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Leaks in the Video Game Industry

Article posted on 9/29/2022

A couple of weeks ago, my colleagues and I breathed a collective sigh of relief as we finally got to share some news we’d all had to keep quiet for entirely too long: Sins of a Solar Empire II is finally happening.

While I am no stranger to NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements) at this point, this particular secret had a weight unlike anything else I’ve ever carried in my 7 years here at Stardock. This was big. This was huge. This was something we truly wanted to be a special surprise with a deserving reveal.

I found myself musing about all of this in the wake of some recent major leaks in the gaming industry. We work with lots of press outlets and game streamers and although all of them are required to sign NDAs and agree to embargos, there’s a great deal of trust that goes into that kind of outreach.

We have been very fortunate in that - at least, since I’ve been here - we haven’t experienced any major breaches in trust. If you haven’t read about it already, a twitter account called TheRealInsider was posing as a gaming industry insider and leaked information about Ubisoft’s 2022 gaming showcase prior to the show. Turns out, the account holder was a YouTuber who had been trusted with embargoed information and chose to share it out of turn.

Dan Allen Gaming has (had?) 189k subscribers on his YouTube channel and was known for a variety of guides and games. He accidentally revealed himself as TheRealInsider when he responded to a question on Twitter using his main account. Things spiraled pretty quickly after that.

Allen later posted an apology, but the damage had already been done. To be honest, the statement from Ubisoft on the situation really sums up how I - and many others in my industry who work hard on our art - feel on the matter of leaks:

“We regularly provide access and information on our games under NDA to trusted partners. When that trust is compromised, or information is leaked by an individual, it’s not only damaging and demoralizing to our teams, but it takes away from an exciting reveal moment and experience for our players. While we won’t speak on an individual case, we do take these matters seriously and will manage accordingly.”  

It’s true that, in the grand scheme of things, leaks don’t always hurt much. Sometimes they can misrepresent a game when images or video are leaked in too early a stage of development - like early footage of Diablo IV being released before Blizzard was ready - sure, but that’s not really the point. The point here is that it IS demoralizing to the teams who worked on the game, and can really take away from some cool reveal moments for the players.

It’s easy to forget just how much goes into making a game and preparing it for release. I think it’s important to remember that, at the end of the day, the creators behind these games are people. The marketing teams are people. Betraying the trust of people who are willing to share their art and hard work with you is going to affect a lot of individuals.

Again, we’re lucky that we were able to make our announcement for Sins II with the amount of fanfare and surprise that we wanted. Now that it’s out in the open, we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief and focus on sharing in the excitement with our fans.

Hope you’re all as excited for Sins of a Solar Empire II as I am! In the meantime, game on. See you next time!