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Everyone hates to have surprises spoiled for them. In the gaming industry, leaks have become a consistent issue and have reared their head just before almost any given press event from Nintendo or other game publishers. Many leaks turn out to be true, but at least an equal amount never pan out. But what are the consequences of the accurate leaks in the long run? Do leaks have any effect on Nintendo or its fan base?

Nintendo’s highest-profile leaks

Leaks have been a part of Nintendo’s history for many years. In recent times, they include things like the dates of Nintendo Directs and even hardware specifications for unreleased consoles such as the Nintendo Switch itself. Famous examples include games like Metroid Dread, as well as new leaks for a Fire Emblem remake and Xenoblade Chronicles 3. The Switch OLED model was leaked as a potential “Switch Pro,” and the infamous “Grinch” leak for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate laid out a pipeline of alleged new DLC fighters, though the Grinch leak proved utterly bogus even if it ended up getting a few characters right.

Metroid Dread how bad how much damage with Nintendo leaks

While leaks such as the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate kerfuffle were mostly fake, Bloomberg’s reporting on the “Switch Pro” ended up accurately detailing some aspects about the Switch OLED model, like its OLED 7-inch display. And when the Switch was still only known by its codename, Nintendo NX, specifications leaked and gave away information about its hybrid nature and use of cartridges. So, there has clearly been no shortage of high-profile leaks for both Nintendo’s hardware and software.

But what are the impacts of said leaks? The only metric we can use is the sales data upon the release of a Nintendo product, and judging by how well most of the aforementioned games and consoles have sold, it’s hard to say that there was any discernible impact on the sales for Nintendo. Fan expectations are a different matter though.

The effect on expectations

Expectations are a volatile issue when it comes to Nintendo fans, and unfortunately, leaks have often exacerbated them. Fans often expect the world of Nintendo when it comes to bombshell announcements, and despite Nintendo’s best efforts to temper fan expectations in recent years, disappointment is inevitable. Leaks create expectations for certain reveals to appear at Nintendo showcases, such as a rumored Donkey Kong game helmed by the Super Mario Odyssey team. So, when these games often don’t get revealed, fans become irrationally angry towards Nintendo, despite the company never mentioning such a game officially.

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In some cases, it can work out nicely. Ubisoft’s leak of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle before E3 2017 had many fans feeling really skeptical about this crossover concept. It had lowered expectations so much that many fans actually ended up extremely pleased with the official reveal of the game.

On the other hand, the elephant in the room is the Nintendo Switch OLED model. Leaks and reports about a “Switch Pro” had been floating around the internet for years before the official reveal, and fan expectations were sky-high. When the Switch OLED model was revealed and didn’t have a lot of the rumored features such as a 4K resolution in docked mode, the hardcore player base was let down and interest in the system was ostensibly reduced.

Nintendo certainty may have taken a hit on social media and perhaps to its brand image online as a result, but it’s hard to determine any effect on sales until the revised console releases this fall. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that the number of consumers that are this tuned into industry reports and leaks makes up only a small amount of the total audience for any given Nintendo console.

It doesn’t matter for sales, but it matters to developers and fans

Aside from the uncertainty around the release of the Switch OLED model, many of the most high-profile Nintendo-related leaks haven’t had an effect on Nintendo’s bottom line. The fact is games on Nintendo Switch sell like wildfire, regardless of the circumstances leading up to the release. As a result, it’s easy to presume that Nintendo isn’t worried about situations like these. Yet, that’s speaking about Nintendo as a whole, and there is a more human cost to developers worth considering. Hard-working developers want nothing more than to reveal their game in the most ideal state possible, and leaks often spill the beans in a way that spoils fans and takes away the chance for these developers to present their vision on their own terms.

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Moving to the fan side of things, leaks ruin the surprise of new announcements for many of us, and in today’s internet age that’s an all-too-common occurrence. For example, can Nintendo fans still be as excited for a hypothetical 3D Kirby platformer once the surprise reveal of its existence was potentially leaked? The answer depends on an individual’s preferences, though it likely wouldn’t stop them from getting the game if they were interested regardless. All told, leaks have little impact on the sales of Nintendo’s products, but the effect they have on Nintendo’s online image and the disappointment of developers and gamers is noticeable.

How bad do you think Nintendo leaks are?

Chirag Pattni
Psychologist and long time gamer. Has a love-hate relationship with technology and enjoys all things Japanese.

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