Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan opens up about ‘extremely demoralising’ leaks

In the wake of several high-profile leaks about Overwatch’s hotly-anticipated sequel, game director, Jeff Kaplan has detailed how leaks affect developer morale.

“We know leaks happen,” Kaplan told Kotaku Australia. “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.

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

Expanding on the issue, Kaplan said a huge problem was managing leaks without the context fans might need to understand changes and/or new features. As Kotaku explained, Overwatch fans demonstrated this themselves when, in light of the leaks, they began raising concerns about carrying over their progression or cosmetics, or whether Overwatch 2 would split the community without any of the context a full, scheduled reveal could add. 

“When you’re trying so hard to deliver something for somebody and to have it be spoiled in a way that’s not coherent,” Kaplan added. “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.

“Our artists are heartbroken: They take such care to make the art look beautiful, and then we get some crappy version of what the art looks like … and then people are like, ‘I don’t know it doesn’t look that good’ and we’re like, no it does, it looks amazing! It’s just a crappy screenshot that someone took, so it can be a bit demoralising.”

Kaplan ended on a happier note, however. “But my interactions with everybody on the team today is everybody’s on cloud nine,” he said.

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond, including Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, IGN, MTV, and Variety.

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