Nintendo just recently came out and debunked an inaccurate article from Bloomberg about their profit margins on the new Nintendo Switch OLED. This comes on the heels of many news sites drumming up rabid fervor for the imminent announcement of the new, high powered “Switch Pro,” a piece of hardware that has not been announced by Nintendo. A piece of hardware for which no official evidence actually exists.
Understandably, gamers that listened to these articles promising the new model Switch would have 4K resolution, DLSS, and the power of a PlayStation 7 in portable form were somewhat disappointed by the slight upgrade that is the Nintendo Switch OLED. Some gamers, the kind we call idiots, took it out on Nintendo, a company that never announced or hinted at a Switch Pro and simply went with the same mid generation refresh they’ve done for every single one of the handhelds. Smart gamers, however, have turned on the “journalists” and rumor mongers that spiraled this situation out of control with their constant games of telephone and one-upsmanship.
Let’s take a step back, and look at this situation, and we’ll give you some insider knowledge from our years of experience in games journalism.
Gamers always seem to be rabidly devouring news about their favorite games and systems, but these things take years to develop. It’s understandable that while new games and hardware are developed, companies try to keep a lid on everything, and when new information comes out, they want to control how the public receives it. There are billions of dollars and thousands of livelihoods at stake in these things.
Journalists want the scoop on these developments, because they want to make money and get fame. The more clicks they get, the more money they earn and the more famous their names become. The more new and exclusive or outrage inducing an article is, the more clicks it gets, just look at Kotaku’s recent string of outrage inducing clickbait titles. If journalists want access to information that companies try to keep internal, they have to find someone on the inside. This is where
attention whores “leakers” come in.
Popular leakers are people who work at a company and anonymously report information the company doesn’t want to release yet. Though sometimes leakers are employed in guerilla marketing, this is not the case for most leakers. The reasons companies don’t want this information to release could be because the specs need to be guarded from corporate rivals, paperwork hasn’t been finalized, they have a set marketing plan, or the project is simply too far away from completion to be mentioned. The leaker doesn’t care about these things, because the leaker is that team member that has to have attention on them at all times, wants to be buddy buddy with the cool kids, or wants to make a few bucks, and doesn’t care if it hurts the team.
(It is important to note that there’s a huge difference between a whistleblower and a leaker, as one shines light on shady practices to encourage change, and the other just leaks secret info for personal gain)
Now you may think “Wow, leakers are the biggest douche bags ever when you look at it like that.” And you’d be wrong. Leaks happen, everyone gets loose lips at some point. Some can’t help but brag to friends about the cool projects they’re working on and don’t think of it as the same as that douche that spills his guts to the press for attention. That’s how it usually starts. The kind of leakers we’re talking about are doing something that happens naturally, just on a larger scale for his or her own benefit, and likely a social media following.
The biggest douchebags are the journalists and personalities that realize “Hey, if my sources can be anonymous, I can just make them up. If my predictions are wrong, I can just offload the blame onto my previously trusted/proven anonymous source.” I, James Wynne, have seen this from my colleagues at multiple gaming news sites, which is why I am pushing for a site like this, where gamers are the writers, not journalists looking for an easy come up. In fact, because it was so common, I wrote an article for TheGameFanatics satirizing this very problem over six years ago. Though the article has since been lost to time, here’s an excerpt I found from an old n4g submission. It’s obvious this has been a problem for a long time, and seeing as we’ve just now had a new wave of Metroid Prime Trilogy remaster rumors, the exact same rumor that has come around every year since 2018, it’s obvious people aren’t going to stop this practice of just cranking out rumors for clicks. They’ll keep saying it until it happens, then use the inevitable happening as proof of their claims going forward. Let’s not even tackle the issue of journalists referencing each others works as fact and building a massive web of circular reporting that continues to ripple through the community long after the original source is debunked.
Journalists at every level have been losing credibility with their audiences for years now, and it’s just not a profession that’s very appreciated, and in cases like this it’s easy to see why. Perhaps this shoddy care for what’s published is a symptom of the type of person attracted to a job based on attention. After all, people with a stronger moral compass wouldn’t be swayed by the pursuit of praise and money so easily. The recent blow back on the Switch Pro rumors hit game journalists hard because scorn burns so much more for those that seek validation through others so desperately. It can really send them to a dark place.
For example, someone could get mad that their work on “covering” the non-existent Switch Pro announcement was ruined by Nintendo not keeping up their end of the non-existent bargain, leading to someone getting roasted, and deciding to write a smear piece about the new Nintendo Switch OLED being sold at a high mark up in today’s volatile climate to cause anger towards Nintendo and try to hurt their bottom line out of spite. I mean it’s not like certain market analysts seemingly reported misinformation about the Switch Lite numbers to temporarily hurt Nintendo’s stock value in the past. No, I’m sure it was just a misunderstanding. Such a person probably heard about the raw cost of materials and didn’t consider the extra costs associated with manufacturing, packaging, and shipping a third separate model of a highly desired product in the middle of an major labor shortage. It would be much better for such a person to write something absentmindedly stupid than intentionally spiteful, right?
But it’s crazy how rumors start, huh?