The gaming internet was agog today over what appear to be leaked marketing images of an upcoming Super Mario team-up with Ubisoft's Rabbids characters, despite word of the game's existence having trickled out via various gaming news outlets (including this one) for months.
A leaked image of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, which shows iconic Nintendo characters such as Mario and Princess Peach using what appear to be laser guns while the Rabbids characters dress up like Luigi, Peach and Yoshi. Image via Comicbook.com.
The words "Mario is going to be in a game with the Rabbids" may have been rumoured and reported repeatedly, but they really can't compete with images like the one above.
That illustration and some others were featured today on the website Nintendo World Report, and seem to be marketing slides for the upcoming Switch game. These shots had been making the rounds among gaming reporters, rumourmongers and hardcore fans for weeks. In early May they were passed to us, although our source asked us not to share any of them. Most of the information from these slides appeared in our report and others about the game.
We've reached out to Ubisoft and Nintendo about the game and the veracity of the images, but neither has offered comment yet.
Some game leaks involve trailers or screenshots, but this one involves what look to be marketing plans, including a timeline of how to roll the game out ("surprise at announcement"... awkwardly not happening now) and how to pitch it. One slide boasts that the game will avoid cliches like "a distressed princess", though the same slide has the curious typo: "Turtle shelves? Can do better."
While the broken English in the images would usually be seen as a sign of a hoax, it's more likely that, this time, it is a result of unfinished work from a gaming giant that is headquartered in France. One slide notes that the game is being developed by Ubisoft's Paris and Milan studios and that the one-to-two-player "crazy combat adventure" should run 20 hours and be out in August or September.
The existence of the game signals strong support from one of the world's largest gaming publishers for Nintendo's new system. Mega-publishers like Take Two, EA and Activision have refrained from going all-in on Nintendo hardware since the Wii two generations ago, in part because Nintendo's hardware can rarely run the same games those companies make for PlayStation and Xbox machines, and in part because Nintendo system-owners tend to favour Nintendo-made games. Ubi teaming with Nintendo on a game — and Nintendo letting them make a game with Mario — signals a big vote of confidence from both companies for each other's work.
An apparent marketing slide for the Mario-Rabbids game, breaking down how the game would play on Nintendo Switch, with a mix of exploration and turn-based combat that seems to hearken to Nintendo-published Mario role-playing games.
News of major games leaks all the time, including on Kotaku. While some complain that these leaks are demoralising to the developers who toil on the games for years and hope for a big, splashy reveal via a slick trailer or stage event at a gaming expo, they seem increasingly like an inevitability. Just this season...
- Activision plans a big Call of Duty World War II livestreamed reveal event in April, but word that CoD is going back to WWII first leaks via a YouTube channel in March.
- EA arranges to debut Star Wars Battlefront 2 at a Star Wars convention, but the game's first teaser slips out through a regional PlayStation account.
- Ubisoft plans to shock people in late May with the twist that the new Far Cry is going to be set in Montana, but internet detectives notice a May 3 Great Falls Tribune news article about a regional tie-in with a major upcoming game, briefly deviate into thinking it's about Red Dead Redemption 2, and then figure out after a hint from one of our reporters, that, no, it's Far Cry, which Ubisoft has since confirmed.
Some people hate the leaks. Others love them. Some argue they simply interfere with game development and needlessly spoil marketing plans, while others might say that some — if not all — help inform gamers about the state of games, systems or franchises they care about. As more and more information circulates on more and more channels, game companies can't seem to stop them as even formerly watertight companies like Nintendo seem to be spilling.
Ubisoft appears to leak more than most, perhaps because their games are of such high interest and they make so many of them. The publisher has seemingly gone through multiple stages of dealing with leaks. After word of Assassin's Creed 4 leaked via, of all things, an airline passenger noticing a Powerpoint presentation mentioning the game on another passenger's laptop, the game's creators joked about it in the game. After we reported about a new, major Assassin's Creed game just weeks after the previous, seemingly rushed one had been released, the publisher temporarily stopped communicating with our reporters. Ubi games leak so much that last year's Watch Dogs 2 featured a side mission called "Ubistolen" about its protagonist hackers breaking into Ubisoft's servers to get footage of a new game. The mission included a trailer for the game, which we believe is a real, planned Ubi project.
As leaks appear to become more and more commonplace, it remains to be seen how many surprises the big E3 shows of this year and beyond can manage to have. Of course, marketing slides can't compare to actual gameplay, and seeing a game can't compare to playing it. There's plenty more for Ubisoft and other gaming companies to show next month at E3 and beyond. And in due time, it will be fascinating to see Mario and Peach running around with the Rabbids.