Games journalism is an interesting beast. On the one hand, you must maintain a careful balance with your sources within the industry itself, staying both involved enough to continue the flow of information, while also not weaving yourself too closely as to compromise your impartiality. On the other hand, your audience also has an expectation when they come to you as their source of news and information. They want to know what you know.
And for the most part, it’s not all that difficult.
Finding something out, writing it down, and releasing the article to the public seems like a fairly straightforward gig. If it’s postive, great! If not, even better, let the flame war begin!
What happens, then, when secrets are leaked, when information not yet ready for release finds its way to the public?
I am referring to the recent announcement by Kotaku in an article by Stephen Totilo back on the 19th of November, in which he announced his belief that Ubisoft and Bethesda had blacklisted Kotaku. This means that those publishers behave as thought Kotaku doesn’t exist. They are removed from mailing lists, do not reply to any form of contact, and block access to games and their creators.
Ubisoft, Totilo believes, did so after Kotaku released early, leaked imagery of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, after doing so the previous year with Assassin’s Creed: Unity.
Bethesda had a similar nail in the coffin when Kotaku released info on then-in-development Fallout 4. Previously that same year they had covered the troubled development of both Doom 4 and Prey 2. In the case of Prey 2, Bethesda had tried to cover it up, which Kotaku revealed yet again.
Some disagree with this sort of spoiler journalism. There are those on the internet that argue that they, Kotaku, should have a level of respect for both the development cycle and the surprise that comes with a new announcement. After all, if a game is still being developed, is it fair to show off assets early? Is it fair to release early information before a developer is ready to talk about it? Do they have a responsibility to fans to keep information like that quiet until such time as a public release?
As much as I would love to rally behind the troops and say ‘Yes! They should let secrets be secret! Let my gamer hype reign supreme!’, we can’t expect that. For as many people as are upset about learning something before it is planned to go live, there are likely just as many excited to hear about it early. Bethesda’s blacklisting of Kotaku for their releasing of documents indicating lies told to gamers to cover up the development troubles of Prey 2 fall dangerously close to censorship. While the developers and publishers have every right to not want their games shown off ahead of schedule, the restriction of information does no one any favors.
Kotaku is going to continue to do what they do. Unfortunately, it looks like for now, they aren’t going to be your source of early Bethesda and Ubisoft information though. Time will tell if they can get their radio silence lifted.
Stay Kultured, everyone!