Why Fact Checking Matters

Correction: E3 2018 Ubisoft did announce Assassin’s Creed Origin with a release date of October 5th, 2018.

I would like to preface this by stating that I fully understand that games media is at best hobbyist journalism.  I understand that gaming deserves the same respect and treatment as any other art form, but at the same time doesn’t hold a candle to the importance of daily events that happen on this crazy planet we call Earth.  It started with this tweet, then soon outlet after outlet began reporting an uncorroborated screenshot as evidence that Walmart Canada leaked unannounced upcoming games.  No fact checking, no real effort beyond making videos and churning out articles.  Hype being layered on top of speculation of a dubious at best piece of evidence.

For starters let’s go with the easiest thing to critique from the screenshot, the key art.  As the official Rage twitter account points out, the key art for the Rage 2 filler is incorrect.  It uses the wrong font, is missing an age rating and is not in all caps which they claim it should(source).  The art for The Division 2 is incorrect as well as Amazon and GameStop Ireland each have potential cover art listed for their pre-orders.  It is not unreasonable to believe that a retailer the size of Walmart would have also received the same Division 2 cover art.  The thing here is nearly every game has the same font, the same style, however, some titles have the font in different sizes which stood out as a sloppy detail.

Next, there are a few with incorrect titles, for starters the fact that they have Forza Horizons 5[sic] listed, the last game in the Horizon franchise was 3.  While yes Microsoft tends to alternate years with Motorsports games on odd years and Horizons games on even years.  Which means keeping pace Forza Horizon 4 is due this year and 5 is due in 2020.  The listing also has Dragon Quest 2 listed for PS4, this has been written off as a typo and that it should be Dragon Quest Heroes 2.  However, Best Buy has a preorder listing for Dragon Quest 11 on the PS4.  Now, these could be written off as typos, but combine that with incorrect or missing key art and what remains is at best a hastily created sloppy screenshot.

Then there is the matter of the link listed, it takes you to walmart.ca/en/video-games/n-120 which just the department splash page for video games.  While director of corporate affairs for Walmart Canada, Anika Malik did state “Walmart experienced a technical glitch that allowed certain items to be posted to our website for a short period of time”(source) which lends credence to the leak.  However, I spoke with both a former and current sales associate from the electronics department at Walmart that were able to confirm they do not use work in progress or project names for any games in their system.  They also typically do not have a game in their system until it has been announced and they receive retailer information from the publisher.

While the original poster has claimed it was just a screen grab that they shared, the reality is that this was not enough to post as news.  This was barely enough to post as speculation.  In the digital age where anyone can access Photoshop or any other image manipulation program, a screenshot should not count as evidence.  The screenshot itself has a few noticeable flaws, firstly the actual preorder page for Walmart Canada doesn’t have a button that says ‘View Details’ below the key art.  Instead, it has a button that states “Pre-Order” with the street date listed in the upper right corner.  As stated previously the font for some of the titles is a different size which could be written off as some publishers preferring different fonts.  This doesn’t explain that the font size for the PS4 key art for RAGE 2 is larger than the font for the key art for the Xbox One version.

Now that is not to say that the games on the list, don’t or won’t exist.  Forza Horizon 5 will be made after Horizon 4, there will be another Assassin’s Creed game.  Probably not in 2018 as Ubisoft has shifted to a model with longer time between development cycles and recurring monetization strategies.  Plus they already released a remaster for Assassin’s Creed Rogue this year on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.  Given how Bethesda has reacted to the image it is safe to assume that RAGE 2 is all but confirmed.  Borderlands 3 is not only coming but based on conjecture and hype an announcement is expected this year by many people.  That is the problem though, this is hype and conjecture, not enough to go on.  Calling it a leak is at best being disingenuous.

It is an often repeated phrase in gaming communities that you can’t spell ignorant without IGN. Maybe if outlets did more research than a tweet or a press release handed to them by a PR company then their audience would have more faith in them.  Maybe if the big names in games media acted with the slightest bit of editorial integrity they wouldn’t need to push click bait in a digital world of ever dwindling ad revenue.  It is easy to deflect by pointing out that they’re just games, but is that even a good excuse or should games media actually have a standard of accountability?

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