It’s no secret that Bethesda’s latest project, Starfield, is the talk of the town. Every gaming fan is eagerly awaiting this space-faring RPG. You can feel it in fan theories, in animated discussions across social media and even in the sentiments of popular characters, for example, Post Malone, among others.
However, in the weeks leading up to Starfield’s grand reveal on Sept. 6, a hidden tension was evident. Information leaks were at the core of this concern. From screenshots of in-game messages to someone’s thoughts after 17 hours, which should be subject to a non-disclosure agreement, and most importantly, details about in-game achievements — unauthorized, very early revelations have led to mixed reactions.
On the one hand, leaks are not harmful. At least, not yet, anyway. The latest details don’t really affect the core game experience – players will still have to experience it for themselves. But this perspective is not universal. Others contend that as release day approaches, more leaks are bound to emerge, which could spoil key surprises the Bethesda team has painstakingly crafted.
Everyone knows I don’t like leaks. The media covering someone’s leak liked it less. When do major ports do this to get around the ban they place on their own code? Oh, I really don’t like it. 👎
– Matt Ferrari 🇺🇦 (PR_Flak) August 19, 2023
In a statement that resonated widely, Matt Farry, director of public relations for Bethesda, bluntly expressed his dismay at such leaks.
Without directly referring to Starfield, his words painted a vivid picture: developers could put their careful efforts into any project that could be undone by gratuitous disclosure. However, in an age when information is currency, major outlets often use these leaks to bypass embargoes, capitalizing on the public’s insatiable thirst for the latest scoop.
However, blaming ports for doing their jobs is also not correct. The root of the problem here lies elsewhere – Bethesda Game Studio’s coding methods and/or its decision to offer preloads ahead of time, likely in an effort to get revisions ahead of Starfield’s Early Access release date.
To make matters worse, Bethesda seems to have caught the eye by giving out revision codes to hide characters, even those with unproven follow-up records. It is not out of the question that some would risk breaking the NDA, without knowing the consequences, all for the sake of going viral.
On the plus side, publicity is publicity. It does not matter if it is negative or positive. People still talk about you, and that’s what counts.
Since its initial announcement, the running joke in Starfield has been that it’s a typical Bethesda game – a great experience with its expected share of bugs and issues. But those shameless enough to venture into the bowels of space, deep into spoiler-ridden territory, will find that very few, if any, leaks address the game’s problems.
In this case, unintentional leaks act as potential marketing tools and, more importantly, organic ones.
You could even argue that Bethesda is leaking certain details itself. It probably doesn’t, but you can see how it’s not impossible either – the more people talking about Starfield, the better, after all.
There is still a delicate balance between freedom to report and respect for non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). An insider, bound by a non-disclosure agreement, may not share exclusive details directly, but nothing prevents them from discussing third-party leaks. This presents a gray area and an ethical dilemma. It also begs the question, how can you tell the difference between real and fabricated leaks, especially when insiders can’t clear them up because of non-disclosure agreements?
For the gaming community, the leaks may present mixed feelings: elation at receiving early clues, or frustration at spoiling pivotal moments. But for developers, they represent a breach of trust and a potential waiver of years of hard work.
With the release of Starfield looming, this episode prompts us to think about the responsibilities of the gaming community. While a thirst for knowledge is natural, perhaps there is merit in waiting for creators to share their art in its intended form. After all, the magic of discovery, especially in a game’s vast universe like Starfield, is a joy worth preserving.
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