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Bethesda managed to keep Fallout 4's development under wraps for years. PR man Pete Hines revealed in a new interview that the secrecy required less effort than you'd think.
When asked how the company prevented leaks, Hines gave a simple response:
Hope. There’s no special… you tell as few people as possible and you hope nobody says anything. There’s no magic formula to avoiding anything.
The only pre-announcement leak happened about two years ago when someone released voiceover scripts from the game. These scripts revealed the Boston setting from the game along with a few characters. I suspect a lot of fans were suspicious of the report, though, due to some of the widely publicized Fallout 4 hoaxes that happened around the same time.
Bethesda ultimately announced the game in early June. While everyone saw a Fallout 4 announcement coming - Fallout 3's huge critical and commercial success made sequels a foregone conclusion - it was still a huge deal to finally see the game's trailer and gameplay. The game's November release date, way earlier than most people expected, was a big shock as well.
Even after the game was announced, though, Bethesda still had to worry about leaks. At conventions this summer such as Gamescom and QuakeCon, they showed off lengthy gameplay demos behind closed doors to large audiences. They were less successful in maintaining secrecy in these cases. That footage was ultimately leaked and rehosted in various places, including a porn site. Hines admitted in the interview that this is a natural consequence of social media and the rise of video sharing platforms:
Everybody wants to be, not everybody, they want to be PewDiePie 2. ‘I want to have tens of millions of followers on YouTube and make money doing it and be an internet celebrity,’ so they’re always looking to be the source and dig up information they can put out. It is what it is. At the end of the day, you have to hope that the people you’re working with value and respect the team that they’re working with and the thing they’re working on enough to keep their mouth shut and wait for us to talk about it and do it in the right way.
I found it a little odd that Bethesda didn't just release that footage to the web themselves. If you think you think the gameplay looks good enough to show to an auditorium full of gamers, isn't it good enough for YouTube as well? Releasing an HD recording of the footage online is better than letting consumers watch a bunch of off-center, grainy bootleg recordings or asking them to sift through a bunch of fake videos on YouTube. Hope - and a bunch of copyright takedown notices - seems like a simply enough way to deal with leaks but it's a lot clumsier than just beating leakers to the punch.