’re genuinely excited and want to share in their excitement. That’s fine, that’s awesome, in fact.
At the same time… surprise feels like something that’s been missing from gaming the past year, at least in a positive light. It feels like XCOM 2‘s initial reveal was the first time in a long time that something got revealed without leaks before hand. Sure, the Advent thing wasn’t exactly subtle, but it was at least something; it didn’t get the rug swept out from under it at the last moment like Deus Ex unfortunately did. It’s a lot like going to your own birthday party and someone tells you literally everything that’s going to be there; what’s the point of going if you already know what to expect?
Infinite Warfare could’ve had people flip their shit at the prospect of going to space, as being seen in the trailer, but now the reaction is largely “huh, cool, I guess.” And this is just the start; with E3 coming in a little over a month, there’s bound to be some leaks popping up in the rest of the month.
Wouldn’t it be great if we just let surprises be surprises? What’s the point in taking the fun out of something that could be totally cool if looked at with completely unaware eyes? Isn’t that part of what gaming’s all about? Telling someone something is in a game is cool, but there should also still be some mystery left. After all, audiences do like to be surprised.