The topic of beta leaks and people who break the NDA always comes up around the time a new MMO is set for release, and given the growth of the MMO genre, the scale and depth of these leaks has only increased.
While reading the leaks can at times be informative, and is almost always entertaining, the information presented is often from a jaded source, generally towards the negative. The first thing you have to consider is why the person would break NDA in the first place. Assuming we are talking about a legitimate closed beta with a limited number of people let in, getting in is often difficult, random, and much sought after. We have all seen the eBay listings of someone selling a beta account for ridiculous amounts, and those listings would not exist if there was no market for them. So if we assume an early beta account is indeed something of value, why would someone risk losing their account just to vent on a forum or website about something they themselves have nothing invested in?
One reason, and in my opinion the most common one, is the NDA breaker has already been banned from the beta, and hence has nothing to lose. This also leaves them with a bad taste in their mouth, to get kicked out, and so whatever faults the beta had (and it will, otherwise it would not be beta) will be blown up by the ex tester. The major advantage the ex tester has over those not in the beta is they can say practically anything, and it will be difficult for common fans to dispute what is said, having not played the game themselves. Other beta testers won’t risk breaking NDA to cast doubt on the information. If a developer makes a statement, and they rarely do, fans often see this as ‘the man’ covering up the truth, regardless of what is said.
Does that mean everything in a beta leak should be tossed out? No, as often even the most hate-filled rants are grounded in some bit of truth, however far stretched. But anything said should also be taken in context; in this case a beta. Casual fans would be surprised what gets added in the final months or weeks of beta, or how rough beta software can be in the early stages. Even knowing you are in a beta test, we are still game fans, and when something goes wrong, we react. Even if you are told a sword swing animation is not functioning properly, every time your character swings his sword you are going to notice that broken animation. Notice enough broken things, and it’s only natural that an overall broken impression begins to set in, even though you have been told to ignore those things for now.
In this regard I don’t envy developers. They need beta testers to ensure a higher quality product, yet at the same time they risk unjust negative press due to the leaks. Very rarely will someone post a beta leak and have it be a glowing review. If the beta is as good as a glowing review would make it out to be, odds are those beta testers are too busy playing and protecting their account to make a beta leak post/thread. If we look at the whole situation in that light, perhaps a lack of leaks can be taken as the best possible review.