On April 27th, earlier this year, the “bombshell” news came out that Nintendo’s NX console was to be released in 2017. If you were on social media that day, you definitely saw disappointment and groaning. Personally speaking, my feed was full of people who were bummed that the NX was, in their words, “delayed.”
That word choice is what I want to address. I want to talk about the word “delayed.” How can a game console, that was never given a release date, be considered “delayed?”
Because of rumors. Rumors, rumors, and more rumors.
If you kept up with the Nintendo rumor mill, you likely accepted a holiday 2016 NX release date as a certainty. You had heard rumor after rumor boldly proclaiming that the “NX is coming 2016.” You had heard it so much that you likely believed it. You were experiencing a factoid.
“an assumption or speculation that is reported and repeated so often that it becomes accepted as fact.” – Google Dictionary
Rumors of a 2016 release date came from the Wall Street Journal, not once but twice, a site called DigiTimes, and analysts at Barron’s Asia. Kyle Bosman of GameTrailers said with confidence, “It’s coming out next year . Let’s accept this now.” Ash Palsen of GameXplain was very specific when he said, “I think it will be coming out November 21st, 2016. I have no doubt in my mind.”
It was just accepted. Haven’t you heard? The NX was coming out in 2016, no doubt. All the cool kids were saying it. Meanwhile, Nintendo had never uttered a word regarding the NX’s launch window.
The first time Nintendo said anything regarding the NX’s release, everyone groaned about how “Nintendo delayed the NX,” despite the fact that we had never been given any date from Nintendo prior.
An official announcement was received negatively simply because of rumors. I think that is reflective of the time we live in and I want to talk about that.
Let me be clear, I don’t think we should be at the mercy of a company’s official press statements. I don’t think we should always be kept in the dark by corporate gatekeepers. But I want to explore the “comment section” culture we live in where rumors and hearsay can get copy-pasted on news sites so much that it ends up becoming “fact.”
Not only does it end up becoming “fact,” but it ends up influencing our perspective when real, credible news comes out.
“So what, Noah? Is that a bad thing?”
Actually, it can be. Because anyone can make a rumor or a “leak.”
Let’s not forget about what Polygon called the “pair of elaborate fakes that convinced the internet this was Nintendo NX controller.” With nothing more than a Reddit post and a blurry picture, one user got extensive media coverage from his supposed NX controller leak. He has since released a video showing how he made the whole thing up and had created the picture in Photoshop.
Mere days later, another Reddit post showed up. This time the “leak” had a much better picture (the one posted above). Again, it got extensive coverage and was copy-pasted on a thousand “journalism” websites. Deja vu, the whole thing was fake. The man responsible made a video showing how he went to great lengths to create the fake controller. He used a 3D printer and laser cutter for crying out loud.
I believe these two incidents were made possible by a similar set of events that happened last year. We have Artsy Omni to thank for his infamous “Rayman in Smash” fake leak. Omni wanted to start his new speed-painting Youtube series “Smashified” with a bang, so he decided the best way to launch it was to create a fake Super Smash Bros leak. Just like in the other examples, he later released a video showing how he did it. The big takeaway is that his plan worked. Smashified is now a very popular series and Omni owes a lot of that to the fact that rumors and leaks spread like wildfire (it also helps that Omni is an exceptionally talented artist).
People learned a lesson: make a leak and you’ll get attention. The first NX controller leaker has his own indie game studio. If you go to its Facebook page, you’ll see a big cover photo of his fake NX controller, even though it has nothing to do with indie game development. But hey, it’s good publicity, right? It’s the Artsy-Omni-strategy in full effect. Don’t take my word for it. Omni himself called out the similarities in the video’s comment section.
The second NX controller faker, the one with the 3D printer, had slightly different goals. He thought it “would be funny” to “show how easy it is” to make a leak. I think that speaks for itself and proves a point. Let’s keep moving.
Anyone can fake a leak and people have proven that they are willing to go to great lengths to do so. And every leaker has a different agenda. Some want publicity, some think it’d be funny, and some want to give people hope. The latter is exemplified best by the Sonic community’s claim to leak fame, Wentos the traveling salesman, who made up things about Sonic Team that have since become perceived as “common knowledge.”
How can these things become “common knowledge?” Because so many article authors don’t take the time to do anything other than copy text and write a click-bait title. Shoot, even real, officially confirmed news gets tossed around without care. I suggest you read this excellent article about how many journalism websites reported a “Sonic movie announcement” as breaking news two years after it was first announced. Why? Because one site erroneously did so first, and the rest merely used it as a citation. It’s like one crazy game of telephone. The authors of these articles are so eager to post something, they’ll take anything they can get and they’ll do it quickly.
“Remember that speed nor format excuses inaccuracy” -Society of Professional Journalism, Code of Ethics
So on one hand, you have leaker artists that will go to painstaking lengths to create fakes. On the other hand, you have lazy, copy-paste journalists that can’t be bothered to check their sources before hitting “Publish.” Put them together and you get an unhealthy soup of misinformation.
In all fairness, there’s a chance the NX was originally intended for a 2016 release and was simply delayed internally. But I don’t think that changes my point at all because there are still so many rumors all over the internet about almost anything. Shoot, there are even more NX-related rumors.
If you heard all the hubub about the NX supposedly coming this year, then you most likely also heard the rumor that “NX will be more powerful than PS4” from a plethora of sites. Tech Times said so because someone posted a supposed specs list on a message board. WCCF Tech posted about it because a twitter user named @IndieGamerChick tweeted it. GameRant did too because of a Reddit post.
But that’s not all. Soon, rumors came out that Sony was potentially producing an upgraded PS4 (the rumor originated on Kotaku). It was later confirmed by Sony that they are indeed making a more-powerful, beefed-up PS4, codenamed PlayStation Neo.
So what happens to the NX rumor circuit? It responds with one-upmanship of course: “Nintedo NX is reportedly more powerful than even the PlayStation Neo!”
French website Game Blog gave us a rumor article supposedly saying so (in French, of course). You guessed it; the article was cited all across gaming journalism. I’m willing to bet that most of the authors that shared it probably don’t even speak French. [sarcasm] I guess Google Translate is good enough for spreading information. [sarcasm]
My favorite example, though perhaps an easy target, is this post from Yibada. The headline of the article states, “Nintendo NX more powerful than Playstation Neo,” and goes onto to boldly claim that there is “no doubt” about it. The author posts zero links to any sources and simply says, “Rumors and speculations claim that the Nintendo NX would even be more powerful than the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One today.” That’s it. That’s the author’s reasoning. No links, no sources, just the equivalent of “rumors say so, so it must be true.”
So when the NX finally does come out and it’s not as powerful as the PS4, don’t be shocked just because all pundits said otherwise. Don’t feel that you were lied to, because there is a good chance no one even knew the truth to begin with.
If you’re a frequent reader of internet articles, please be media literate. Don’t assume journalists know what they are talking about. Heck, don’t assume I know what I’m talking about. Unfortunately, you can’t expect journalists to do their job, so do it yourself. Check sources. Check links.
If you’re a content creator of a journalism site, gaming or otherwise, be responsible. I am proud of Donnie, our lead reporter at TSSZ, for showing discretion about which rumors get posted here. While TSSZ has reported on rumors in the past, there have been many times that I’ve seen Donnie tweet out “Yes, I saw Rumor XYZ. No, I’m not posting about it.”
But if you are going to write a rumor article, you should:
1. Consider not writing it.
2. Clearly stress that you are reporting on a rumor.
3. Stress how possible it is that the information is false.
4. Clearly state your sources and their level of credibility.
5. Avoid click-bait titles, for heaven’s sake.
I know this all may sound pretentious so let me be clear. I want you to hold me accountable as well. I am not excusing myself from any of this. Even on a site where I post my stupid opinions about a fictional blue hedgehog, there’s no excuse for poor dissemination of information. If we can’t get our facts about video games straight, can we be certain we will get them right when it actually matters? Whether we are talking about silly video games or real world issues, don’t be a lazy journalist or a passive information consumer. Be responsible.
Rumors have become ridiculous, and I believe that is a reasonable assessment. Thank you for reading.
Noah Copeland is a somewhat-interesting human. He makes music, makes films, and stands at exactly average height. You can find him on his TSSZ author page, or on Twitter @NoahCopeland, where he posts his creative works and slightly less-than-overly-analytical essays of 140 characters.