Today has already been eventful with Blogger being down for an extended maintenance, and now we get word that Modern Warfare 3 has been leaked story-and-all. Kotaku first published the story, detailing the entire plot and multiplayer details in what has been an unprecedented leak - made even worse by involving gaming's premiere franchise.
Being early in the morning, this news hasn't hit the main gaming populous yet, but social commentary about this will be rampant. EVERY site in existence, including my lovely little blog, will become a platform for people to fiercely tout their opinions on whether Kotaku should have published all this information, even before the game's official announcement. No one expects the gaming blog to reveal its prized sources, but Kotaku better be able to withstand Activision's legal team. A court case here is brewing, people.
As journalists, it is our foolhardy duty to keep digging and digging until the purest form of the truth is revealed. But what this comes down to is the discretion of the journalist: to be able to withhold the temptation of such a massive information leak, considering how damaging a story of this magnitude could be not only for the journalist but the publication as well. Such a story will have its benefits, of course, like a large boost in viewership and streaming ad revenue. And this is where I think the writer is mistaken. The long-term consequences potentially arising from this greatly outweigh the short-term success, and it's my hope Kotaku considered all angles before deciding to run the story.
Whomever leaked the story to Kotaku has to be an employee of Activision, because the publisher wouldn't possibly risk being embarrassed. A rogue designer, no longer loyal to the tyranny of Activision, or somebody else close to the game? Through this debacle we probably won't find out unless Activision sues. There is one outstanding factor that remains fishy, however. With Call of Duty being the publisher's cash-cow and the franchise's reputation waning, could this grandiose leak be intentional? An attempt to take all the buzz away from Battlefield 3, Gears of War 3 and other series getting headlines currently? If that were to be true, it certainly has worked. Otherwise I'd probably be blogging about my limited experience in the Gears 3 beta. Any news involving Call of Duty is BIG, and I can't stress that enough. That's why I'm sure Kotaku soiled themselves when they received this boatload of information.
Going into the journalism world, a gargantuan leak like this makes me question the nature of our business. As writers we rely on developers and publishers to feed us information and we report it as we see fit. It's a two-way relationship. And I think Kotaku has strained that relationship. Developers will be wary of giving us information, thinking we'll go digging for more. Out of respect for those developers, we don't dig too much. Kotaku has basically spoiled the "WOW" factor of a Modern Warfare 3 at E3, though we all knew it was going to happen. Using the details presented, it seems Activision is attempting to push the limits of its franchise, given the unrivaled hype for Battlefield 3. Call of Duty may not be my favourite franchise but I will give Activision credit for trying something new.
In the coming weeks, gaming journalism is going to be different. Developers will be more careful on what information to divulge to us, so that means less interesting stories. What Kotaku has done will affect the industry for a long time.