We're now into the latter half of E3 silly season, as rumours and leaks — some real, some clearly not — bombard us gaming enthusiasts at every turn online. If you know where to look and have the inclination, you can often find entire run-orders for the likes of the Xbox presentation hours before the show, or mega-lists of 'everything' that will be announced. While there are attention-hungry individuals that flat out make up rumours, there are undeniably a handful of leakers that do genuinely know what's coming.
It's one of the great conundrums at this time of year — should you engage in the fun of speculating and learning about what's to come, or stay out of it and enjoy the surprise?
On these pages we always seek a balance, often debating within the team regarding source reliability, but also whether certain things should be shared; as you can imagine, there are often differing opinions. An example in the past few days revolved around Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope, which leaked ahead of time and was pretty much confirmed. In our initial post we kept the headline vague and used a simple Ubisoft logo as the lead image, with the following note added to the article.
Note: we've been deliberately obtuse with the headline and lead image so that people just browsing the site or social media aren't spoiled. This approach is very much case-by-case, it's just the call we made this time around.
Of course, in a rather peculiar and rare instance, Nintendo itself then leaked the game hours ahead of the Ubisoft Forward presentation, seemingly with a scheduling snafu for the official website's game page. At that point, with Ubisoft's reveal just hours away and with Nintendo being the source, there was little point in being coy.
We recall that a couple of hours prior to the reveal of Star Fox Zero at E3, Reuters inadvertently published a preview; though it tried to delete the evidence, the internet doesn't forget
It can be argued that a leak in the hours right before an event can, if anything, build anticipation in some cases. We recall that a couple of hours prior to the reveal of Star Fox Zero at E3, Reuters inadvertently published a preview it had been granted ahead of the embargo; though it tried to delete the evidence, the internet doesn't forget. On that occasion it added to the buzz — what would Star Fox be like on Wii U, we all asked ourselves. It was exciting, though the reaction to the game by the time it did arrive in stores had become rather muted.
There are ethical questions around leaks, however, and cases can vary widely. For example, when it comes to more serious leaks that are the result of hacking or NDA-breaking individuals, should they be allowed to have platforms? There was a major Nintendo leak of that nature between 2018 and 2020, which had a dizzying amount of information and internal documentation. It was clearly hacked, stolen or illegally disseminated by someone with access, including complex and confidential data and records around hardware in particular. This wasn't a PR rep naughtily whispering to a favoured influencer about a game being announced next week; these were confidential documents and development resources never intended for public consumption, no matter how fascinating.
Questions over how to engage with leaks of that nature — as individuals or for media — are interesting. On the one hand it can seem relatively harmless and fun to gawk at old concept pixel-art for retro games, giving an insight into designs that never made the final cut. Yet it's a tricky judgement on whether to look, especially when individuals involved express their disapproval.
While the Nintendo 'gigaleak' was damaging and controversial due to the sheer volume of legacy confidential data, we are also seeing hackers target big game companies with the goal of blackmail. Capcom is a notable example, as many of its plans for the coming two years became exposed; when a fee wasn't paid a whole lot of information on unannounced games and projects was posted online, with Capcom's approach since being to simply offer little comment and move on. CD Projekt Red and EA are in the midst of similar issues, and it's a tough balancing act in terms of what to read, believe and share.
Curiosity can be powerful. But when you've read a game title that's all set for an E3 showcase, with no real context, is it that exciting?
However, as individuals, the temptation is certainly there — for example — to find that list of upcoming games. Curiosity can be powerful. But when you've read a game title that's all set for an E3 showcase, with no real context, is it that exciting? And does it detract from the thrill when that game is formally announced and shown?
We recently shared some of our favourite E3 memories, and in terms of the reveals they were surprises. There's a thrill to a trailer starting, that process of trying to decipher the early seconds, and then the moment of realisation that it's a game or franchise you can't wait to play. Why lose that buzz, just because of a little impatience? That feeling some people experienced during the Banjo-in-Smash reveal was a special one, a culmination of many years of waiting and hoping; imagine being robbed of that elation by a list of bullet points on Resetera three hours prior.
It's an interesting topic, and one we mull over as leaks flood the internet. Pleasingly, we're still heading into tomorrow's Nintendo Direct knowing practically nothing - and that's great. Whether the show is amazing, average or disappointing, the anticipation of wondering what Nintendo has in store is a big part of the fun.
Let us know what you think about leaks, whether small E3 game titles or indeed 'gigaleaks' - do you rush online to find all of the details, or do you ignore them and save yourself for the surprises?