Now that the PS4 and Xbox One are mere days away from launching, reviewers have been putting out all kinds of information regarding the consoles, the launch games, and anything else they can talk about given the limited amount of time they've been allowed to play on the consoles.
These are the days where the rumours are tested, and facts are released based on first hand experience with the devices in question. This is also the time where we get to see all of the secrecy, all of the NDAs, all of the rumours be exposed and put an end to one way or the other.
The lead up to these moments has been taxing on the gamers more than the journalists, no matter how much they may protest my saying that. We are the ones being fed information, and misinformation. Fact, and Rumour. We have to trust the journalists to be honest with us, and we have to sift through the PR double talk and find the true information. It's not an easy task to do either, and we've seen what even the most innocuous rumours can do to public image.
Publishers will explain that their secrecy, and the use of NDAs are necessary to maintain that surprise factor, as well as protect their work from duplication, however we've seen how many "no comment" remarks have backfired against one company or another in the months pre and post console reveal.
So the question has to be asked. What is more important to you as a gamer? Would you rather have access to all the information right away, knowing absolutely everything there is to know about a game or a console as though that information was laid bare before you for you to make your own judgements on? Or do you see the merit in publishers controlling information, releasing only what they want to release when they want to release it and in the context they want you to have?
Let's take a look at both sides. First, the "knowing everything" side.
I'd like you to watch this Jimquisition episode about Gaming Journalism...
In this video Jim talks about how the gaming press is hugely complicit in the state of gaming discussion these days, and that they have this smug sense of superiority in knowing something that the average gamer doesn't know because they have access to the publishers and the information that publishers want to give out, while the average gamer doesn't and just wants to have that information.
If we as gamers knew every piece of the information straight from the publishers/developers, this issue with the gaming press would be gone because half their job would already be done for them by the publishers/developers. Unfortunately, this might make discussion even worse as people may fly off half-cocked due to their lack of context for the information they are seeing. An example would be why a game is at a certain resolution at a certain development stage, and the fanboys just running with it as a way to put down the game or a console.
This would also mean a potential for massive losses of sales if people don't like what they are seeing even before the game is finished and released. So although this would put the journalists in their place, it could damage publishers and developers significantly, and I didn't even touch on how complete transparency could impact efforts to protect IPs.
Now let's discuss the current method where publishers hold all the information back, save what they want to let people know.
We've seen how this system works. A publisher's PR department decides what information is best shared with the public, information that makes the publishers/developers look good. A game or a console is announced, and the flow of information is normally slow and minimal, leaving far too many questions to answer at any one time.
Due to this method; rumours, leaks, and anonymous sources run rampant throughout the internet and flame wars are easily started from these. Misinformation, FUD, and outright lies are common, and journalists revert to their entitled smugness as they lord their positions of special privilege over all of us.
The plus side though is that we can be surprised and our expectations are never final until the release of the product. We can be wowed incrementally, or disappointed in the same way. Publishers/developers can also protect their ideas to ensure no one is copying them, trying to capitalize on a potentially winning idea before it even rushes out of the gate.
With the first method of complete transparency, the benefits favour the gamers far more than the journalists or the publishers/developers, while the second method is the exact opposite.
Based on your own sensibilities and what direction you want to see gaming discussion head in, which of the two do you think is best for the industry as a whole as well as gamers?
Personally, I think that a 3rd option needs to exist. A forum where publishers/developers can provide information directly to the consumer when they feel it is right to, but also allow the consumer to try out the product in various stages to form their own opinions without the need of the sensationalist, broken, unnecessary gaming media. That's probably idealism at its height, but I personally think that that would save everyone a lot of headaches.