On October 20, 2016, Nintendo revealed their next big console, the Switch. To some fans the announcement was no doubt a surprise. But to those of us who have kept a close eye on gaming websites over the past year, it was simply confirmation of rumours that were all already out there.
Tonight, Nintendo will hold a far bigger event, this time to reveal the price, launch lineup, and release date of their handheld-console hybrid. And yet again, hardcore Nintendo fans have to wonder: How much of this information will be new? How much do we already know? How many of the leaks that we've seen floating around over the past few months were actually true? How much was misinformation?
In other words, it's rumour reckoning time.
Ever since the days of our best friend's uncle, Nintendo rumours have been par for the course in video games, as ubiquitous as Mario's smiling, mustachioed face. For decades, forums and magazines would share scuttlebutt on the latest exploits of Zelda and Metroid, speculating and gossiping about what they had heard from their sources. More often than not, those rumours were fake. Although we'd occasionally hear tidbits on Nintendo hardware like the 3DS and Wii U before they were officially announced, the iconic publisher was usually pretty damn good at keeping its secrets secret.
That's changed in recent times. The floodgates appear to have opened, thanks to a handful of rumormongers who have become prominent over the past year. And as we wait for tonight's event, the most interesting question isn't "What's Nintendo got planned?" It's "How many of the rumours are true?"
Few people are as nervous for tonight as Laura Kate Dale, a UK-based reporter and prolific tweeter who has cultivated a reputation for sharing Nintendo rumours in the lead-up to Switch. Dale, who is 25, has been a full-time reporter since late 2014 but started making a name for herself last year with a series of tweets and reports full of Switch details both major and minor. Tonight, she may be vindicated. Or embarrassed. Or a combination of both.
"I am constantly worried about that," Dale told me during a recent interview. "That is honestly the most tiring thing about doing leaks, is the sitting and waiting and wondering, 'Am I gonna lose all credibility because all of this is gonna turn out wrong?'"
Throughout 2016, Dale has made claims on the Switch's release date (March 17 in Europe), price (£199.99 and £249.99), and even the full launch lineup, which she reports will include Skyrim and the new Mario. (Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been a point of contention: At first, Dale had reported that the next Zelda would be out this summer; now she says it's a launch game. A recent Eurogamer report corroborates that Breath of the Wild's release plans have been in flux.)
Dale has also reported that a Mario/Rabbids crossover RPG is in the works; that Beyond Good & Evil 2 is a Switch exclusive; and that the long-rumoured western release of Mother 3 will finally be announced during tonight's event, also for the Switch. (Dale compiled a full list of her reports here.)
It may not all happen Jan 12, some may end up being E3 reveals, but here's a bingo card of Switch reports I've published. pic.twitter.com/BK1WbuvOct
— Laura Kate Dale (@LaurakBuzz) January 11, 2017
Most of Dale's rumours have not yet been proven — or disproven — but she gained credence with observers when she tweeted, around an hour before Nintendo made an official announcement, that the Switch (then called NX) would be revealed on October 20. Although she's been off the mark on some stories, like a report that Uncharted 4's DLC would star Drake and his brother (it actually features Chloe), Dale has been correct about Switch details such as the split d-pad and general layout of the hardware. Tonight, her track record will be far more clear.
"Any time I do talk about leaks I put out a tweet as well saying, 'Hey, remember, take anything I say with a grain of salt,'" she said. "Don't assume everything I say is accurate."
Dale's style is a little unusual. She tends to be very transparent on Twitter and is very loose with what she chooses to share, which is part of what's endeared her to a subset of the Nintendo community. But, like any other reporter who wants to break news outside of company marketing cycles — a list that includes those of us here at Kotaku — Dale says she gets anxious every time she puts something out there and has to wonder whether or not it's right.
"Sharing information can be somewhat addictive," Dale said. "It's something that, while it does have its stresses attached to it, there is also something very rewarding about doing it. And I know there are times where I have probably said things that were either granular or I didn't need to say, because sometimes you just wanna say, 'Hey I know a few more things,' so that when information starts coming out it's obvious that OK, yeah, you did know more.'"
One NeoGAF rumour, posted in April by a poster named 10k, turned out to be total nonsense.
Tonight's event may be the coda to what has been a wild, leaky year for Nintendo. Dale's cavalcade of Nintendo reports follows several major rumours that hit throughout 2016. In February, a NeoGAF poster called Trevelyan9999 — also known as SuperMetalDave — published a list of upcoming 3DS games and marketing budgets that turned out to be real. It mostly consisted of codenames and didn't offer any useful information, but it was accurate.
Later, SuperMetalDave reported a number of NX rumours on his YouTube channel that proved to be very much false, including a claim that the NX would use AMD's x86 architecture and be more powerful than the PlayStation 4. If you're wondering about the discrepancy: According to one person familiar with the situation, SuperMetalDave got his hands on that 3DS marketing plan because of an email that was accidentally sent to a large group of people, then passed along to him. He didn't have any real "inside" information beyond that email, which might help explain why his subsequent reports were off the mark.
Still, more often than not, 2016's Nintendo rumours have panned out. In March, the contents of a European Nintendo Direct leaked out before it went live, and in the following months, more leaks emerged. There was the report that NX would use cartridges instead of discs (true). There was the report that NX was powered by Nvidia (also true). Then there was the biggest leak yet: Eurogamer deputy news editor Tom Phillips reported thorough and accurate details on Nintendo's new system, which he said would be a portable console that has detachable controllers and plugs into your television (true, true, true).
Something about 2016 has just felt different than other years. I've been following Nintendo rumour culture for a long time, and usually it's full of nonsense, propagated by Nintendo fan-sites that will happily publish just about anything. (Remember the Nintendo Fusion?) And sure, there's been plenty of bullshit surrounding the Switch, like SuperMetalDave and this fanfiction-heavy Google document that's worth reading just for laughs. But now more than ever, Nintendo's secrets seem to be leaking non-stop.
Look at Emily Rogers, for example. Rogers, who has a long and polarising history within the Nintendo fan community, has been sharing rumours and leaks since around 2011. Back then, she had a reputation for being wrong more often than not. She made several outlandish claims and had a tendency to delete tweets and posts every few months after things stopped panning out. But in the Switch era, she's been on the ball, correctly reporting on some hardware details (plus the existence of Paper Mario for Wii U) as well as others that may or may not pan out tonight. (Rogers declined to comment on this story.)
Longtime rumormonger Emily Rogers reported news of Paper Mario: Colour Splash well before it was announced.
So what happened? When did Nintendo start getting so much leakier?
"I've been trying to work this out for a little while," Laura Kate Dale said when I asked if she thought things felt different now. "The only thing that seems different to me from the outside... You've got one Nintendo console that is dying, and a lot of interest in what comes next, a lot of desire to see Nintendo not die, to rise from the ashes and do something else."
Tom Phillips has a different theory — that the closer we get to the Switch's launch, the more people get their hands on the thing. The more people who own it, the greater the chances that information will leak.
"While the number of reliable reports has grown over time, this could be seen as a natural, if unintended, byproduct of Nintendo's long-term evolution from a secretive Kyoto-based company into one with major development, testing and localisation centres around the world," Phillips told me in a DM. "There are simply more people now with access to Nintendo products in various stages of development than there were even a console generation ago."
Although Phillips falls into a different category than Dale or Rogers — as a full-time reporter for Eurogamer, he tends to be more careful about corroboration, and he prefers to post his stories on his website rather than on Twitter — he's also eagerly waiting to see what happens tonight. In follow-up stories after breaking news of the Switch, Phillips has reported that the system has a touchscreen; that it will get a third version of Pokemon Sun/Moon; and that it will play GameCube virtual console games.
"I'm confident in my own reporting, but things do change," Phillips said. "It has been fascinating, following the Switch line-up so closely over the past six months, to see how late things get finalised. I think there's a belief that release dates and announcement timings get nailed down months in advance when actually they are incredibly fluid. So yes, there have been times when I've read things and thought, 'Hmm, that doesn't sound like it's the case anymore.' And it's certainly kept me on my toes — the biggest example has been Zelda's release date — now back on for March but previously pencilled in for summer."
And now, like Phillips, Rogers, and Dale, we all wait. Soon enough we'll find out how many Switch rumours were true, how many were false, and how many were based on false information. Tonight, we'll see just how leaky Nintendo really is.