Smash Bros. 3DS And The Leak: Games Media’s Biggest Problem


Earlier last week, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS came out in Japan. So far, the game has been a smashing (sorry, couldn’t resist) success, with over 1 million copies sold in less than a week. It was a textbook launch that generated massive amounts of excitement – with one little hiccup. The entire game was streamed on the day before launch.

When a streaker takes the field at a sporting event, every camera is turned away to discourage copycats. So why do we give the spotlight to leakers?

According to the prevailing theories, a few people in Thailand were able to get their hands on early copies of the game. Because Thailand is not an official Nintendo market, stores aren’t regulated, meaning no punishments for whoever sold an early copy. As soon as a picture of the game appeared on Reddit, people flocked to as a handful of gamers unlocked every significant secret the game had to offer over the next twelve hours.The story was picked up by several major games media websites such as IGN and Gamespot, who updated their pages with each new secret that became available.

Now, leaks are an issue in every industry. Movies or their scripts sometimes get leaked onto the Internet for rabid fans to consume. Popular book series occasionally have the same issue. Even consumer goods and electronics find their way into the hands of the public before public release from time to time. But only in gaming do you see a leak occur, and have entire games, their stories, and all of the surprises that were meant to be kept secret spread all over the Internet in mere hours with the help of industry ‘journalists.’

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Every single major games media outlet reported on these leaks as they happened, many without even the decency of spoiler warnings. IGN even posted which new unannounced characters were in and which veterans were out on the front page of their website. Even more troubling is the fact that Twitch allowed these streams to continue for hours and hours despite the fact that they were obviously unauthorized and before street date.

The image that started it all.

Some readers may remember when the script of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight leaked, he was so upset that he canceled the entire movie. This was a big story, and movie media ran with it for quite awhile. However, not a single one of those articles linked to the script, or referenced what was in it. In this latest Smash Bros. for 3DS leak, not only was the leak mentioned, it was referenced, followed meticulously, reported on, and linked to. The most amazing thing is not a single person in the games media community has vocally stepped up to condemn the people who livestreamed these games – it’s been accepted without question. I understand that hits equal profit, but as an industry games media isn’t going to get the respect that #GamerGate has shown it so dearly wants if they continue to operate without scruples.

What bothers me most is that these leakers are revered, and people in the media are actually excited to publicize their findings. When a streaker takes the field at a sporting event, every camera is turned away to discourage copycats. So why do we give the spotlight to leakers? Giving these people the undivided attention of the gaming public all but guarantees whenever someone comes across a morsel of info on an upcoming game, they’re going to strongly consider leaking it onto the Internet.

Mass Effect 3 was also subject to a large leak prior to its release.

The day after the Smash Bros. for 3DS leak occurred, Nintendo did an official livestream of the game, showing off some of the new features while making a point to keep unlockable secrets hidden. A clearly miffed Nate Bihldorff said this:

“I know all about the Internet, and I know what’s going on out there… We’ve worked some wizardry here to make it so that no characters are going to unlock during this stream, and no stages are going to unlock during this stream. And the reason why we’re doing that is because, you have to open your own presents… You should have the self-control to sit down and play your own game.”

Gaming culture is not known for its ability to delay gratification. Headshots give trophies. Raid bosses give epic loot. Every action is rewarded. But as much as we in the games media want to know everything as it happens, we’re doing our audiences and ourselves a disservice by giving these leakers a platform on which to destroy gamer’s experiences ahead of time. Patience is a virtue. Possess it if you can.

The views expressed in this article explicitly belong to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of, nor should be attributed to, GameSided as an organization.

Barrett believes in the old-fashioned notion that people should enjoy games after they come out, not before. Let him know what you think on Twitter at @TheDerrit.