Re: “Why Leaks Hurt”

oath bannerAs I’ve written about before, Oath of the Gatewatch was subject to perhaps the single biggest leak since the godbook of New Phyrexia was released online. For those who don’t recall, the “godbook” is a full spoiler sent out to those in need of preview info on sets, i.e. magazines etc., and the then-world champion Guillaume Matignon, who wrote for the french Magic magazine “Lotus Noir” shared his godbook with a friend, who shared it with a friend, who leaked it online. An article on this can be found here on the Mothership.

This time around, all of the Mythic Rares from Oath of the Gatewatch were leaked online, in a thread on Reddit, and it has sparked some outcry from the community – some feel robbed of their spoiler season. Others are discussing the mythics, as is.

dewdropspy.fullTrick Jarret wrote a response to the leak, commenting on why it’s bad, in an article on the Mothership entitled “Why Leaks Hurt“. He makes a few points, but overall, I’d call the article quite bad. In fact, I wanted to take a few moments and dissect some of the worst things he states in the article, for the sake of fairness. The article, overall, comes across as quite whiny in my book.

There is a natural struggle between players and Wizards when it comes to knowing the game’s future. Magic‘s entire premise is that of constant change, and this tantalizing premise creates a constant tension between our storytelling and players wanting to know what comes next.

I agree on this point almost entirely, to be honest, and this lets us define the roles for the two players in this opposition: it is the role of Wizards to keep shit under locks until spoiler season officially begins, and it is the role of the community (the parts that wants to know, that is) to find out stuff beforehand. The ball is, as I see it, entirely in Wizards’ court; in the latest leak someone has taken photographs of actual real, physical cards. This means that someone who shouldn’t have gotten their hands on the cards got their hands on the cards, it’s that simple.

Let’s face it – Wizards makes a damn good game, it’s alluring to find stuff out beforehand, and Wizards just can’t blame people for wanting to know stuff about their game. It makes absolutely no sense.

As a person who used to run a fan site that would occasionally leak something, I know the lure for content creators. Leaks draw traffic and they give you something new to talk about. But let’s get one thing straight: leaks aren’t journalism. Publishing leaks is purely self-serving, looking out for the good of yourself and your ego.

Leaks aren’t journalism because there is no cover-up. There’s no secret exposé about the working conditions of goblins on Ravnica, or the water quality on Zendikar, or the climate change on Mirrodin (though that one might have something). Leaks are all things that the public will find out eventually. There’s no conspiracy being unraveled, just something new revealed through the theft of intellectual property. That’s right, theft. If we didn’t give it to you and say “Show this,” then you are stealing something from Wizards of the Coast and the Magic community.

goblinspy.fullLet’s get another thing straight – leaks are definitely journalism. The fact that this journalism presents content in a different context than was intended by the content creator doesn’t take away the fact that this is journalism, at least as far as journalism goes when it comes to Magic. To make an analogy – if president Obama was to hold a speech in the future, about huge changes in, say, the American welfare system, and New York Times got a hold of a first draft of this jaw-dropping speech – if they report on it, is it not journalism because they didn’t wait to hear the speech from the president himself? Of course it is.

Further, the fact that Jarret is trying to call out people reporting on the leaks with a few unsubtle ad homenim-attacks does not make him right in any way. It comes off as petty, honestly.

Would you go on your friend’s Facebook page and announce a pregnancy if you found a positive pregnancy test in their bathroom? No, that would make you a terrible human being! Because it’s not your news to give, and when the world gets to know it is up to that person and their significant other.

Here, Jarret confuses private information (pregnancy) with information regarding a product from a huge company. If I got hold of a picture of an iPhone 7 and posted that on the internet, would that be as bad as revealing an acquaintance’s pregnancy? Of course not, a company is not a personal friend, and the analogy is absurd.

Our policy has and continues to be that we simply don’t discuss leaks. Go read the article from then-Magic Marketing Director Kyle Murray to learn about the problem we were facing even back then, over thirteen years ago. Confirming or disproving a leak may solve the problem in the short term, but it creates a bigger problem in that it can force us to acknowledge each and every rumor. And then when we decide not to comment, it becomes an even bigger deal.

This seems like a fair and stable policy and in my opinion. It makes sense and it’s a clear policy.

Make no mistake, we take leaks very seriously. We always investigate leaks with our internal teams as well as external partners to figure out where and how the leaks happened. We have and will continue to not just ban leakers from the DCI and cancel their Planeswalker Points accounts, but pursue whatever criminal and civil actions necessary to protect our intellectual property and the Magic community.

eyespy.fullRight, it’s one thing to be sour about a leak. I understand that, I really do. By profession, I’m a teacher, and I can get salty if a lesson I’ve been working hard on gets ruined by one or more pupils simply refusing to take part, or even disturb the class. In a worst-case scenario, I might’ve spent four or five hours planning. I can’t imagine if months of work gets ruined by leakers.

That said, outright threats of expulsion from the competitive side of the community is not the proper way to go.

Leaks create an unfair advantage as—because they do not go out over official channels—they are not as widely distributed to less-enfranchised players, thus creating an unfair advantage for some players.

I don’t see how this is relevant in this case – what was spoiled was the expeditions and the mythics, which will have some impact on limited play, but not a whole lot compared to the playable commons. The constructed players will easily have their chance to look at the official spoiler before their first constructed event, leak or no leak.

So if we can’t design a game that is leak-proof, our only other option is to work hard to prevent leaks. Which we do. We follow rigorous security protocols to ensure assets don’t sneak outside the building. So when you see a leak online, what you are seeing is theft, and we have an obligation to pursue and punish those engaged in that activity.

edric,spymasteroftrest.fullThis is a good thing, and it is part of Wizards’ job. Apparently, these security measures failed this time around – and my point is that the blame should probably be placed on Wizards’ security protocol, not on the parts of the community that leaked it, or parts of the community spreading it (like I).

Granted, I don’t know what happened in this case, but I hope we’ll find out eventually. In the case of New Phyrexia, it is a clear breach of trust between the company and a single person – until something like this is clearly proven, I have to assume the breach is internal. There’s no reason to believe outside people should have a hold of physical cards this early, and thus, the blame has to be placed on Wizards.

The community can’t be blamed for liking content from the company, and a spoiler of this magnitude creates not only traffic for a site, but also prestige and attention, two very human desires.

We’re humans, Jarret. Stop being petty about that, and work for a tighter ship instead. It usually works just fine, why didn’t it this time?

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1 Comment

  1. Grim Lavamancer

     /  December 18, 2015

    Har har, it looks like you’re going to spend 4-8 years in Magic Prison for stoking the flames of spoiling.

    The reason the article comes across as scattered and lacking focus is that they keep skipping around the real, somewhat cynical (or grim, in my case), reason that Wizards hates spoils this far away from release. And that is, of course, money.

    You see, Wizards relies heavily on a “shock and awe” type of advertising. And that’s very effective close to a release “Oh, look at the fun and exciting cards, I gotta buy a display box so I can get my paws on the lot of them”. But give someone time to ponder the fun and exciting cards and they become a lot less fun and exciting, and the cards that at first glance looks cool becomes a lot more boring when you’ve known about it for a while. Some cards that looked good during previews might not look so hot after you’ve had time to discuss them with your friends/internet buddies. And instead of buying a display you opt for getting a few singles that you need for your current deck instead. Simply put the magic fades away (pun very much intended) and so does the glorious pile of money that a set would rack in.

    Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a company wanting to earn as much money as possible, but it makes for very poor PR to say so outright.

    Liked by 1 person

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