Non-Comprehensive Thoughts on Unofficial Leaks

Mana LeakI have a very interesting perspective in all of this leak discussion and I’m going to be a little vain and egotistical for a moment. I apologize in advance for that.

For the first five years of the PAX party here in Seattle, I felt that I had a job I had to do. For those that don’t know, the PAX party held every PAX Prime shows off the new plane for the upcoming year. During that party WotC prints up a bunch of oversized cards from the new set for people to see. It’s been my “job” to get the photos of those cards onto the internet, mainly through my twitter feed (@MTGColorPie, shameless plug). Is this a job that’s be officially sanctioned by WotC? Am I getting paid for this job? No. But when the party happens, there were members of WotC who let me know if other preview cards are coming up (Pay attention to those cards on the wall, something might happen to them later – Innistrad Flip card debut), or making sure I get all of the ones that were on display.

Let me tell you something, it’s a rush to be able to be one of the first ones to see a new card. Take a photo of it, and send it off to the internet for the community to digest. There’s a bunch of pride there; I’ve seen my images from PAX being used on eBay auctions to the rumor forums to Tumblr and a bunch of fan sites. That feeling of that it was you who “previewed” this card is thrilling and you felt like you did the community some good.

From the outside world, it looks like I’m the one previewing all of those cards however I’ve just been the harbinger for some of them. All that changed this past year when the presentation and live streaming happened to preview the cards. I’ve essentially “lost my ‘job'” at PAX. Sure, it was nice to be able to share this with the community but this is a much better set up for everyone involved. This is their controlled preview release with something they weren’t able to do years ago. All of the cards are planned out and given to the people they believe are the right messengers for that card(s).

Everything I’ve ever “previewed” without seeing it somewhere online first has been at those PAX parties or given to me by WotC. I have never leaked a card myself.

But I understand why players leak cards.

Any fandom wants to know more about what it’s interested in. The new Star Wars comes out tomorrow night and if I really wanted to I could read and find out what happens in the movie before I go see it. I don’t because I want to be surprised. With Magic, on the other hand, I want to know about everything so I dig and read up on those potential spoilers. Am I a fan of them? No. But it’s something new about Magic so “give me, give me, give me.” And to the people who spoil them, I know the rush they experience seeing their leaks spread far and wide thinking they did some good for the community and the game. It’s an amazing feeling and you want to do it again and again.

But that’s not helping anyone.

No one remembers your name. It’s not something you put on a resume. WotC is not going to like you.

Trick Jarret wrote a great piece today on leaks and what it means from WotC’s standpoint. I think it’s an important thing to read so check it out. Now, it’s at this point I should tell you that I’ve had lunch with Trick many times; in fact I’ve had numerous lunches with people at WotC just to hang out and talk. You might think “well, of course Robby thinks this way he’s trying to protect his friends and be a WotC fanboy,” but that’s not the case. You’d think I gotten info ahead of time about cards? No way. If I ask about things digging for information (I try to be polite and know what they can and can’t say), all of them have kept quiet even though I’ve known them for years. The amount of information I’ve about future sets has been zero.

I don’t always agree with what WotC does. I’m sure we’ll get a reason why the colorless mana symbol was in this set instead of Battle for Zendikar. I may not agree with it but I’m sure I’ll understand it. The people who work in R&D and WotC do care about Magic and want what’s best for the health of the game.

To see the leaps and bounds that WotC has taken the past few years of getting their marketing on point and expanding their brand has been a welcome sight. It’s not just the card portion of Magic that’s benefited, but stuff like the MTG Puzzle Quest or the Funko Pop dolls or anything that has been Magic related has been cool to see. Something might have been a timed release and had other events tied to that timing get blown up because someone broke a NDA to seem like they’re helping the community and give you some cards is an awful feeling. It’s not just for WotC employees but the experience we miss out on as well and the likely hood of them doing anything like this in the future dwindles.

And that’s not cool.

There are a few things I want to address here.

  1. WotC doesn’t put cards for future sets in booster packs and wait and see if we will discover them. The ONLY time they have done that intentionally was the Magister of Worth promo for Conspiracy. There was a phone number printed on the back and they were released in packs they knew would get opened up, the prerelease boxes. Every other time has been a printing error. (Note: The Zendikar Priceless Treasure promotion is different because we know they were put in there but WotC did not print new cards. I’ve never been able to get anyone from WotC to comment about the promotion, even years later).
  2. People who leak these cards, if they are WotC employees or contract with WotC, should get in trouble. Breaking an nondisclosure agreement (NDA) is serious and if more people do it, the less they will branch out and try new things. I have signed a few NDAs and those are real scary to break. If people are breaking those to get you these cards, they should be punished, maybe more than they are getting punished now. WotC is not the Empire, we are not Rebels and the card images are not the Death Star Plans that we should try and steal; many Bothans shouldn’t have to die to get us card images early.
  3. WotC understands how the internet works. Once the information is out there they know it will spread. Trick tweeted this comment this morning: understand and support the talk of cards, but they don’t want them out in the first place. That’s the difference here. This is part of the reason why they won’t confirm or deny leaks, they want the conversation. For those old folks here, I have no idea how that relates to the MTGSalvation Time Spiral leak with Rancored Elf as that was years ago.

WotC’s wants and desires of not having cards leak early are different from mine as theirs impacts their potential earnings. It sucks when cards are leaked early as it takes away from the rumors/preview season and deflates excitement from the set. We can talk about the cards but now that so many are released a month before the set, the hype train will die down closer to release. Fallout 4 wasn’t announced until earlier this year because Bethesda didn’t want years of hype to die out early. Conversations are great, but there’s only so much you can say until more information comes to light. I’ve bought into the experience WotC’s trying to build excitement for because when it’s done right it’s a very fun thing to be a part of.

I don’t like to know what I’m getting for a present and have never sneaked down at night and tried to open Christmas presents before the 25th.  To me, this is just the same thing. I am not trying to shame you into enjoying seeing new cards, I like to look at them and discuss them too. I don’t support them getting out in the first place. It’s more fun for us and better, in the long term, for us players as well because WotC can do new things with promotions. I’ve experienced that feeling of being the first to show cards off to the world, and I know why these leakers do it.

I just wish they didn’t.

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