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Let’s talk about data mining. If you’ve been paying attention to gaming news this year, you’ve probably come across at least one story about some unannounced game or piece of downloadable content being discovered or mined, by resourceful users ahead of a formal announcement. While Sony and Microsoft’s consoles certainly aren’t exempt from these techniques, and the wild west that is PC gaming sees more than its fair share, the Wii U seems to have been the prime vein for digital prospectors recently. After what seemed like the twentieth headline this year, my curiosity piqued. Why Nintendo? Why now? And what steps, if any, is Nintendo taking to curb these bittersweet leaks going forward?


If you’re in the same boat I was, you might be wondering exactly what data mining is. Like its namesake, the process involves starting with a large cache of raw material– data, in this case – then summarizing and categorizing it based on various perspectives and relationships. Simply put: Finding the veins of valuable material in the mountain of largely useless rock. It’s not a new concept, and it’s used practically in the business world to do things like turning mundane consumer statistics into useful marketing information. In the case of these Nintendo leaks, large, system-level, or software title updates are being sifted through to piece together traces of yet-to-be revealed games and content.

Here are a few recent examples: Just before Nintendo’s E3 presentations this year, miners found some revealing sound files in a Smash Bros. update, spoiling the planned reveal of Ryu and Roy a day early. A few dives into major Splatoon updates over the summer revealed new maps, huge lists of weapons, and unreleased details on game modes. Just this week, diggers uncovered a new Mystery Mushroom Costume in Super Mario Maker that may have been intended for part of a larger reveal. These cases highlight just a few of many instances of information leaks involving all of Nintendo’s big releases this year.


These reveals aren’t limited to DLC and content updates either. As a result of this code sleuthing, we knew about the HD remake of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess weeks before its formal unveiling during November’s Nintendo Direct presentation. Alongside it, a huge list of upcoming Virtual Console releases, across multiple regions, was extracted from a system update, long before they started popping up in the eShop.

So how is Nintendo dealing with this trend of leaked information? In arguably the biggest data leak of the year (the early reveal of Ryu and Roy just prior to E3), there was no time to react in any meaningful way, as the scheduled reveal was the next day. In this week’s Mystery Mushroom Costume leak, Nintendo actually went so far as to pull some high profile, speculative video content from YouTube. Most of the other reveals were arguably minor enough that it just might not be bothered to intervene. All in all, we’ve seen very few attempts on Nintendo’s part to regain control of leaked information, and no obvious structural changes to prevent it from happening in the future. I think we can safely assume that Nintendo is aware of the problem, and that it would prefer to maintain full control of its news flow. Only time will tell how it will ultimately choose to deal with it.

Okay, so why does Nintendo seem to have a giant pickaxe target on its back this year? I have a couple of ideas. As crazy as it seems, Nintendo is still getting its feet wet when it comes to online marketplaces. Sony and Microsoft have been running and refining their system-side storefronts for many years now, and both companies are veterans of E-commerce outside of the realm of video games. Meanwhile, Nintendo has been determined to pioneer its own path online, often unwilling to consider and apply the collective wisdom of its peers. It could be that this determination has simply produced some less than airtight methods for delivering digital content. Large, front-loaded updates for its consoles and games are ripe for the picking, and apparently don’t take much effort to crack wide open.


The other reason I believe data miners are constantly poring over Nintendo’s every kilobyte is that Nintendo fans have an utterly insatiable appetite for announcements. In the vacuum of Nintendo Directs between E3 and mid-November this year, every die hard Nintendo fan in the world was waiting with bated breath for any shred of news about the future. Over the past few years, Nintendo has created an expectation in its fans to hear news, directly from its executives, at least once every few months. In this prolonged absence of these normally punctual presentations, perhaps we Nintendo faithful just became more starved for news than usual. Desperation has a funny way of breeding ingenuity, after all.

However this impatient habit came about, it’s here, it’s consistent, and it’s something we need to come to terms with. Until Nintendo finds a way to stop the mining altogether, we Nintendo fans, and enthusiast writers especially, need to handle this sensitive information with care. Part of us wants to get our hands on every detail as soon as we possibly can, but we also love the carefully planned execution and delivery of a great Nintendo Direct. Here at Nintendo Inquirer, relaying news about upcoming games and content is a huge part of what we do. That being said, if we feel uneasy about sharing any information that we happen upon, for fear of spoiling a more meaningful reveal to come, be assured that we will give ample warning before doing so. Our team is in constant discussion about how to best serve our readers and respectfully share Nintendo’s exciting news with fellow fans.

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Written by Brittin Shauers

Brittin literally grew up with Link, Mario and Samus. These three characters and their worlds collectively capture everything that he loves about video games.