The Sims 3 is Leaked! (On Purpose?!)

I don’t know about you, but I am becoming increasingly wary of the legitimacy of “leaked” content these days. Ever since Radiohead’s Kid A was leaked, resulting in the popularity of the band skyrocketing, it seems that these so-called “leaked” albums, movies or video games always end up selling pretty well. Better, perhaps, then they might should have.

Take the latest Wolverine movie, for example. It was leaked, albeit in unfinished form, a full month before it hit theaters. The leak was highly publicized across the Internet and news media and, in my opinion, probably boosted Wolverine ticket sales a tremendous amount. Actually, I saw the movie and that’s the only reason I can come up with as to why it did so well at the box office. It wasn’t a good movie. This begs the question: Was this leak planned just to create hype for the movie? If, by releasing a half-assed version of the movie for “illegally”, the studio could boost public awareness and thus sales, would they? I think they would.

The Electronic Arts game The Sims 3 is another example. An article (via Slashdot) over at Bloomberg.com on May 22nd documents the “leak” of The Sims 3 a full week and a half before its release, scheduled for June 2. I wasn’t even aware that the game was coming out and, now, thanks to media headlines, I know that the game is being “Hit By Piracy Ahead of Sale.” But wait! Is it the full game being pirated? Not according to company spokeswoman Holly Rockwood.

“The pirated version is a buggy, pre-final build of the game. It’s not the full game. Half the world -- an entire city -- is missing from the pirated copy.”

Yet this copy has been downloaded “an impressive” 180,000 times! To me, that’s a huge amount of free publicity for EA. The downloaders are, of course, using BitTorrent, so EA pays exactly zero distributing costs.

And consider the hype over downloading it!

It’s illegal! It’s exciting! You’re a PIRATE! You lawbreaker, you!

I didn’t even know the game existed, and now I desperately want to try it out!

EA would normally have had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for this publicity, but by intentionally leaking (according to me) an incomplete version of their software, they get all of the publicity - by way of calling “foul!” - and almost none of the negative effects of actually releasing the full thing for free. People are still going to line up to buy the game even if they downloaded it because no one who actually likes the game will settle for less. I’m guessing a huge percentage of those 180,000 will not be playing the leaked copy in two weeks’ time.

What, then, should we as the consuming public do if indeed my theory turns out to be true? Will we tolerate this underhanded marketing technique? After all, if EA did indeed leak their game on purpose, their crying "foul!" would be lying and misleading - a mere stunt to get their game featured in headlines. And that’s really what it’s all about. With so much news and information saturating the Internet, it’s amazing that anything important gets prominently noticed at all. Unless your video game is either incredibly offensive or Duke Nukem Forever, it will almost never see any mainstream press coverage. These companies are desperate for anything, and this just might be the ticket. If it is, though, and this kind of secretly-leaking-incomplete-games activity keeps up, I’m the one who will cry “foul!”


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30 Rock Is Imploding In On Itself, And Says "Good Luck!"

I don't watch a lot of T.V., and now it seems that what little I do watch might become increasingly hard to follow, according to an article in yesterday's Pioneer Press. This article about the popular television shows of today, such as 30 Rock, Big Bang Theory, and Parks And Recreation, bemoans the growing trend of saturating T.V. content with cultural references and in-jokes about other T.V. shows. In other words, television programming is getting its inspiration from other television programming.

This invites a catch-twenty-two; television requires you to watch other television shows so that you can adequately enjoy your favorite television show - i.e. if you want to get all the jokes on 30 Rock, you might need to have a good understanding of the respective plot-lines of The Office, The Simpsons, LOST, and maybe even Tyler Perry's House Of Payne. That's a lot of T.V. watching, and I don't have that much time to devote to T.V.

The main question I think the Pion. Press is posing in all of this is 'are we making content with lasting value?' Will people ten or twenty years from now be able to watch an episode of 30 Rock and have any idea what is going on? Will they get the jokes?

Is our culture, perhaps, creating an unsustainable model of television in which the only way to understand any show is to have watched all of them? If that answer is yes, then I think the causal factors involved are pretty obvious: cultural entertainment glut and media over-saturation. It used to be that the entertainment media was on the outside of the world looking in. Fodder for their shows was real-world events, ideas, and trends. Now the trend has shifted, and commentary about whether or not the plane wreck survivors will even get off the island is just as valid as that about pirate activity off Madagascar. What's real is now on-par with what's entertainment, because the American media thinks that their audience is equally informed about both worlds.


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