Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan says leaks are 'extremely demoralizing'

(Image credit: Blizzard)

One of the big reveals at BlizzCon 2019 was Overwatch 2, a sequel that's really more of an expansion, which was also one of the worst-kept secrets leading into the show. Kotaku reported in June that a StarCraft shooter (which probably would've been very cool) has been canceled in part so that resources could be dedicated to Overwatch 2 instead, and more concrete leaks floated to the surface closer to the BlizzCon event.

Leaks can be fun for gamers, and they sometimes serve as very effective PR, too. People tend to pay attention when they're reasonably—but not entirely—sure that something cool is going to happen with stuff they're interested in. But for game developers and reps who put great effort into crafting big announcements, seeing all of that work (and those exciting surprises) go out the window days or weeks before they're meant to can be a real heartbreaker, Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan said in an interview.

"If you want to know how game developers feel about leaks, the WoW team made a cinematic called Shadowlands, and picture my face where Sylvanas' was," he said. "And then instead of that helmet, it was my cellphone."

So, basically this:

Speaking to Kotaku Australia, Kaplan acknowledged that leaks are sometimes unavoidable but even so, he said that they take a real toll on developers, particularly those going through it for the first time. 

"The example I used this week a lot with the team was The Burning Crusade. And a lot of the team hasn't been around that long, or weren't part of Burning Crusade, but Burning Crusade leaked in an Italian magazine the week before BlizzCon or the week of BlizzCon that we were supposed to announce [the] expansion," he said.

"If you fast-forward to 2019, everybody looks back at Burning Crusade as one of WoW's strongest moments, their favorite expansions, and nobody remembers that Burning Crusade was leaked at all. Leaks are very interesting in that they have more of a moral impact on the team than anything else. It's extremely demoralizing. You feel totally deflated."

And while leaks can elevate hype, they can also distort initial impressions: Kaplan said that leaked reveals often aren't "coherent" because they're incomplete. "That's the part that bothers us the most, where people are not given all the information and all of the context that they need to understand what we're doing."

His frustrations are understandable, but are probably a fact of life for developers. The bottom line is that fans want to know what's going on with their thing—and the more fans a thing has, the more likely it is that leaks will spring. It's not the worst problem to have (certainly better than nobody paying attention at all), and in this case it sounds like the Overwatch team has bounced back well from that initial disappointment: Kaplan said that after the formal announcement of Overwatch 2, "everybody's on cloud nine."

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.