Development Secrecy in the Games Industry is Stupid!

Let me set the scene: you’re perusing through your Twitter timeline and you discover that an unannounced game has been leaked. It could be an image, a description, a date, hell a video! Tomb Raider, Assasins Creed, Shadow of War, Call Of Duty– all have all fallen foul of the leak in recent years. Developers and publishers will crow about how frustrating it is to have their games leaked, they may even blacklist the sites that leak them. It strikes us that apart from the fact that many developers and publishers leak more than a hedgehogs raincoat,  the question remains, why do they get themselves in these ridiculous positions time and time again? We’re not talking about the slightly dippy dude working on his laptop in the middle of a packed train. No, we’re talking about publishers and developers getting so far down the development hole before announcing what they are developing, leading to more information likely to leak.

The question arises, why doesn’t the gaming world emulate the film world with regards to upcoming projects? Films are generally announced before they go into production. Everyone knows they are coming, therefore, generally, the film-makers don’t have to worry about someone beating them to the satisfying announcement. It’s clearly very satisfying for any company to announce something to great hype and anticipation (Apple were masters at it) but for the many, it’s too difficult, and when you’ve been usurped on Reddit once, surely you don’t want that to happen again. The games industry, both on the software and hardware side don’t seem to want to adhere to that lesson.

There is absolutely no reason why a publisher can’t announce their games at the infancy of their development, before informing us that they will update us when they are ready. If we work on a three-year development cycle, publishers and developers could announce the game and push out development photo’s in year one, throw out character images and maybe a teaser trailer in year two, and in year three, chuck out a fully rendered trailer before going all in on the marketing up to the release date. That way, publishers are in complete control of the information and when it’s released, they keep the hype, and they get the satisfaction of being the people who release information as opposed to the dude with a NeoGaf account. It’s their game for crying out loud!

Films have been using this method for years, so much so that Marvel even announce their films in phases, years in advance; can you imagine Ubisoft announcing three Assasins Creed games set across three locations to be released in two-year increments. Now, we’ll admit that’s taking it a little too far, but there is no real reason why they couldn’t try it.

At The PlayStation Experience last year, Naughty Dog announced The Last Of Us Part II. That game is at the very least two-years out, probably more. Yet they announced it, showed a little teaser and then disappeared to actually make the game. Perfect. On the reverse, Fallout 4 was announced and released in 6 months to great fanfare from gamers and critics, but it was leaked by Kotaku in advance–which lead to Bethesda blacklisting Kotaku–which surely dampened Bethesda’s enthusiasm. Yes, the Fallout announcement got people talking, and there wasn’t too much time to wait between announcement and release so the game was in people’s thoughts right up to release, but announcement like that are unfeasible unless you are as water tight as a dev like Rockstar, but even parts of Red Dead 2 leaked before the notoriously secretive Rockstar were ready.

This insistence by games companies on keeping everything under lock and key for the longest time is ridiculous. With social media like Twitter and websites like Reddit and NeoGaf, publishers and developers are playing a dangerous game and, more often than not, losing. For what? Seriously, for what? Ok, announcing a game too early can lead to situations like Final Fantasy XV and The Lst Guardian, both of which saw at least ten-year development cycles, but they are few and far between. Oh, and it’s not like films have been delayed or canceled after the announcement. Deadpool was in development for ten years before it was released to acclaim. Announcing too early is not the curse that many think it is.

This obsession with secrecy from the video game industry makes no sense. Hopefully, The Last Of Us Part II and Death Stranding, lead the way for early announced games being the rule rather than the exception. If not, then Publishers and developers don’t have a leg to stand on when they complain their game was leaked.

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