It’s no secret that Bethesda‘s latest venture, Starfield, is the talk of the town. Every fan in the gaming sphere is anxiously awaiting this space-faring RPG. You can feel it in the theories crafted by fans, in the animated discussions all over social media and even in sentiments from popular figures, like, for example, Post Malone, among others.
However, in the weeks leading up to Starfield’s grand September 6 unveiling, an undercurrent of tension is evident. The information leaks have been the crux of this unease. From screenshots of in-game messages to someone’s thoughts 17 hours in, which should be under NDA, and, most notably, details about the in-game achievements – the unauthorized and very early disclosures have drawn mixed reactions.
On one hand, the leaks aren’t harmful. At least, not yet, anyway. The latest details doesn’t really compromise the game’s core experience – gamers will still have to experience it for themselves. But, this perspective isn’t universal. Others assert that as the release day looms closer, more leaks are bound to emerge, potentially spoiling key surprises that the Bethesda team has painstakingly crafted.
Everyone knows I dont like leaks. Media covering someone’s leak I like even less. When the big outlets do it to get around embargoes they have on their own code? Oh, I really don’t like that. 👎
— Matt Frary 🇺🇦 (@PR_Flak) August 19, 2023
In a statement that resonated widely, Matt Frary, Bethesda’s Director of Public Relations, candidly shared his distaste for such leaks.
Without directly referencing Starfield, his words painted a vivid picture: The meticulous efforts developers pour into any project can be undone by unwarranted revelations. Yet, in an era where 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 outlets for doing their jobs isn’t right either. The root of the problem here lies elsewhere – Bethesda Game Studio’s encryption methods and/or its decision to offer preloads this early on, presumably in attempt to get reviews up ahead of Starfield’s Early Access release date.
To make matters worse, Bethesda appears to have thrown caution to the wind by giving away review codes to obscure personalities, even those with unproven track records. It isn’t impossible that some might risk breaking NDA, not knowing the consequences, all for the sake of going viral.
On a positive note, publicity is publicity. It doesn’t matter if it’s negative or positive. People are still talking about you, and that’s what’s important.
Since its initial announcement, the running joke on Starfield has been that it’s a typical Bethesda game – an awesome experience with its expected share of bugs and issues. But, those brazen enough to venture into the bowels of space, deep into spoiler-filled territory, will find that very few if any of the leaks talk about the game’s problems.
In this case, the inadvertent leaks serve as a potential and, more importantly, organic marketing tools.
You could even argue that Bethesda is leaking certain details itself. It’s probably not happening, but you can see how it isn’t impossible either – the more people that are talking about Starfield, the better, after all.
Still, there’s a delicate balance between the freedom of reporting and honoring non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). An insider, bound by NDA, might not directly share exclusive details, but nothing prevents them from discussing third-party leaks. This presents a gray area and a moral dilemma. It also begs the question, how can you differentiate genuine leaks from fabricated ones, especially when those in-the-know cannot clarify due to NDAs?
To the gaming community, leaks might offer mixed feelings: exhilaration at receiving early insights, or the frustration at having pivotal moments spoiled. But to developers, they represent a breach of trust and a potential compromise of years of hard work.
As Starfield’s release approaches, this episode prompts reflection on the gaming community’s responsibilities. While the thirst for knowledge is natural, perhaps there’s merit in waiting for creators to share their art in its intended form. After all, the magic of discovery, especially in the vast universe of a game like Starfield, is a joy that’s worth preserving.