Are You More Excited by Leaked Details or Official Reveals?

16 September 2019 | 18 Comments

I’m starting to wonder if product leaks are a viable and exciting part of any pre-marketing strategy.

I could point to examples like the leaked Deadpool footage that resulted in the film getting made or the plethora of iPhone leaks that happen leading up to Apple’s annual announcement. But I can’t speak to them with any authority–were they real leaks or “real” leaks? I don’t know.

I can, however, talk about some Stonemaier Games information that has leaked over the years. Two of these leaks were accidental, and the third was kind of on purpose.

  • Visit from the Rhine Valley: Before announcing the new Viticulture expansion, I decided to change the thumbnail in our e-newsletter to the actual expansion box, thinking it was too small and pixelated for anyone to actually read. Boy was I wrong! Within hours, someone had zoomed in and shared it on BGG and reddit. Here’s the full story.
  • Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig: There are tons of Easter eggs found on tiles in this game, including the game storage room. It features a shelf of current and potentially future Stonemaier Games (stress on “potentially”). The text is so small on this tile that most of the words are difficult to read, but some people have deciphered more than I thought possible.
  • Tapestry: On the very first day that I started talking about Tapestry, I accidentally revealed the back of the box (which contains, as you can imagine, a lot of information about the game). I was showing the front of the box on my Facebook Live video, and several times I accidentally flashed the back of the box on camera. Some clever folks took screenshots, and soon those images were on BoardGameGeek!

The fascinating thing to me about all of these leaks is that they generate more attention than the juicer and more detailed official reveals for these products. So it makes me wonder if a calculated leak could be a powerful part of a marketing strategy.

Here’s any example, because I think if a leak feels too calculated, it won’t have the intended impact. In the background of my YouTube channel is my shelf of games. I could, on occasion, add an unannounced product to that shelf rather than stashing it away. The same technique could be used for the background of my Instagram photos.

What do you think? Does it no longer feel like a leak if it’s on purpose? In my opinion, as long as the intent is to tease without revealing any real information, it’s just fun marketing for everyone. Can you recall any product leaks that caught your attention?

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18 Comments on “Are You More Excited by Leaked Details or Official Reveals?

  1. I think the issue with leaking is that its meant to be things you don’t want us to know, it sets up an oppositional situation and worse, it can create winners and losers. There is the group who follows official announcements and pays attention to everything that Stonemaier games say they want to have released, then there is the group who tries to find out things that Stonemaier games has hidden, that they don’t want released, and I think the idea of making the second group the ‘real’ fans feels a little off. At that point the ‘real’ fans are those that have a degree of ‘us and them’ mentality with finding things out about Stonemaier games, which would be a shame for a company with such a generally open and inclusive attitude to their fans.

    Also, it sounds to me like playing with fire, asking fans to go through everything you say and do, to tell them that anything they are capable of finding out you wanted them to find out, the question becomes how problematic would it be if there were real leaks created? More so, if you tell people to go over every shot of your workspace with a fine toothed comb because you might have hidden details of your next game in there you had best be forensic about never having any sort of personal details anywhere within fifty yards of that camera. People would probably give things not game related in shots some respect usually, but if you tell them that there might be a hidden clue somewhere in a camera pan they will examine everything.

  2. FFG had that Star Wars leak from a store/warehouse years ago, did everything they could to delete/cover it up. Definitely produced some hype.

  3. Leaks have long been a viable marketing tool. In days past it was almost exclusively used in sports, just look at the NFL and how it has built an entire marketing structure around leaks.

    Look at how many famous stars leaked photos and details about their personal lives just to stay relevant. Everything in politics and the media is leaks nowadays.

    I think if your going to leak details, about a game, understand what in the marketing strategy leaks are used for and how to respond with momentum. Leaks are certainly easier to get out there and cheaper as you don’t have to have a huge budget or spend a lot of time before writing and producing.

    So 1 leaks are a time saver.

    Leaks also work as a diversion tactic.

    Third, leaks change the conversation.

    Fourth, the leaked information should be relevant, (for instance leaking a design diary post is irrelevant: But leaking the price and number available at that price early would be solid.) However be prepared to respond in a relevant way. See 5.

    Fifth of all, the leak should be controversial, be prepared to offer more than an explanation because everyone is looking at/ for your response. How you handle this will determine alot. (you don’t want people to feel they played along, they need to feel good about getting the leak like they discovered something)

    Sixth, A leak needs a landing spot. A place where it is permanent.

  4. From a consumer standpoint, leaks might provide the same effect as official reveals, but the reason it resonates more with the consumer (or the media) is due to things like:

    a) it was unintentional (by the Publisher), making it a “secret discovered”,

    b) those uncovered the leaks feel responsible for the discovery or that they participated in uncovering it (in tabletop RPGs, it’s the difference between the player rolling the dice and the Game Master rolling the dice).

    Perhaps the most recent leak that springs to mind was the Baldur’s Gate 3 announcement, which was discovered by looking at the source code of the website (baldursgate3.jpg instead of teaser.jpg).

  5. “I was showing the front of the box on my Facebook Live video, and several tiles I accidentally flashed the back of the box on camera.”

    You should have said “several times”, but you must have been thinking about expansion tiles for Tapestry and subconsciously leaked it as a typo in your post above.

  6. Somewhat echoing Nick’s comment above – I think the two need to go together. Since it’s intentional, they’re not really leaks, it’s more teasing via Easter eggs. If you’re building in Easter eggs into your content for your fans to puzzle out, that’s a lot of fun and will drive conversation – but there needs to be a payoff sooner rather than later that puts the speculation to rest. Otherwise, people will get fatigued and/or stop caring. Look at any number of the myriad ARGs out there that have been built as marketing for new media to see the range of responses it can elicit (from the “wow such awesome” to “what a load of bullcrap”)

  7. I did notice in a recent video that you left the cupboard on the left open. You’d mentioned in the past you had some prototypes in there. :-)

  8. People may prefer official reveals as it gives more detail. However the psychology of leaks is that it can build excitement. ’Oh, what’s that’!? The talking, speculation and hope of the game.

  9. This an interesting topic to mull over. I voted for “official reveals”. An unconfirmed leak, no matter how convincing, has to be taken with a grain of salt. Even if it is from the source. An official reveal is more fun for me because I can trust it. I don’t have to guess, deduce, or cross my fingers, I know it to be true.

    To me, it no longer feels like a leak if it is on purpose. If it is on purpose, I agree that I would label it a “teaser”. Teasers, trailers, interviews, gradual reveals are all things I would be drawn to, whereas rumors and unofficial leaks are not.

    I love how you have codenames and progress status icons for the games you are working on. To me, accompanying pics, anecdotes, etc (obviously not revealing anything prematurely) would retain and possibly increase my interest in these projects over time. Maybe there’s a game of sorts/ series of contests in how you roll out your reveals?

  10. In the IT industry where this idea kind of started, there are (normally) no such things as ‘leaked details’. A Leak is a carefully planned marketing strategy to drive hype and create click bait. One of the marketing people I worked with on HoloLens used to work for Apple and she told me how much more dramatic the click increase was when you put Leak in the headline. If you do an AB comparison on ‘New Details Leaked’ versus ‘New Details Released’ with exactly the same content, you will see orders of magnitude more hits on the ‘Leaked’ version.

    If there is a genuine leak, the company issues a Take Down order to anyone that posted it, press outlets comply, or the company cuts them off from any further press releases which is more damaging to them than the perceived loss of a leaked story. Then they immediately fire the person responsible (and they can identify that person in almost 100% of the cases), and then start legal proceedings. Granted, the IT industry is a bit more pedantic about this than hobby board gaming, but the principal is the same.

    So for me personally, when I see “Leaked” I treat it as click bait spam and just look for the actual company release notes.

  11. I’m happy for official reveals of information – too often when there’s a tiny amount (but not enough) info, there’s so much rampant speculation that is one of two extremes: gushing enthusiasm from your fans or ugly derision and pessimism from your detractors. People rush to make judgements (either good or bad) from what they haven’t got a full picture from yet, and it can either help or hurt your actual product launch. People just don’t seem to have any patience.

    All that being said, I do like some speculation (e.g. about your future codenames and what games they might mean), and Dusty does a good job of covering all this with keen but not over-the-top excitement on The Mill. That sort of speculation is entertaining and provokes discussion, rather than emotion (“greatest thing ever!” vs “it’s gonna suck so bad”).

  12. The timing is important- meaning: If a leak or “leak” occurs late in the product development cycle, it’s potentially interesting to me. It is likely to be very close to what will be delivered. Too early in the development cycle and it could be a product in a state that the developer doesn’t want to make public for many good reasons. Leading to disappointment or confusion when the real thing hits the market.

  13. I very intentionally avoid leaks. I would rather wait and see the media and information a creative team wants me to see. I usually feel like leaks take the wind out of real announcements, and I do not want to rob myself or the creator of that moment when they finally pull back the curtain.

  14. Jamey, if you were to occasionally put prototypes in the bookshelves behind, it is possible your viewership would go up significantly.

    Leaked details about the adulation/attention paid to the person discovering the leak. They are elevated to a loftier sphere for their pre-knowledge.

    Just knowing that you were or were not laying easter eggs, would drive your fans crazy. Just science has shown the power of sporadic reward and its ability to drive behavior much more powerfully than expected reward, your occasional slips or planted clues would bring a lot more attention to your marketing efforts.

  15. I think a “leak on purpose” is called a “teaser”, and they certainly have their place. You also referred to easter eggs, which is another way of doing it, almost the same really. They all have their place in a successful marketing campaign.

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